The new ‘deconstructed’ Palais de Tokyo


In Paris, there is no shortage of contemporary art spaces, including Centre Pompidou, Le Cent Quatre, Palais de Tokyo and two of my favourites: La Maison Rouge and Fondation Cartier.

After almost a year of ‘renovation’, Le Palais de Tokyo reopened in April with La Triennale 2012 – Intense Proximité ( ends on 26th August), showcasing work by contemporary artists from France and beyond. The new expanded site is about three times larger than it used to be ( they have reopened the basement), making it the largest contemporary art space in Europe today. The architectural firm, Lacaton & Vassal, kept the rawness of the building, making it look very industrial, even though the original site was never industrial in the first place ( it was just neglected for decades).

There are many interesting touches allover the site, like the graffiti on the staircases’ wall, space invader mosaics by the entrance and window panels of comic-strip by Christian Marclay. Parts of the basement are bare, while some are used for video projections or installations.


Comic-strip windows and graffiti work


I am not a huge fan of contemporary art, nor do I like contemporary art museums like Tate Modern and MOMA very much, but I was quite drawn to the rawness of the ‘deconstructed’ Palais de Tokyo. Somehow, this style seems to make the work speak louder… even though I don’t always get some of the art work ( and I am sure I am not the only one).

By the entrance of the venue, there is a new exhibition called, “The Case of Pussy Riot”, showing a video of Pussy Riot‘s performance inside the Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, as well as comic strips and a documentary about the group. The prominence of this exhibition makes a loud statement and it is especially intriguing because the event is so recent and controversial.


Pussy Riot’s video and cartoon


With so many contemporary art work from around the world, I think the curators struggled to maintain the consistency of the exhibition. It was also quite exhausting to walk around the vast site esp. with no cafeteria to buy drinks or snacks. The restaurant, Tokyo Eat is no longer there and the terrace downstairs doesn’t serve much apart from alcohol, which is strange for an art venue that is the largest in Europe! However, I still look forward to seeing the forthcoming exhibitions and how the space will evolve in the future.



Le Palais de Tokyo – 13, avenue du Président Wilson, 75 116 Paris



Paris, the city of graffiti


Once ‘The city of light‘, now Paris is more like the city of graffiti. Although the famous sights and monuments are still there, this city has changed so much in recent years that it is almost unrecognisable as the stereotypical romanticised place it once endured. Yes, there are still romantic spots, but I feel less safe walking alone in certain areas of Paris than I do in London these days. The social problems in Paris are hardly new, as we have seen in films like La Haine‘, ‘Caché‘ and ‘Entre les murs’ etc. Tourists are warned about the pickpockets in the touristy areas, but beyond these areas, the scope of crimes are more problematic.

Vandalism is one of the issues that the city is facing ( esp. with their bicycle hire scheme), and in many older generation’s opinion, graffiti is considered more as vandalism than art. On my recent visit, I didn’t have to venture to Les Frigos in the 13th to notice the dominance of graffiti in every corner and on many vans!

Graffiti in London, New York, Berlin or Los Angeles doesn’t seem as out of place as somewhere like Paris because of its historical and beautiful backdrop. In London esp. Shoreditch, graffiti has been replaced by more ‘sophisticated’ street art thanks to the influence of Banksy. In Paris, apart from street art, we can still see raw graffiti work like the ones emerged in New York during the 1970s.



Who would have thought that a city that has inspired so many famous artists over the years would evolve in such an unexpected way? For those who still suffer from the Paris syndrome, it is time to see the real Paris beyond Louis Vuitton and Musée du Louvre


Work by different street artists including Invader



100 day of Korean Culture in London


Probably not many non-Korean Londoners are aware of the Korean Cultural Centre near Charing Cross, not only does it hosts regular Korean art exhibitions, it also hosts free Korean film nights every week of the year except for special screenings at the end of each month.

From June until Sept, the centre collaborates with other arts organisations such as Southbank Centre and V & A, to present “All eyes on Korea: 100 day festival of Korean Culture“. Events include traditional Korean music, classical music concerts performed by Korean music stars, as well as lectures and art exhibitions.

At the centre, there is an interesting folk crafts exhibition, “Korean funerary figures: companions for the journey to the other world” in association with Kokdu Museum in Korea. The exhibition displays a huge traditional funeral bier ( how did they ship this over from Korea is my question), as well as carved wooden figures and decorations. What I find fascinating is how much these objects resemble the traditional Mexican/ Latin American folk crafts, I especially love the colours, playfulness and detail of the craftsmanship. This exhibition not only gives insight into the traditional Korean culture, but also how different the way Asians ( not just Korean) view death and afterlife.

At the Saatchi gallery, there is a “Korean eye 2012” exhibition, focusing on contemporary art in Korea today. If you want to find out more about Korean art and culture, don’t miss these exhibitions and events…


Korean funerary figures: companions for the journey to the other world” at the Korean Cultural Centre is on until 8th September.

Korean Eye 2012 at the Saatchi Gallery is on until 23rd September.


London’s ‘green’ Olympic park

A showcase for British horticulture


The park

One of attractions of London is that it is a huge cosmopolitan city with lots of greenery. There are parks and squares in every neighbourhood, which makes this city a livable city despite the traffic and dense housing.

I was particularly curious when I heard that wild flowers would be planted all over the Olympic park. And as I expected, the greenery and flowers really made a difference to the park against the backdrop of contemporary architecture. I think the park would have looked soulless and more like ‘Disneyland‘ without the green landscape, so this was a job well done!

I was also glad to colour-coded recycled bins all over the park, but I wish that more councils esp. Westminster would apply this in Central London soon!

The graphics

I don’t want to mention the hideous Olympics logo and mascots, as I think they are insults to a country full of talented and creative designers! But I was keen to examine the park’s signage and graphics, and overall, I think the designers did a good job. Personally, I am so not sure about the shocking pink, but I guess it is unmissable to say the least!


As much as I respect Anish Kapoor, like many Londoners, I fail to understand what he was thinking when he decided to create this ‘art or statement’ piece. I walked around it, tried to take photos from different angle and yet I did not feel warm towards it. In fact, I think it is quite ugly and utterly pointless.

Luckily, over on the other side of the park, there is an inspiring interactive pavilion, the Coca Cola beatbox designed by Pernilla & Asif, whose work has probably outshone stadiums and structures designed by more well-known architects and artists.

In many ways, it was a relief to know that many stadiums like the basketball are only temporary because I think it is more sustainable in the long run.


The Coca-Cola beatbox, basketball stadium & Velodrome


Despite the economic groom in the U.K., I think the overall impact of the Olympic games will be positive ( psychologically) in the long run esp. after seeing how excited, united and supportive everyone has been throughout the games. ( N.B. the tubes are also running better than normal!) When times are hard, people need this ‘community spirit’ to get through things, so perhaps the government need to re-focus on the mental well-being of the nation ( like Bhutan) rather than constantly focusing on the economical aspect. And like the vision of Danny Boyle, it is the people and values that matter, not the wealth.

I have never seen such joy and pride in London and like many Londoners, the Olympics have made me realise how much I really love this city! I just hope that this is the turning point for things to really change in the country: back to basics.



Adventure in the Cotswolds

Our starting point: Stratford-upon-Avon


My friend from abroad is in town and I suggested a long walking weekend in the Cotswolds to get away from London and the Olympics. It started off pretty well in Stratford-upon-Avon, but little did we know, everything that could have gone wrong went wrong once we left town and reached the Cotswold way


All about Shakespeare…


Not only did we get very lost, went off track and ended up walking on a busy B-road with no sidewalk; we also walked for miles to visit a garden only to find out that it was closed! Meanwhile, my friend injured her knee and we had to ask some kind strangers for a lift to the nearest village… but the most bizarre event was one of our hotel room’s fire alarm went off for no reason at 3 am in the morning, forcing us to escape from my room in our nightwear!


The charming Chipping Campden & Little Orchard where Graham Greene used to live


Despite the few disastrous incidents, we were helped by many friendly locals and we really appreciated the beauty of the Cotswolds even in the rather unsettled weather. The long weekend provided a taster for us, now our aim is to return again sometime in the future and retrace the route once more, hopefully, we will be better prepared.


Broadway Tower

Broadway Tower, a view from the top and the historical Lygon Arms in Broadway