If I have to choose three cities that offer the most inspiring, original and diverse art/ design/ photography exhibitions, they would be Berlin, Paris and Tokyo (in no particular order), followed by either London or New York. London is not on my top three because I feel that art in London has become too commercial and conversative. Museums and galleries have gone for the big names, hosting big blockbuster shows to lure people in ( think Tate Modern). There is nothing wrong with these retrospectives but it seems that they have opted for safer options. Although galleries like Saatchi, Hayward and White Cube offer alternatives and support emerging artists, the overall scene is just not as exciting as the other three cities.
Exhibitions in Paris, seems to get better and more interesting esp. when it comes to contemporary art and photography. I am always discovering new galleries and small quirky museums that are off tourists’ radar… it is so much more fun than shopping. Due to the limited time, I had to plan my time carefully beforehand and even pre-booked online ( since it was the last day) for the two exhibitions at Grand Palais: “Matisse, Cezanne, Picasso… The Stein family” and “Of toys and men“.
Sometimes I try to stay away from the big blockbuster shows unless I really like the artists ( since it’s almost impossible to get to the art work when the rooms are crowded), but I was curious to see Stein family’s huge collection of master pieces. I was glad that I had pre-booked the tickets because even ticket holders had to wait about 15 mins before being let in!
As expected, the show was packed but it was definitely worth it. It is hard to believe that a family could have owned such a huge and amazing collection by so many famous names. With Picasso, I have always preferred his blue period than his later work and so the exhibition’s collection made me quite happy. What also took my interest was the house that they once lived, known as Villa Stein/ Villa Garches, built by Le Corbusier in 1927. I would love to visit the villa if I have a chance in the future.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Palais, the exhibition on toys was quieter but tremendously interesting too, with an excellent curation. The show exhibited a thousand toys from Antiquity to the present day, (which reminded me of Victoria & Albert‘s childhood museum in Bethnal Green) and it explored how our society changed over the years reflected through the evolution of toys. There were interesting questions being asked: i.e. ‘Should children play with war toys?’, but the highlight came at the very end when the ending of ‘Citizen Kane‘ was being shown on top of a pile of burnt toys… what a cool way to end the exhibition! Like in the film, it seems that no matter how old we are, our childhood memories affect us a lot more than we consciously know/want to admit!
One of my trip’s surprises was the exhibition “Anicroches – Variations, Choral et Fugue” at Louis Vuitton‘s Espace Culturel ( until 19 Feb), which explores the relationship between sound and sight. While the Chinese tourists and fashionistas flock into the store next door, the entrance to l’espace is a lot more discreet and understated. After a long wait in the lobby, we were led into a pitch-black “sensory-deprivation” lift which brought us to the top floor. Installations by different artists enable visitors to explore and experiment, making the whole experience interactive and fun. The free exhibition catalogues include a cute paper one with lots of illustrations and a hardback A4 booklet with info on the artists and photos of the installations ( this puts other museums in shame when they charge for low quality staple binded catalogues!). If you haven’t been to this espace/ exhibition, I highly recommend it, and to top it up, there is also a wondeful 360 degree view of Paris and all free of charge!
Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton – 60, rue de Bassano, 75008
Photography is one of my interests and I think photography is valued more highly in Paris than anywhere in the world. One of my favourite photographic galleries is Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Marais, which regularly shows excellent photographic exhibitions. There are several exhibitions showing at the moment: Eloge de Vertige: photographys from the Itau collection, Brazil , Youssef Nabil, Dominique Issermann, Götz Göppert, William Ropp (all until 25th March). The highlight is Itau’s collection of Brazilian experimental photography spanning over 60 years’ time, featuring names such as Geraldo de Barros, Claudia Andujar and Miguel Rio Branco.
Youssef Nabil‘s distinctive work is also very interesting with many self-portraits about death, portraits of models inspired by old Egyptian classic films as well as close-ups of Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Rampling, Tracey Emin and even David Lynch!
Maison Européenne de la Photographie – 5/7 rue de Fourcy, 75004 ( Free entry on Wednesdays 5-8 pm)
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go to another of my favourite, Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain in the 14th district to see the exhibition on ‘Mathematics‘ ( perhaps another trip is needed!), but I was glad that I saw the stunning ‘Goudemalion. Jean-Paul Goude une rétrospective‘ at Musée des Arts Décoratifs .
To be continued…