Photography Show at Hollande HQ

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)

Robert Doisneau at the Hôtel de Ville

Bracha L. Ettinger, Doisneau in his Studio in Montrouge, 1992, wikimedia commons


Robert Doisneau, honoured yesterday with his very own Google doodle to celebrate his centenary, is a ubiquitous presence in Paris’ tourist boutiques and postcard stands. His black and white photographs – the most iconic of which is couple kissing in front of the Hôtel de Ville – capture the je ne sais quoi of old Paris and are so often reproduced they verge on nostalgic cliché.

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 Bigger (and Better?) Palais de Tokyo

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.

Artnet has a sneak preview of the space here.

The (Entre)Ouverture, with installations, performance, concerts and projections is open until midnight tonight. The Palais de Tokyo is open (proper) from 20/04/12 with La Trienniale – Intense Proximité.

Helmut Newton at the Grand Palais’ Newly Restored Southeast Gallery


Helmut Newton, Paris, 1977

“I’m attracted to bad taste,” says Newton, quoted on the wall of his Grand Palais retrospective, “It’s much more exciting than the clichés parading as good taste.”

There is a fine line between good and bad taste in Newton’s photographs: Bulgari jewels dripping from the wrist of a model while she breaks the leg off a greasy roast chicken, an immaculately made up Jerry Hall holding a raw steak against one eye, a model on a bed saddled up like a horse and a variety of masochistic-looking props (one series from 1977 has models posing in a (sexy?) back brace or with crutches or a bionic hand).

Newton has been accused of misogyny in the past. While it could be argued that the women in his photographs are objectified, they are treated like magnificent objects, and along with everything else in his compositions are carefully staged and dramatically lit. They are an impressive presence in a thoroughly recherché setting.  In the “Big Nudes” series, inspired by German terrorist identity shots, his models dominate the space, they are strong and monumental, like modern day Venuses.

In the documentary Helmut by June (also on show, although hard to get in as the auditorium is a little poky) made by June Newton, Helmut’s wife of 56 years and co-curator of the show, Newton gives his verdict on what he calls “shrinking violet women”, “they give me the creeps” he says. The film, which follows Newton at work in LA, Miami and Monte Carlo, sheds some light on his working practice and Newton, the man. He is not a sleaze bag (or a “monster” as June has heard him called) but comes across as professional, rigorous (even strict with his models) and not without humour. He uses the models as a sculptor uses his raw materials or directs them as a film director would an actor. The results are sexy and risqué (he was dubbed “King of Kink” by Time magazine) but the process is professional and his women appear liberated rather than exploited.

Helmut Newton is on at the Grand Palais, Southeast Gallery until 17/06/12