Category Archives: Photography

Autumnal art fest

‘Slick’ by Kate MccGwire (photo copyright of the artist)

It’s freezing outside which means there are only two places to be in Paris, drinking hot chocolate in a café or in a gallery taking in some art. So far this autumn, I’ve been trying to do as much of both as possible.

Firstly, British artist Kate MccGwire came to town and held her first Paris solo show at La Galerie Particulière in the Marais area. I went along to the vernissage (posh French word for opening night) and met the artist herself, which sounds lovely, if you take the torrential rain, me forgetting my umbrella and getting completely lost out of the equation. I even got introduced her mum and my running eye-liner and dripping hair fitted in quite well with her dark, mysterious feathered sculptures. You can read my interview with Kate MccGwire for Art Wednesday here. Her next show ‘Lure’ opens in London on November 23rd at the All Visual Arts Gallery.

A few nights after ‘The Museum of Everything’, an exhibition that’s touring the world opened at a new gallery near SaintGermaindes-Prés,Chalet Society’ which is an old school that has been stripped bare. It’s a huge place that’s easy to get lost in, so perfect as an art gallery. The opening night was impressive. It was a huge party fuelled by vodka cocktails and a buffet fit for a queen. Normally, at these kinds of events it’s the done thing to act vey nonchalant about the whole thing, as if your life is like this everyday. However, the cocktails were working wonders. Everyone was tucking into the buffet like aunties at a wedding. The fun was soundtracked by DJs and live music or if people needed a bit of ‘me time’ there was a silent disco on hand.

Then I almost completely arted myself out at FIAC, Paris’ annual contemporary art fair where just under 200 galleries squash themselves into the Grand Palais. I went along to watch the super-rich casually pick out a 30,000 Euro paintings in the same way I would choose a bottle of shower gel. It was an intense hit of contemporary art and even if that’s not your cup of tea, the people-watching provides hours of entertainment.

Next door to FIAC was the Bohèmes (Bohemians) exhibition at the Grand Palais which is on until January 14th.  It’s a beginner’s guide to Bohemia, basically a concept that started off as a glamourisation of the ‘gypsy’ lifestyle and was later used to describe the depressive, drugged up life of a typical Parisian artist living in a dingy rooftop studio at the end of the 1800s.  I was more interested in the first part of the exhibition which focused on traveller communities and the misconceptions around their lifestyle which still exists today, thanks to crap TV shows like ‘My big fat gypsy wedding’ but there’s quite a few gems to discover in the second part too (I don’t want to spoil the surprise!)

Most recently, I took a look at ‘Lost in Paradise’ an exhibition at Loft Sévigné in Le Marais which explores spirituality in contemporary art. It’s a great exhibition but really heavy, raising a lot of questions about religion from different perspectives which nobody will ever agree on. I was lucky enough to get a tour, which resulted in someone getting so hot under the collar they left. All art should have that affect.

So now I have an art-shaped whole in my heart and am trying to work out what to see next.


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Oh deer

I discovered this photo at an exhibition of work by Korean artist Ahae, The show, which is supported by the Louvre takes place in a purpose-made tardis-like building, reminiscent of a bird-watching hut. You can find it in the Jardin de Tuileries.

The epicentre of the exhibition is an oval room which takes inspiration from the nearby l’Orangerie museum’s display of Monet Water lilies, which is appropriate as the colours and patterns in Ahae’s photos instantly remind you of Impressionist brush-strokes. This is interesting as although we normally associate photography with its capture of reality, this exhibition reminds us that the image taken by a lens is just as subjective as a painting, especially with today’s technologically powerful camera equipment. It must be added though, that although Ahae uses state-of-the-art telescopic lenses, he stays away from manipulation of lighting and software such as Photoshop.

But real or hyper-real, these photographs are beautiful, they sweep you away to another place, to an enchanted garden. Soothing music and a relatively quiet gallery make the whole experience, as they say in France ‘zen’.

Large print format is often used to create the effect that you are actually looking through Ahae’s window. In the field he sees from his house, he observes nature in action; magpies picking on a baby deer, a flock of herron in flight, the shimmering rising sun. The initial impact was so overwhelming, I’m definitely going back for another look.

However, the incredible moments Ahae captures were not down to luck, Ahae took two million photos over a period of three years, and the result is far from repetitive, there is so much to see.

100 words on Ahae

Born in Kyoto, Japan in 1941, where Ahae’s family were located during Japanese colonial rule. At the end of WW2 he returned to his homeland in South Korea where he has spent most of his life.

He holds a black belt in Taekwondo, is highly trained in Judo, and has developed his own martial art. He started his own business at 35, inventing innovative products, holding over 1,000 patents and trademarks.

He has always worked to make sure his business activity does not harm the environment and is now focused on organic farming. He took up photography in the 1970s.

Photo © 2011 Ahae Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

AHAE, ‘Through my window’ at the Jardin des Tuileriesuntil August 19th Free entry

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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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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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Pins and needles

Desperate to avoid another social network hungrily eating at my time, I did everything I could to avoid the colourful world of Pinterest. But I love pictures and I have no self-discipline, so it’s started. Here’s a link to my first board (let’s face it the first of many boards) of my favourite living artists, these are the artists I follow the works of like a crazy stalker, leaching on them for their inspiration and enlightenment. Tell me if you think there’s anyone I’ve missed.

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Untitled (lash) 2008  © Cris Bierrenbach

This photo is currently on display in the Eloge du Vertige exhibition – which shows photographs from Brazil’s Itaú Collection at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie Ville de Paris (known by its friends as the MEP) until 25th March.

Itaú’s is a really rich collection of photographs, spanning the work of Brazilian artists over the last sixty years. I know very little about Brazilian art, so the exhibition was an education for me. My expectations, perhaps narrow-mindedly, included happy gatherings, bright colours, carnival scenes etc. I felt very ignorant as I walked around the dark, gloomy, gritty and often unsettling images in this show.

The works in this collection seem to fit into two camps, the first following the art movements and trends of European art, Man Ray and surrealism for example, whilst the other half are more inward-looking, artists who are either criticizing, celebrating or differentiating Brazilian culture and its artistic traditions.

This photo by Cris Bierrenbach is the cover girl of the show, used on all the marketing material and catalogues etc. I can see why, it’s an unforgettable image and one of the more universal pictures in the collection i.e. it will sell well in the gift shop. However, looking on Bierrenbach’s website his work can get a little transgressive (not for the squeamish).

Society’s concept of the ‘beautiful woman’ and the pressure on women to fit this ideal seems to be a key theme in his work, for example his video performance Identidade from 2009 which completely deconstructs the idea of makeover.

So this photograph could either be interpreted as a surreal exaggeration of a beautiful woman, a mythical eyelash creature perhaps, or it could be Bierrenbach criticising women’s quest for perfection. We’ll never discover which is true, but what I want to know is, how did he do it? I hope Photoshop is involved otherwise it must’ve been pretty painful!

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Bonjour Paris!

As well as blogging about the art I’ve seen on my adventures around Paris, I’m now also writing reviews of contemporary art exhibitions in the city as Arts Editor at Large for online travel magazine So far my reviews include a photojournalism exhibition by Jane Evelyn Atwood at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie and Paris-Delhi-Bombay, a group exhibition exploring artists’ perceptions of India at Centre Pompidou. Please go and say bonjour!

Image: Pierre et Gilles, Hanuman, 2010

Courtesy of Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris

©ADAGP Paris, 2011


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