We returned to a Paris that had warmed up to more normal temperatures; a mild 40F was practically tropical compared to what we had left 10 days before, and we had apparently missed several freezing days while in Morocco.
The first order of business was to go to the Grand Palais to see this years Monumenta exhibition. We had seen the one by Richard Serra last year and the wonderful Anselm Keifer show the year before. This last project in the cycle is by Christian Boltanski, an artist I've liked for many years, and I was excited to see it. The Monumenta shows, called that because they are meant to fill the enormous space of the nave of the Grand Palais, are usually held in the fall but Boltanski asked for his show to open in the dead of winter.
I wish I could say I liked it, but I was quite disappointed. Behind a high wall of rusty metal boxes, each with a number, he has laid out multiple blocks of recycled clothing along the length of the space, all facing in the same direction, with low-hanging flourescent lights over each, and in front of them all is a mountain of additional clothes, some of which a mechanized claw is picking up and dropping randomly. There are echoes of mosques, of death, of concentration camps, of missing people, and of futility. But, to me at least, it was repetitive and boring. There's an argument that the repetition drives the point home, but not to me. I spoke about it today with an acquaintance who had visited the exhibition with a docent, and who had liked it. Perhaps it needs some commentary.
Something that needs no commentary is the pleasure these children were taking in skating at the icerink set up in front of the Hôtel de Ville. They have their own little rink separate from the larger one where families were skating sedately while hot dogging teens wove in and out among them. I'm not sure how long the rink remains, but in this weather it's perfectly appropriate.
Because, yes, the Siberian cold is back. White flakes fell from leaden gray skies yesterday morning and we walked as fast as we could from the Marais, where we saw a really interesting exhibit called Paris Inondé, about the historic 1910 flood that crippled Paris and left thousands homeless, to St-Germain, stopping for a hot chocolate on route. Somehow the cold is easier to endure when the sun is shining, so I was thrilled this morning to walk out into a bright sunny day, huddled in coat and muffler and gloves. Maybe I'm not meant for this winter stuff. Next week we're back to California for a short visit. Of course they've had record-breaking winter storms lately. Out of the frying pan into the fire.