Tag Archives: Paris

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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Confession: Why I turned my back on Richter

Gerhard Richter, “Betty”, 1988, huile sur toile, 102x72cm, Saint-Louis Art Museum Gerhard Richter 2012
© Gerhard Richter 2012

Going to the Centre Pompidou’s Gerhard Richter exhibition was like a therapy session or some kind of expelling of demons. This sounds a little melodramatic but since I was twenty, hearing the name ‘Gerhard Richter’ has caused dark clouds to gather above my head. It all began during the time when my head was full of thoughts of parties, non-suitable boys and baked beans, in other words when I was a student. In my History of Art seminar I was given Gerhard Richter as the topic for a presentation.

Gerhard Richter is widely recognised as the best living German painter and my History of Art teacher, who was German and widely recognised as one of the best in what she did, was obviously looking forward to someone doing justice to her national treasure.

During this time my life was particularly chaotic. Holding down a part-time job in a late bar and studying isn’t easy, even for organised people, but for the kind of person who prioritised watching the soap ‘Neighbours’ twice a day (the second time a repeat) over going to library, there was no hope.

Everything was left to the last minute and there I was the day before the presentation madly making photocopies. I took my messy piles paper home, spread them all over my bedroom floor and made myself a strong coffee. I was going to stay up all night if I had to and do Mr. Gerhard Richter justice.

That’s how it happens in films anyway. In reality, caffeine and I are not really great friends. What started as hyperactivity turned to the inability to concentrate on ‘Ema (Nude on a Staircase)’ the painting all the books said was a pivotal piece, for more than 30 seconds. Why is she walking down the stairs? Why is she nude? The night was a cycle of periods of blind panic, followed by ‘I can do this’ pet talks to myself. Then, “it all makes sense now”, followed by, “I don’t understand anything” the grand finale was a caffeine-induced migraine.

I did my presentation the next day, needs to say it was a huge pile of dog poo. My fellow students visibly cringed, my very serious and organised teacher (she even matched her hair scrunchy to her outfit) looked like I’d just taken a Gerhard Richter painting and set fire to it.  Afterwards, nobody asked any questions because it was clear I had learnt nothing about the artist, so I slumped off home to bed.

Luckily it was not a waste. It taught me many valuable lessons, which I took into grown-up-hood. Since entering the world of work and surviving four years in the battlefield of PR I can now say I’m completely clean of my disorganised habits and I know my limits when it comes to caffeine. I’ve almost gone the other way, I get really annoyed with my colleagues if they don’t get back to me on time or don’t communicate properly. I live my life in blocks of time and I’ve even considered coordinating my hair scrunchy with my clothes.

Whenever I slack off or feel like being lazy I think of the sick feeling I had in my stomach when I did that presentation and I roll my sleeves up. However, it didn’t happened overnight, and it’s taken me a long time to be able to appreciate a Gerhard Richter painting again.

When I heard that a Richter retrospective was taking place at the Centre Pompidou, I knew that it was time for me to face my demons. The exhibition was incredible and I completely fell in love with his work, hallelujah I’m cured! I’m even going to see top Art Historian T.J.Clark do a presentation on Richter’s work this week.

I hope he’s prepared!

Gerhard Richter, ‘Panorama’ is on at the Centre Pompidou until September 24th, see it quick before it’s gone!

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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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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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Backlash

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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Swan Fake

Quell, 2011 – Kate MccGwire

Photograph: Tessa Angus, Image courtesy of All Visual Arts

I discovered Kate MccGwire’s sculptures at the Maison Rouge as part of a group exhibition – Memoirs du Futur, which focuses on the art collection of Thomas Olbricht (on until the 15th hurry!).  Although an amazing show, it was a little gloomy and macabre so MccGwire’s sculptures were a breath of fresh air in comparison. Yet, I guess it depends how you look at them, from one perspective they are beautiful and dream-like, another they are disturbing and nightmarish.

To start with the beauty; as soon as saw ‘Quell’ I thought of swans gliding down the Norfolk Broads, close to where I grew up and where my family now lives. Bizarrely, when I read the label for the artwork I noticed that the artist is from the same area, further research found that her father was a boat builder and she was brought up on the river.

Other images that came to mind were the swans on the Serpentine in London which prompted fond memories of Sunday walks around Hyde park. Then, I remembered the bizarre Dutch swans of Amsterdam. In the middle of the night I watched around thirty of them parading and stretching out their plumage bathed in reflections of neon lighting. It was as if they’d learnt their moves from watching the nearby windows or they had inhaled the fumes of the neighbouring coffee shops (I myself had done neither I promise!)

So how about the disturbing qualities of the sculptures? Firstly, swans themselves. Although graceful, beautiful and mysterious birds you would never try and pet a swan. It could be an urban myth, but they are said to be able to break your arm, failing that I’m sure they’d try and peck you to death. Attempt to defend yourself and you’ll be in trouble with the Queen of England as apparently they are all her property (perhaps another urban myth).

However, you then realise that the creepiest thing about these sculptures is that they aren’t swans. These bodies don’t have heads; they are always stuck somewhere or tucked away. Why should there be a head anyway? Perhaps because our brain tells us from experience that it should be a swan? Maybe the bends and wriggles belong more to a serpent than a bird? This made me think of the worm scene in BeetleJuice, which isn’t difficult because as a teenager I watched this film about 100 times.

The biggest surprise about these works though is that the ‘swans’ are actually made of pigeons’ feathers. Although that doesn’t bother me, there are some who despise pigeons. People in the countryside shoot them and I’ve seen city-dwellers kick them mumbling ‘rats with wings’ under their breath. Pigeons are swans’ ugly, poor cousins. In London it used to be an attraction in Trafalgar Square to feed the pigeons and let them walk all over you as seen in this film (skip to 3min47) but now that they live on our discarded McDonald and kebab leftovers they are seen as dirty pests.

In an interview MccGwire once said how she is interested by the shift in perception that people experience when they find out that the feathers are from pigeons. Often they feel squeamish, despite the knowledge that the feathers are sanitized before use.

MccGwire first came up with idea of using feathers as an art material when she moved her studio to a river barge to get closer the nature she was studying. Next-door is a disused boatshed that pigeons had made a home. She started collecting their molted feathers, which was considered dangerous at the time because bird flu had just broken out. To supply her need for huge quantities of feathers she now works with a network of over 200 pigeon-racers and fanciers who send her feathers in molting season.

The move to feathers has been a turning point in her career as it has attracted the attention of global art collectors such as Charles Saatchi and her cabinet pieces and on-site installations have been exhibited all around the world.

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