Tag Archives: Pompidou

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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Princess Ooh la la

Princess X (right), Constantin Brancusi, 1916 – photo thanks to Geishaboy500

Paris is a weird city because although it’s generally very noisy due to tourists and traffic you can still manage to find a corner of tranquility if you know where to look. Despite being next-door to the Centre Pompidou the Atelier Brancusi feels like it’s in a small country village. Inside, all I could hear were chirping birds and a busker’s mandolin.

It is not the original location of Constantin Brancusi’s studios. They used to be based in the 15th arrondissement of the city until the building deteriorated and the contents were moved to outside the front of the Centre Pompidou. Then, when it became clear that the sculptures wouldn’t survive against the elements the decision was made to finally give them a home.

Although Brancusi was originally from Romania he decided to leave the contents of his studios to the people of France because his homeland’s communist government had shunned him. He gave the collection to France on the condition that it was displayed exactly as he’d left it on the day of his death.

Brancusi moved to Paris in his twenties to study at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts. He later worked in Rodin’s workshop but left after two months as he felt he needed to find his own direction. Examples of his two most famous sculptures The Kiss, 1908 and Bird in Space, 1919 can be seen in the collection, but my favourite piece was Princess X, simply because it made me smile. Brancusi obviously had a sense of humour.

The sculpture was originally exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants (a regular exhibition organised for artists not supported by France’s official academy for painting and sculpture) in 1920 but was quickly replaced after complaints that it was pornographic. The title, ‘Princess X’ refers to Princess Marie Bonaparte, a direct descendant of Napoleon Bonaparte. She was a psychoanalyst and a close friend of Sigmund Freud, her most famous research was based on women’s ability to have an orgasm, hence the sexual form of Brancusi’s sculpture.

Brancusi was successful in his lifetime and expanded his studios several times. Yet despite his prosperity Brancusi continued to dress like a Romanian peasant. His roots were important to him, he was part of a community of Romanian intellectuals in Paris, influenced by Romanian folk stories and mythology and often entertained his guests by playing them traditional songs on his violin or cooking them recipes handed down the generations. The circle of friends that got to enjoy these treats included Picasso, Duchamp and Man Ray.

Brancusi died in 1957 at the age of 81 and was buried in Paris’ Montparnasse Cemetery, a sculpture of ‘Le Baiser’ or ‘The Kiss’ marks his grave.

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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 BonjourParis.com. 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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Filed under Painting, Photography