A major exhibition of Lucien Freud's work has just opened at the Pompidou Center, and being at loose ends on a lovely Monday we wandered over there to see it. Some years ago there was a Freud show in Los Angeles and we actually made the trip there to see it. I remember being impressed; I had never seen much of his work before and it was stunning.
This time was less satisfying. Maybe I shouldn't have watched the short video of him talking about the work outside the entrance; he seemed an arrogant man and that may have predisposed me to dislike it. What I felt looking at the paintings was the opposite of what he said he meant the work to be. Freud claimed that he was trying to show the "reality" of the people he painted rather than their "likeness". I gathered that his intense concentration on flesh, including the flesh of some spectacularly unattractive people, served that function.
It seemed to me, on the contrary, that what he painted could just as easily have been sides of meat hanging in a butcher shop. I got no sense whatever of the personality of his models, no sense of who they were or what they were thinking. Some of the work reminded me in fact of the still life work of Chaim Soutine, of his paintings of raw meat. The show covered a period of more than 30 years and all looked depressingly similar. Very disapponting.
Leaving, we decided to have a coffee at Georges, on the roof of the Pompidou Center.
One of the more expensive coffees in town, but what a view! The terrace was busy, filled with people sunning themselves in the suddenly warm afternoon. After a while we decided to try to see some of the "Elles" exhibition, in which the museum had collected work by women artists to fill the galleries ordinarily devoted to the permanent collection. Although an admirable attempt to show the work of women who are often not part of the male-dominated art culture (there's a huge Guerilla Girls piece about this very issue included) it seemed a bit of a trick, maybe because the entry had a huge wall of these:
Is it meant to say that if women artists' work was as good as that of the men whose names are tweaked here they too would be as well known? Or, to give the curators the benefit of the doubt, that the work is good and it's only gender discrimination that keeps them out of the museums?
Or maybe I was still grumpy from the Freud exhibition. What would his grandfather Sigmund have to say about it, do you think?
Maybe I should just have lain down in the sun on the huge courtyard like these folks.