March 30, 2009

Strolls Through Paris

It is wonderful to be back in this beautiful city after the long, cold winter in New York. It's nearly the end of March and the Europeans have just changed over to Daylight Saving Time giving us evenings that extend until 8 o'clock with full sunlight. Mother Nature seems to agree with this plan as it is now possible to walk outside in just a light coat instead of full winter gear! Even better, the forecast calls for temps in the 70's by the weekend!

Looking West from Ile Saint Louis
A Bateau Mouche plies the Seine with the Tour Saint Jacques on the right

As usual, there is a lot going on and it is a challenge to take in all the cultural events. Last week's highlight was the annual Salon du Dessin, The Drawings Fair, held in the elegant Palais de la Bourse. 36 exhibitors from Europe and the United States presented works from Old Masters to Contemporary. This is a very posh show and the individual stands were carefully curated and staged like mini salons. One could find treasures ranging from charcoal drawings by Tiepolo, to a pastel study of a bridge by Monet, to pencil portraits by Gustav Klimt. The opening was sponsored by Champagne Henriot, making for a very festive event, and I was fortunate to be able to re-visit the fair later and really spend time looking at the very special offerings.

Across the Seine in the Musée du Quai Branly is a super exhibition called "The Jazz Century" - an anthropological review of this musical genre and its influence on art, film and photography from the early 1900's to today. Tracing the origins and development of jazz as an artistic fusion blending African, American and European sources, this exhibition explores the huge influence jazz had not only aesthetically but also on society in general. The visitor follows a circuitous path beginning with the "birth" of jazz in 1917, through the Jazz Age in America and the Harlem Renaissance, the Roaring 20's in Europe, The Swing Era, WWII, and finally Bebop, West Coast Jazz and Contemporary. Photos of jazz greats, paintings by Romare Beardon, Stuart Davis and Jackson Pollock, recorded music by Duke Ellington, Billie Holliday, and Django Reinhardt, film clips of Josephine Baker and album covers by Andy Warhol all come together to present the history of jazz in a totally fresh light. This exhibition is on view until June 28.

Jeu de Paume / Hôtel de Sully

Another interesting exhibition is "Paris, Capital of Photography 1920-40" now on view at the Jeu de Paume, Hôtel de Sully branch. The photographs on display come from the collection of Christian Bouqueret, one of the pioneer collectors of photography in the 1970's in Paris. It is a very personal group of photos but most are of exceptional quality and the collection as a whole is very cohesive. Featuring works by major and minor European photographers (with a few Americans thrown in!) on themes of abstraction, portraits, the Eiffel Tower, Paris street scenes, nudes and Surrealism, this show a concise history of photography as an art in the early 20th Century.

This trip to Paris has had a new twist as the little apartment with the gorgeous view was no longer available and alternative accommodations had to be found. Thanks to friends Margie and Gil, I located a wonderful apartment in the 5th Arrondissement, not far from the Panthéon. It is a lovely area and there are lots of sights to explore. This morning I visited the Église Saint Étienne du Mont, built on Montaigne Sainte Geneviève, just up the street. It is a magnificent structure, begun in 1494 and completed in 1624 in a Gothic/flamboyant renaissance style. It holds the reliquary of Saint Geneviève and is the tomb of several French notables as well as being the church for the parish of the Sorbonne.

I am fortunate to be spending another week here in Paris and I hope you will check back for more reports on my perambulations! A très bientôt!

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