Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Not Too Arty

Maybe it's because we saw so much art in Italy, but we haven't yet rushed off to visit art museums here in Paris.  That is not to say we haven't gone to museums, we have, but the definition of museum seems to take in a numbere of other categories if things to view.

A quick perusal of what's available to see turned up a couple of things that are nearing the end of their tenure here.  Our first visit was to the Musée Galliera, the fashion museum that is open only for special exhibitions.  It was entirely closed for years, the result of a budget shortfall I was told, but the relatively recently appointed director has mounted several exhibitions in recent years.

This one was a retrospective of fashion photography in Condé Nast magazines from early in the 20th century to now.  Although interesting I was glad I hadn't gone out of my way to see it.  The building itself is lovely, opposite the Palais de Tokyo on Avenue President Wilson.  And so lunch at the restaurant there, Tokyo Eats, was necessary, right?  Surprisingly good and inexpensive. Go if you're in the area.

Our next not-really-art exhibit was the Orient Express at the Insitut du Monde Arabe.  In the entry court are several restored carriages that at one time belonged to the Compagnie Wagon-Lits, which operated the incredibly lavish trains running across Europe from London to Istanbul and parts of the Middle East from the early days of the 20th century until WW II.  These trains transported royalty and the simply rich in great style and served as the location for many a book and film, most particularly Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express" which the curators have used to great effect here, setting up the berths to remind viewers of the famous mystery.  They have also set the tables in the dining car to reflect famous passengers including Mata Hari, Graham Greene and Josephine Baker.  The newspapers tossed casually on the tables have videos instead of photos on the front pages, reflecting the events of the time.  It's very well done and the exhibition continues inside the Institut with many more items and pictures and memoribilia.

Yesterday we aimed for the Luxembourg Gardens and the fence surrounding them which is often the setting for photographic exhibits on particular themes.  This being the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, the large photos are of locations where that war was fought as they appear today.  Many are aerial shots and it's incredible to see the scars of trench warfare and underground bombing still so clearly visible.  In addition, I tend to forget that the war covered much more territory than the fields of Flanders. It extended to Central Europe, Greece, Palestine and other parts of the Ottoman Empire.  No limit on the killing fields.

It sounds callous as I write it, but after a break for lunch (a recurring theme to our days that you may have noticed) we went down the street to the Musée Luxembourg for an exhibition about Napoleon's Empress Josephine, a woman who wound up far from her childhood home as a planter's daughter in Martinique.  She was an interesting woman and, according to the commentary, one generally thought intelligent, charming and kind.  She also had a jones for jewels.  What is shown here is miniscule based on the size of the cabinet in the exhibit.  It's the size of a large armoire.  A very large armoire.

Later this week we plan to visit the Grand Palais to see this year's Monumenta.  Every year an artist of international reputation is invited to mount an exhibition taking advantage of the enormous volume of the nave of the structure.  In the past the artists have included Anish Kapoor, Anselm Keifer and Christian Boltanski.  This year is a couple, originally Russian, named Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, about whom I know nothing.  We have however seen every Monumenta since the beginning except for last year when we were not in Paris, so we're gonna see this one, by golly!  Whether we like the particular  installation or not, the attempt by each artist to make use of the huge space is worth seeing.

Oh, just so you know, we have reservations for lunch at the Mini Palais, just next door.  No point in changing our habits.

Photos are at

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