Dark Romanticism may not be easy to define but strolling through the Orsay’s exhibition devoted to the theme you definitely get a feel for it: creepy, macabre, melodramatic, gothic and often tinged with the erotic. The show begins with the early 19th century Romantics, runs through late 19th century Symbolism and ends with the Surrealists, punctuated throughout by clips of early black and white film. Thus the iconography and shadowy interior of Johann Heinrich Füssli’s Nightmare (1781) reappears in Frankenstein (US, 1931) or Dracula (also US, 1931), and the baron landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich’s paintings resonate in clips from Faust – Eine deutsche Volkssage (Germany, 1926) and La Chute de la maison Usher (France, 1928).
Amongst the later 19th century offerings we see less high melodrama and more solitude (Pierre Bonnard, James Ensor), and death personified as in a Medieval Danse Macabre. Gauguin’s Madame La Mort picks up the implicit thematic thread of women as evil/dangerous/unpredictable, while Mort au bal by Felicien Rops, literally a skeleton dressed up for a ball, is almost comical.
Félicien Rops, La Mort au Bal, c. 1865 – 1875
There are some weird connections to be made between the sections. For example, between odd-ball 19th century painter-turned-photographer Charles-François Jeandel and German surrealist Hans Bellmer. After failing as a painter, Jeandel retired from Paris to the Charente region in the West of France. It was not until after his death that his experiments in erotic photography came to light (pun intended). The photos, bathed in an eerie blue glow from the development process (they are cyanotypes, a DIY process which allowed Jeandel to keep his dark desires to himself), show women in ropes, trussed up, suspended and forced into uncompromising poses. They hark back to the Marquis de Sade’s erotic writing but also foreshadow the surreal compositions of Hans Bellmer’s Poupée (“Doll”) where dismembered body parts (of a doll) become semi-abstract compositions.
Charles-François Jeandel, Femme nue, de trois quarts dos, attachée, 1890-1900
Hans Bellmer, La Poupée, 1936
The show also includes a good dose of fantasy (drawings by Victor Hugo, plates from Goya’s wonderful series of etchings Los Caprichos); witches (Edvard Munch, Pail Elie Ranson); mythology à la Gustave Moreau; cannibalism (Gericault’s studies for the Raft of the Medusa); and visions of hell (Goya’s more chilling series, Los Desastras de la Guerra, Bouguereau’s Dante and Virgil in Hell ). A great antidote to the sun-dappled and snow-dusted Impressionist landscapes upstairs.
L’Ange du Bizarre (“The Angel of the Odd”) is on at the Musée d’Orsay until 09/06/13
For the second year running the majority of the action takes place at the Grand Palais (previously the galleries’ stands were divided between the Grand Palais and the Cour Carrée du Louvre). The volume and concentration of art, wealth, little black dresses and champagne flutes under one roof make for an effervescent, devil-may-care atmosphere. That said, the organisers are keen to question art’s relationship to money this year, with a series of seminars on the subject of “value” (intellectual and commercial) taking place around the city (more details here).
At the opening last night visitors swarmed around a moving sculpture by Elias Crespin (Galerie Denise René), a sort of ethereal dancing mobile; a garish sculpture of George Bush with pigs by Paul McCarthy (Hauser & Wirth) and The Incomplete Truth, a Damien Hirst dove in formaldehyde (White Cube).
Elias Crespin (Denise René)
Damian Hirst (White Cube)
With over 180 French and international exhibitors and a good mix of well-established galleries (Marian Goodman, Yvon Lambert, White Cube, Kamel Mennour…) international contemporary art titans (Gagosian) and relative newcomers (Samy Abraham, Crèvecoeur) plus sculptures in the Tuileries, the Place Vendôme, the Esplanade des Invalides AND the Jardin des Plantes, there is a lot to see. Hurry on down!
Mary Cassatt in Paris: Prints & Drawings from the Ambroise Vollard Collection is the first exhibition in the new look Mona Bismarck American Center (formerly the Mona Bismark Foundation). With over 60 drawings, etchings, aquatints and pastels, this impressive collection gives us a great insight into the aesthetic experiments and innovative techniques employed by Cassatt in her printmaking.
An American with a love of Paris, Cassatt trained in Paris, submitting works to the Paris Salon in the 1870s, but in the end identifying more with the groundbreaking Impressionists, with whom she exhibited between 1879 and 1886. Her works on paper show the influence of her friend and mentor Edgar Degas.
The highlight of the show are the prints in the middle gallery, a series of domestic scenes of women and children. Cassatt was inspired by Japonism, the 19th century craze for Japanese art and by Japanese woodblock prints in particular. The cropped compositions and strong, almost decorative, lines of her aquatints allow a certain distance from the subjects, who become studies in form rather than sentimental portraits.
At first sight Daniel Buren’s installation for this year’s Monumenta is a little disappointing. A forest of coloured circles create a canopy overhead but leave a lot of unused space. But then, any artist would be hard pushed to fill the 13 500 square metre space with its 45 metre roof (this is where Richard Serra triumphed with his huge vertical installation in 2008). But walking into the space you begin to see the appeal. It is a bit like being underwater and looking up towards the light, or being in a pond under the lily pads. Beyond the curious upward reflection we see the Grand Palais’ steel skeleton in a new light.
In the centre there is a clearing in the canopy to make way for a series of large circular mirrors. Visitors are invited to stand on the mirrors, again adding a new dimension to the well known nineteenth century architecture. The effect is impressive, if a little nausea-inducing. * Above the mirrors, the central part of the roof has been decorated with turquoise coloured windows and outside Buren’s own circular flag is flying.
Buren is famous for his public piece Les Deux Plateaux in the Palais-Royal (1986), he also represented France at the Venice Biennale in 1986 and won the Golden Lion for best pavilion. His installation for Monumenta follows previous editions by Anselm Kiefer, Richard Serra, Christian Boltanski and Anish Kapoor.
Buren’s work has always emphasized the in situ element – it is designed for and defined by its context. Buren is the first Monumenta artist to take a global view of the space. A different entrance and exit have been created for the show and the cafe and bookshop are integrated into the project rather than added as an afterthought. The specificity of the Grand Palais’ nef (“nave”) makes Monumenta a challenging undertaking. Buren has struck a fine balance between accentuating this specificity and making the space his own.
* don’t wear a short skirt to this show, you may end up showing more thigh than you intended!
Daniel Buren Monumenta 2012 is on at the Grand Palais until 21/06/12
This weekend is the 23rd edition of the Porte ouvertes des ateliers d’artistes de Belleville, the event where artists working around the vibrant area of Belleville open their studios to the general public. Over 200 artists are participating and the programme includes debates, workshops and concerts. More details including a map of exhibitors here.
The doors are open from 11/05/12 (today!) until 14/05/12, 2pm – 9pm
So here we are: Hollande v Sarkozy, the final countdown. And during these all important weeks, François Hollande’s campaign headquarters is opening its doors (evenings and weekend) for a photography exhibition celebrating the joys of la Belle France and her people. Almost 30 photographers are participating with over 100 photos on display. Hollande has said in his campaign that he wants to prioritize art education.
The exhibition is on at 59 rue de Ségur, 75007 until 05/05/12 (Monday – Friday 7.30 – 9.30pm, weekends 2pm – 6pm)
Doisneau, Paris Les Halles, currently on at l’Hôtel de Ville, gives us a glimpse of Les Halles as is was pre-1969, when is was still Paris’ central food market for professionals, restauranteurs and ordinary Parisians. The architecture, the “Pavillons de Baltard” constructed in the 1860s, looks like a cross between the nef (“nave”) of the Grand Palais and some of Paris’ surviving covered markets, but the ambiance captured by Doisneau seems far from anything in Paris today: expansive walls of hanging poultry, deer and other game piled high, cheery merchants brandishing offal, selling flowers or pulling delivery carts. When the market was moved to Rungis in 1969, Doisneau said “Paris perd son ventre et un peu de son esprit” (“Paris has lost its belly and a bit of its soul”). While one’s sentimental side may agree, a more practical, public-sanitation aware side of us breathes a sigh of relief.
The old site of the market is of course going through another renaissance as the 1970s Forum des Halles is torn down to make way for a new model.
Doisneau, Les Halles is on at the Hôtel de Ville until 28/04/12, free entry.
The Great Exposition hasn’t always wholeheartedly supported the Palais de Tokyo’s endeavours (we were disappointed here and here) but we are still sad to have missed the grand opening of the newly restored Palais, with its added 14 000 square metres of exhibition space.
Leonardo da Vinci, The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist, c. 1500
The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne returns to the Louvre, restored to its full glory. Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece will be on display in a special exhibition uniting preparatory studies, documents and the treasured “Burlington House Cartoon” (The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist) from the National Gallery in London. This is the first time the two compositions have been seen together.
Saint Anne, Leonardo’s ultimate masterpiece is on at the Louvre from 29/03/12 until 25/06/12
The current exhibition at Le Bal (until December 18th), Topographies de la guerre (‘Topography of War’) explores the fictions and realities of war, and its impact on rural and urban landscapes, through different photo series and videos.
Paolo De Pietri, To Face, 2010
The ground floor eases you in with work by Paola De Pietri and Jo Ratcliffe, whose subtle black and white photographs depict the deserted landscapes of former war sites (the First World War on the Alps and Pre-Alps and the post-independence civil war in Angola respectively). Neither are overtly violent but both show the scars of war and draw on the traditional early use of photography to map out battlegrounds (The Crimean War was the first to be documented by the photographic medium and was included in a thought-provoking exhibition, L’Événement, at the Jeu de Paume a few years ago).
Harun Farocki, Serious Games 4, a Sun with no Shadow, 2010
Downstairs modern warfare is under scrutiny. Collateral Murder, a video broadcast by Wikileaks raises questions about the disembodiment of modern military techniques. It shows the merciless gunning down of civilians in Baghdad and has an uncomfortable resonance in Harun Farocki’s video, Serious Games 4, a Sun with no Shadow, which explores the use of virtual reality in military training and post-conflict trauma treatment. The chilling implication is that killing as easy as playing Doom.
Another fiction is at play in An-My Lê’s series 29 palms, which show a training camp in California where the desert is made to look as authentically Middle Eastern as possible using Hollywood props.
Also includes work by Walid Raad, Luc Delahaye & Eyal Weizman, Till Roeskens, Donovan Wylie and Jananne Al-Ani.
Topographies de la Guerre is on at Le Bal until 18/12/11