Tag Archives: Painting

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Installations, Museums, Painting, Photography, Public art, Sculpture

Penniless poet to pop art pin-up Jean-Michel Basquiat

Trailer for Radiant Child – documentary film by Tamra Davis

The exhibition of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s life work was shown at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville from last October to January and was one of the museum’s most successful shows to date. So popular, that I gave up on queuing in the freezing cold twice and didn’t get to see it until its last week. If I’m honest I almost considered just pretending I’d seen it, but knew I wouldn’t be able to live with the secret.

I don’t like to stereotype but Parisians don’t really do queuing and find any way possible to avoid it (usually by really obviously pushing in). So when you see hundreds of people obediently queuing every day for three months in winter, you know it’s an unmissable show.

Every minute I waited in the icy rain was worth it. Basquiat is of legend-status. By the time he died of a heroin overdose at the age of 27, he had climbed his way up from the runaway of an abusive home to a world-known, world-loved artist. His life covered off so many clichés; rags-to-riches, the American Dream, a bright flame extinguished to soon, which is why there’s no surprise there are a number of films telling his story.

Although a fast route to fame, it wasn’t an easy climb and required just a little help from drug dealing, graffiti poetry and the new friends he had made in high places. A lot of Basquiat’s success was also down to his intelligence. Despite being celebrated for his style and cool, he was more than a pretty face. To give you an idea of his brains, he was fluent in French, Spanish and English by the time he was eleven, thanks to his Puerto Rican and Haitian heritage. His works constantly made statements about and references to politics, history and literature, often written out in chart form or madly scribbled over a huge canvas as if he was some kind of medium from the spirit world.

Basquiat had looks, style, charm, brains, talent, but despite having it all, about half-way through his career it all started to spiral downwards. Right about the time when he became best mates with his hero; Andy Warhol. The moral of the story? Never hang out with someone who has crazier hair than you.

A whole section of the exhibition was dedicated to the work that came from the Basquiat-Warhol collaboration. They didn’t simply exhibit together; they actually collaborated on the same paintings. The exhibition was a flop, leaving their new friendship in tatters and they reportedly never spoke again. Warhol died the year after and from then on Basquiat’s paintings seemed to run out of steam. They lacked energy and seemed to be more a channel for junkie lethargy and paranoia than the outlet of a mad genius that had come before.

For me Basquiat’s best work came from the beginning of his career. The collection of work at the start of the exhibition really showed what had made Basquiat’s art so exciting and proved him to be a talented artist and not just a charmer with a good story. Every piece of art from 1982 was unique, painted on a different material, representing a different idea, using a whole different spectrum of colours. It was as if he had so much to get out of his head and someone had locked him in a room for a year with nothing but paints and let it all kick-off. For me this is the anti-Warhol. I would’ve been content to have just seen this and left, but something made me stay, something being the queuing I’d done to get in and the 11 Euro entry fee!

Also featured on Artsharks

1 Comment

Filed under Painting, Street art