Touring Paris, With Dalou as Guide

Dalou The above photo is of 24-26 rue de Clignancourt, former home of 19th century department store Magasins Dufayel (and now a bank). I was motivated to seek it out, with its elaborate relief sculptures by Jules Dalou, after visiting Dalou, Le sculpteur de la République, at the Petit Palais through July 13.

Though his might not be a household name, if you’ve spent any time in Paris, you are already familiar with Dalou’s work, whether or not you already know it. With more than 25 public monuments credited to him in the French capital, his most famous landmarks include Triomphe de la République at Place de la Nation and the group of lions at the Left Bank side of Pont Alexandre III. The Petit Palais exhibit presents a thorough overview of the prolific sculptor’s career, though the crowded indoor space does not readily lend itself to discovering the noble grandeur Dalou’s work is meant to inspire. Luckily, a map of Paris highlighting the locations of his still-standing monuments greets the visitor at the show’s entrance, so it’s easy to take to the streets and continue the Dalou experience, as I did. An added bonus: the concurrent Cognacq-Jay exhibit Dalou, Regards sur le XVIIIe siècle is also open through July 13.

Dalou

The Petit Palais is having a 19th century moment. Along with DalouLes impressionnistes slovènes et leur temps (1890-1920) also ends July 13. And until August 4, you can catch Félix Ziem, j’ai rêvé le beau. For my thoughts on that last exhibit, check out my review at Culture Vulture.

What I’m Looking Forward to in June

Summer is almost here. Supposedly, as all this cold rain would suggest otherwise. If you’re looking to stay dry, consider these intriguing exhibitions opening in June. Coming soon, for those of you who are into hip contemporary photography, is David Lachapelle, Still Life at Galerie Daniel Templon (opens June 6). If, like me, you can’t miss out on anything involving women artists of the 19th century, Félicie de Fauveau, L’amazone de la sculpture opens June 13 at the Musée d’Orsay.

This weekend, though, your priority should be to hurry to the Musée de Montmartre before the exhibit Autour du Chat Noir, Arts et plaisirs à Montmartre, 1880-1910 closes this Sunday, June 2. As a bonus, seeing as we have some sunshine, you’ll be able to wander about their extensive gardens, which include Montmartre’s last remaining vineyard.  

You have more time to see two of my favorite recent shows, La Valise mexicaine: Capa, Taro, Chim, Les négatifs retrouvés de la guerre civile espagnole at the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme and L’Ecole de Shanghai (1840-1920), Peintures et calligraphies du musée de Shanghai at the Musée Cernuschi. Both close Sunday, June 30. The former is perfect for anyone interested in photography—technical aspects, history, as well as the personal stories of the medium’s early advocates—while the latter offers an intimate view of the artistic revolutions advanced in 19th century Chinese painting.

For more recommended exhibits closing in June, check out the This Month calendar.

Spotlight on Street Art: Square de la rue Burq

Square de la rue Burq

I found this silent film comedy homage mural a few weeks ago at the Square de la rue Burq in the 18th arrondissement. What are we looking at here? A Charlie Chaplin-Harold Lloyd face-off, the two early film icons floating above the park’s playground, commenting on their audience’s fickleness and precariousness. On the left, Chaplin is saying “They made us fall, we will pick them up.” Lloyd answers, on the right, “And they always getting closer to the abyss.” A part-charming, part-cynical addition to a small park hidden away in Montmartre. I haven’t been back in a while, but the next time I’m there, I would love to discover that Buster Keaton has joined them.

Last Minute…At Galerie Karsten Greve

The exhibition Louise Bourgeois, Rare and Important Works from a Private Collection closes this Saturday, June 1 at Galerie Karsten Greve. Behind that clunky and self-important title lies a mini-survey of the career of one of the 20th century’s most impressive sculptors. The works of display cover highlights from the beginning of her creative activity to its end, ranging from her Brancusi-esque bronzes of the 1940s to the fabric totem poles made in the 2000s.

On a Saturday gallery tour full of heavy-hitters (among them, Lawrence Weiner at Yvon Lambert and Tony Cragg at Thaddeaus Ropac), this powerful installation of Bourgeois’s deeply personal sculpture is what stood out. Louise Bourgeois passed away three years ago this Friday, on May 31, 2010. If you’re in Paris and looking to pay homage, I can’t imagine a more fitting tribute than a visit to Galerie Karsten Greve.

Robert Arnoux, Pretext for a Bagatelle Visit

This week is your last chance to see the outdoor installation Robert Arnoux à Bagatelle (at the Parc de Bagatelle, through June 2). In a museum space, these works would be quickly recognized for the boring, repetitive sculptural exercises that they are. But in this charming 18th century Parisian garden, they accentuate the whimsical details of the peacock-infested park. If you haven’t already visited the Parc de Bagatelle, tucked away in the northwest corner of the Bois de Boulogne, this sculpture scavenger hunt offers the perfect reason to make the trek.

Viewing from afar: “Balzac, vu d’ailleurs”

The exposition is just as much about discovering Taiwan as it is about rereading La Comédie humaine. The exoticism of the works testifies to Balzac’s universality as these young people don’t identify him as a 19th century Parisian novelist but as a writer who addresses the constants of man’s existence.

The above quote comes from the introductory text to the exhibition Balzac, vu d’ailleurs, Un regard taiwanais sur La Comédie humaine, now at the Maison de Balzac through May 26 (author’s translation from the original French).

I’m conflicted about these ideas, presented here for the first time, which serve to structure the rest of Balzac, vu d’ailleurs. Or, perhaps more precisely, I’m concerned about how they’re expressed. Interdisciplinary display of art and literature? Contemporary understandings of 19th century France? Cross-cultural exchange? I love all these things! But the manner in which these non-controversial themes are explained is just…odd. Balzac’s writings are still  relevant today? Of course, that’s why people visit this institution, why does that need to be voiced? Is the implication that we should somehow be surprised that a non-Western audience can appreciate great French literature? Because that’s insulting to everyone’s intelligence.

And don’t get me started on how the expression “exoticism…” is totally out-of-place considering the art exhibited could have come out of any international art school, no matter the location. I don’t see how students from the National Taiwan University of Arts have created anything radically different from what is being produced somewhere like the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

But maybe I’m overreacting. Your thoughts?

Brasilia in Paris: “Un Demi-siècle de la capitale du Brésil”

Currently on display at the Headquarters of the French Communist Party in Paris’s 19th arrondissement, Brasilia: Un Demi-siècle de la capitale du Brésil celebrates the creation of Brazil’s federal capital 50 years ago. All the major players, from President Juscelino Kubitschek to urban planner Lucio Costa, are highlighted with documentation ranging from period memorabilia, architectural models, and photography. The viewer, though, is most likely to attach herself to the famed vision of Oscar Niemeyer, architect both of Brasilia and the exhibition space.

Organized by Brazil’s Ministry of Culture and its Federal District Government, the show offers an expansive look at the city’s history, mid-century modernist design, and its impact on contemporary artists like photographer Fábio Colombini and painter Jacques Benoit. More advertisement than academic, it nonetheless gives the previously uninformed visitor (like myself) a satisfying crash course on this significant 20th century urban planning project.

But to say that the exhibit merits recommendation for its presentation of Brasilia would be a lie. What is learned about the city within these walls could probably just as easily be found in a solid scholarly text. It’s the walls that make this show a must-see. The walls that Niemeyer designed after Brasilia’s inauguration, and wherein the visitor discovers both projects and is cradled by the consistency of the late architect‘s oeuvre. The curves that define the space, creating impressive height while softening the aura of political authority. The curves that also respond to the building’s urban context, reflecting the circular Place du Colonel Fabien while mitigating its bustling activity to suggest an intellectual and political oasis. If you’re unable to make it before Un Demi-siècle de la capitale du Brésil closes June 15, check out my photos below.

Siège du Parti communiste français Siège du Parti communiste français Siège du Parti communiste français

What I’m Looking Forward to in May

April has been a busy month, without much time for blogging art thoughts; hence, what I’m most looking forward to in May is finding more time for sharing those thoughts.

Last month, I saw a handful of excellent exhibits. Among them—and the most urgent, as it is closing soon—was Un Artiste voyageur en Micronésie, L’univers flottant de Paul Jacoulet at Quai Branly, which I did find the time to discuss here a few weeks ago. Another of my priorities this May is to see Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962), l’enjeu classique at Jeu de Paume until May 12.

And it’s May, which means the European Night of Museums is fast approaching (this year, it falls on Saturday, May 18). Here is your resource for all France-related events.