Category Archives: Music

Must-sees of the summer

La Chambre à Air event in the basement of the Palais de Tokyo, 30/06/12

The last few months have been a little chaotic for reasons I won’t bore you with, so blogging has slipped down to the bottom of my priorities. But worry not, there’s still been a bit of time for art.

For a start, I’ve squeezed in three visits to the Palais de Tokyo. As well as ‘Intense Proximité’ its Trienniale, which is on until August 26th it now hosts regular free events and happenings most of which are free. Its café has also got a massive open-air space where you can sit and gaze at the Seine and the Eiffel Tower, making it a very cool place to just hang out. To top it off the actual museum space is now HUGE (increased from 7,000 to 22,000 square metres).

Not content with completely transforming the museum, the director of the Palais de Tokyo, Jean de Loisy has also curated Les Maitres du Disordre (The Masters of Disorder) a magical mystery tour through shamanist rituals and its influence on contemporary art. The exhibition is at the Musée Quai Branly, across the river from the Palais de Tokyo.

Next door to the Palais de Tokyo is the Musée d’art Moderne where I saw the much talked about Robert Crumb exhibition. The reason why it’s so hyped, is firstly the French love comics. Pop into the ‘Bande Dessinée’ (comic book) section of any large Paris book shop and you’ll understand the extend of the worship. But comics here aren’t just about kids’ characters and superheroes, there are beautifully illustrated comics and graphic novels on every aspect of life and fantasy.

I then went from the thunder-thighed obsessions of crumb, to Helmut Newton’s perfectly formed supermodels (on until July 30th). It was a great exhibition but after seeing all those perfect bodies I felt like going on a diet.

Last but not least, I saw the Berthe Morisot exhibition at the Musée Marmottan. It’s apparently not very hip place to hang out, (I was the youngest person there), but this means there are less people so you get to see Impressionist paintings that rival the Musée D’Orsay, but with the space and time to appreciate them properly. Although today Impressionism seems very safe, Berthe Morisot herself was actually very cool, like some kind of 19th Century rock goddess (see picture below).

Yet despite seeing some of the best exhibitions in town my hunger has not been satisfied, as the last few weeks has seen a whole wave of new exhibitions opening, which I ambitiously plan to see before La Rentrée (September) comes around. So, to make sure I don’t forget any I’ve put together a list of ‘must see’ shows. If there’s anything I’ve forgotten, let me know!

Ending July

La Promenade, Galerie Paul Frèches until July 13th

Ellsworth Kelly, Galerie Marian Goodman, until July 13th

Artemesia, at Musee Maillol until July 15th

Rêves de laque, Le Japon de Shibata Zeshin, Musée Cernuschi until July 15th

Oeuvres de la collection Züst, Centre Culturel Suisse, until July 15th

Guillaume Bresson, Thomas Lerooy, Galerie Nathalie Obadia, until July 21st

Through my Window, Photography by Ahae at the Jardin de Tuileries, until July 23rd

Le Crépuscule des Pharaons, Musée Jaquemart-André until July 23rd

Claude Parent, Galerie Yvon Lambert, until July 28th

Yutaka Takanashi, Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, until July 29th

Le Mont Fuji n’existe pas, Frac Ile-de-France / Le Plateau, until July 29th

Olav Westphalen, Galerie Vallois, until July 31st

Running through the summer

Tim Burton L’exposition, Cinémathèque Francaise until August 5th

Multiversités creative, Centre Pompidou, until August 6th

Anne-Flore Cabanis, Connexions, 104 (CENTQUATRE) until August 8th

Construire, déconstruire, reconstruire : le corps utopique, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris until August 19th

Sur la Route de Jack Kerouac, L’épopée, de l’écrit à l’écran, Musée des lettres et Manuscrits, until August 19th

Misia: Reine de Paris, Musée d’Orsay, until September 9th

Turbulences, Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton, until September 16th

Wim Delvoye, Musée du Louvre, until September 17th

Gerhard Richter, Panorama, Centre Pompidou until September 17th

Laurent Grasso, Jeu de Paume, until September 23rd

Louis Soutter, The Tremor of Modernity and Didier Vermeiren, sculptures – photographies, Maison Rouge, until September 23rd

Situation(s) [48°47 34 N / 2°23 14 E], MAC/VAL, June 30th until September 23rd

Alice Springs, Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP) until November 4th


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Filed under Installations, Museums, Music, Painting, Performance art, Photography, Public art, Sculpture, Video art

Nous t’aimons Monsieur Dylan!

Bob Dylan et Johnny Hallyday, à Paris, mai 1966 © Rue des Archives/Agip

These photos caught my eye at the Cité de la Musique’s photo exhibition, Bob Dylan l’Explosion Rock, which focuses on the work of American photographer Daniel Kramer who followed Dylan’s life on and off stage during the years 1964-65. The exhibition is on until July 15th.

Divided across two floors, the first level gives a brief background to Dylan’s career along with a series of striking black and white photos that Kramer took. Although gorgeous photos it’s hard to get excited when images of Dylan at this time are so over-exposed, it reminded me of a posh poster shop. However, it’s important to remember that this exhibition isn’t an art show as such, it is aimed at music-lovers and most of all, Bob-lovers.

For me the basement was more of a pull as it focuses on Dylan’s visit to Paris as part of his world tour in 1966. I’ve lived in Paris for two and half years and have loved having an excuse to indulge myself in all types of culture, trashy or high-brow by saying “it’s to help me learn the language” whilst switching over the TV to a game show which features a mascot dog. One thing I’ve loved learning about, which I think can just get away as being credible is Yé-yé music.

Yé-ye stars sang sugary songs about he highs and lows of being teenagers. It was a revolution for French kids and also big business, there was even a music magazine ‘Salut Les Copains’ so teenagers could keep up to date with their heartthrobs and legends. The biggest stars of Salut les Copains were Serge Gainsbourg, Johnny Hallyday, Françoise Hardy and Jacques Dutronc.

Although the Yé-yé music movement was trying to differentiate itself from American music it actually took most of its influence from ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ and Yé-yé performers often reinterpreted American and British songs in French. However, it worked both ways. Something not many people outside France know is that Yé-yé superstar Claude François, the subject of this year’s biopic Cloclo penned the original version of Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ in French as ‘Comme d’habitude’ (as usual) two years before.

The first photo in the group that caught my eye was one of Bob Dylan stepping out with Johnny Hallyday. Dylan was in France in May 1966 as part of his world tour. I love the contrast between the clean-cut pop star Hallyday and Dylan, the wild American rock star hiding behind his sunglasses. Close by the photo is a video which shows a clip of Hallyday on a TV show being questioned about his respect for Dylan which is surprising to the show’s presenter as Hallyday had said not long before how much long-haired rock stars annoyed him. It’s hilarious watching him awkwardly back-peddle.

For me this pictures picks up the awe Hallyday feels towards Dylan and American rock. Dylan was obviously an inspiriation for Hallyday’s early style. In 1964 Hallyday covered the folk standard, ‘House of the rising sun’ which had previously been recorded by Dylan in 1962.

Today Johnny Hallyday remains one of the biggest stars in the French-speaking music world. His concert, 100% Johnny: Live à La Tour Eiffel in 2000, attracted an audience of 500,000 and 9.5 million television viewers as it was broadcast live on French TV. He now lives in the US, still producing music heavily influenced by American rock and blues. Although he has had several attempts at retirement he seems to be refusing to get old (with a little help from his plastic surgeon) and is permanently on tour or acting in the theatre.

Bob Dylan et Françoise Hardy, mai 1966 © Barry Feinstein

The second photo that caught my eye was Dylan with Françoise Hardy, who in my opinion is the most beautiful French woman that has ever lived (Bridgette Bardot no longer counts since she came out in support of the far right). Hardy stood out from the other Yé-yé stars with her hauntingly melancholic songs like “Tous les garçons et les filles” which tells about the loneliness of life without friends or boyfriend.

Yet despite the sad persona she painted through her music, in real-life she was receiving amorous advances from the biggest rock stars in the world; Mick Jagger who described her as the ‘perfect woman’ and Dylan who dedicated a poem to her, “Some other kinds of songs” which can be found on the sleeve of 1964’s, ‘Another side of Bob Dylan’.

Many rumours have flown around about what went on between Hardy and Dylan, but she remains adamant that it was ‘just friends’ as he wasn’t her type. Imagine how different the world of music could have been if she’d fallen for his charms.

Hardy’s gloominess struck a cord with millions of ‘les ados’ or teenagers as we call them and in 1966 Hardy made the jump across the channel by releasing an English-language album which remained in the UK top twenty for several weeks after its release.

In 1967 Hardy found love with fellow Yé-yé pin-up Jacques Dutronc who she is still with albeit living in separate countries. She continues to release music and occasionally appears as a cultural commentator on TV. At the age of 68 she is still known for her striking beauty, is refreshingly free of nips and tucks and is letting her hair go grey.

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I Heart Bonaparte

Since downloading came along and made records free but gigs really expensive, bands have had to pull their socks up.  As recently as five years ago, if a lead singer climbed on top of a 15 foot amp it would be a classic rock moment. However, high ticket prices in a time when people are wondering if they will still have their job tomorrow, mean audiences want more for their money.

People are starting to wonder why they spent all that money on a gig ticket when it sounds pretty much the same as the album they downloaded illegally (apart from the guy behind them talking loudly all the way through).

If the success of Lady Ga Ga is anything to go by, people expect the entry price to include at least one blow-torch bra and/or meat dress moment, and as a result the line is blurring between art, music and theatre. It’s nothing new, it’s been happening since the beginning of time, from Andy Warhol’s darlings The Velvet Underground to George Clinton. Yet until recently things have been quiet. Since the 90s it seems that musicians have been trying to show that their music is powerful enough to stand on its own.

So now the pyrotechnics are back and it’s not just multi-platinum stadium-fillers storming the stage. Named after the French inventor of the leggings-boot combo, Bonaparte is the brainchild of Berlin-based Tobias Lundt. Originally from Switzerland, he is supported by a troupe of around 20 live performers from all over the world.

The first time I saw Bonaparte play was by accident; I went to a small festival to see another band but was drawn into the auditorium by the sight, through a crack in the door, of a bath on stage and couldn’t stop watching for the next hour.

To be honest the music was nothing special, spoilt brat-rock with super-catchy repetitive lyrics, designed to make you either laugh or wince. Whatever I thought of the songs they worked as a perfect soundtrack to the bedlam that was happening on stage. It was Nathan Barley meets The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Each song has a story, represented by dancers, actors, gymnasts and contortionists who find bizarre and sometimes very uncomfortable ways of reflecting the lyrics. Each song has a total of about ten costume changes, often on stage. It was so hard to walk away when each performance got more shocking, more funny, more surreal and just as you thought it couldn’t get any weirder…it did.

Bonaparte combine music with performance art, theatre, burlesque, circus and silliness. One thing’s for sure, the crowd of mostly under-25s at the gig would never go to the theatre to see ‘Bonaparte the show’. This is evident in the constant cut-price or free tickets for this age group at theatres across Europe. But ‘Bonaparte the band’ is selling out well-known gig venues and collecting die-hard fans as it goes.

Also featured on Artsharks

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Filed under Music, Performance art