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Balenciaga at the Musée Bourdelle

The Musée Bourdelle is currently hosting a beautiful exhibition curated by the Palais Galleria. The spectacular monumental sculptures of Bourdelle are juxtaposed with the fine details of Balenciaga haute couture, all the more striking as all the dresses and hats featured are black, inviting us to look more closely at the depth and the details, as we do with the sculptures.

I have been planning on visiting the Musée Bourdelle for a while, and this gave me the perfect excuse. The museum is set in the sculptor’s 19th century studio and appartments in Montparnasse, and was extended in 1992 by architect Christian de Portzamparc. The studio and museum is set around a sculpture garden and a leafy and peaceful courtyard which existed already when Antoine Bourdelle lived and worked there.

Antoine Bourdelle worked with Rodin, setting up a free sculpture school in Montparnasse in 1900. He later broke away from Rodin, and found fame from 1910 onwards. The museum is home to a wonderful range of his work, from huge bronze and marble figures to smaller works in plaster, as well as photographs and drawings.

Alongsidehis work, in the light of the artist’s studio, the Balenciaga dresses appear as sculptures themselves. The different tonalities of black on velvet, satin, wool and feathers suddenly become apparent, and the setting allows us to examine the creativity and work of both artists in ways that we may not have done otherwise.

The exhibition L’Oeuvre Noir runs until July 16, but even after it ends I would highly recommend a visit to this wonderful museum.

  • Musée Bourdelle. 18 rue Antoine Bourdelle, 75015 Paris. metro: Montparnasse or Falguière

Open daily 10:00 – 18:00 except Mondays

Website (in English)

link to map

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Modernist architects and modern artists in the Villa Seurat

Built between 1924 and 1926, the Villa Seurat is a group of remarkable artist’s homes and studios, eight of them built by the Modernist architect André Lurçat. 1920’s Paris – and more particularly Montparnasse – was home to an extraordinary community of artists and writers of all nationalities. They frequent the salons of Gertrude Stein, gather at Shakespeare and Company – located in Odeon at the time and run by Sylvia Beach – and drink and dance at the infamous cafés of Montparnasse – La Coupole, le Dome, la Closerie des Lilas, and the cantine and academy of Marie Vassilieff, the Villa Vassilieff. Today, a walk down this small cul-de-sac is a treat for any fans of modernist architecture, and delving into its enthralling history, and that of its residents (Soutine, Henry Miller – who wrote Tropic of Cancer here, Anais Nin, Dali, Chana Orloff, Jean Lurçat to name but a few) is to take a step into the heart of  Paris during ‘Les Années Folles’.

I visited today and was lucky to be able to have a guided visit inside No 7 bis, the atelier of sculptor Chana Orloff, today lived in and lovingly restored by her grandchildren. This house and studio was designed by her friend Auguste Perret in 1926. The double height workshop and showroom allowed for her monumental sculptures. It was destroyed under the Nazi occupation during WWII (she was Jewish) but she bought it back in 1945. I found the story of her life and work extremely compelling, along with those of her friends and contemporaries – Modigliani, Soutine, Zadkine and Chagall, amongst many others. The studio is open by appointment, or on special open weekends such as this one. (it was part of the programme during Paris Face Cachée 2017).

Even if you are not able to go inside any of the studios, a short stroll down the Villa Seurat is a must for lovers of modernist art and architecture alike.

For a full list of architects and residents of the Villa Seurat check the wikipedia page.

  • Villa Seurat, 75014 Paris.  metro: Alesia

The Villa Vassilieff – Montparnasse

The Villa Vassilieff is a tiny piece of old Montparnasse, the Montparnasse of artist’s studios, low houses and small cobbled alleyways, before it was all torn down in the 1970’s to build the ultra-ugly Montparnasse Tower and the surrounding and equally ugly shopping centre and offices.

From 1910 onwards, penniless artists and writers came to live in Montparnasse from all over the world, deserting Montmartre and enjoying the creative and bohemian atmosphere, the cheap rents in artist’s communes  such as La Ruche, and the bars and cafés that served as both intellectual meeting places and became essential lifelines to the artists living in poverty with no heating and no kitchens.

The Villa Vassilieff was one of these communes, once the studio and academy of artist Marie Vassilieff, who then transformed it during WW1 into a canteen, ‘La Cantine des Artistes’. She fed artists and writers, who at the time could scarcely afford to feed themsleves, a hearty meal and a glass of wine for a couple of centimes – Picasso, Modigliani, Soutine, Matisse, Zadkine, Chagall, Braque, Max Jacob, Léger and Apollinaire, among others. During the war cafés were obliged by law to close early, but as Marie’s canteen was registered as a private club, it did not have to apply this rule, and became the meeting place for the local artistic community, filled each night with music and dancing.

In 1929 Marie moved her studio, and the Villa was occupied by architects, other artists and then a museum. It was almost demolished in 1992, saved by photographer Robert Doisneau and actress Juliette Binoche. In February 2016 it reopened after renovations as a residence and exhobition space for artists. Sponsors provide grants allowing 4 international artists to live and work there each year, and workshops and seminars are held regularly along with changning exhibitions, aimed at connecting past and present Montparnasse.

Take a step back in time into the Montparnasse of ‘Les Années folles’. In the Villa Vassilieff the office blocks and traffic outside are forgotten and you get a rare glimpse into a Paris of the past where it’s quite possible the spirits of some of the greatest artistic and literary figures still live on, as new life and creativity is breathed into the studios once again.

  • Villa Vassilieff, 21 avenue du Maine, 75014 Paris. metro: Montparnasse Bienvenue

Villa Vassilieff website (in English)

White Nights in Paris

On the first Saturday in October Paris stays up all night in honour of Nuit Blanche, a contemporary art festival now in its 15th year. Each year an artistic director is nominated by the City of Paris:  this year it’s Jean de Loisy, President of the contemproary art museum the Palais de Tokyo, who invited 40 artists to present their works throughout the city.

The 2016 Nuit Blanche follows a love story, based on a 15th century Italian novel ‘Poliphilo’s strife of love in a dream’. Rewritten by Yannick Haenel especially for Nuit Blanche, as we read the story we follow Poliphilo in pursuit of his love, the nymph Polia, through a dreamlike landscape. The main artworks providing the backdrop for the story are situated along the Seine river stretching from the west to the east of the city, but there is also an ‘Off’ festival scattered throughout the whole city.

Information booklets and maps are available, as is an app (also available in English), to ensure that you don’t get lost or miss anything, and copies of the modern version of the story. You can easily walk or cycle between the different installations, plenty of people are out enjoying the art and the atmosphere, and it’s a different and fascinating way to spend a night in Paris.

Nuit Blanche facebook page.

 

Fred le Chevalier at the Bon Marché

I have loved the charming and poetic figures by street artist Fred le Chevalier ever since I first came accross one in Menilmontant a few years ago, I snapped a photo of it on my phone and have kept my eyes open for them ever since. Nowadays they often appear pasted on the walls around the Canal St Martin and the Marais, their fleeting presence, as the wind and rain gradually wear them away,  making them even more special.

At the moment in the Bon Marché department store on the left bank a whole collection of his characters are gathered for a great ball. They spin and whirl above the main hall, celebrating the city in which they live, charmed couples of all kinds, reminding us as Fred le Chevalier so often does that ‘love is never dirty’.

Outside on the walls and windows other characters are pasted. It’s perhaps not the same moment of surprise as when you stumble accross one hidden around a corner, but the city they inhabit remains a poetic and joyful one.

  • Le Bon Marché, 24 rue de Sevres, 75007 Paris. metro: Sevres Babylone

Until 15 October

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Open days – les Beaux-Arts de Paris

Les Beaux Arts is the most prestigious art school in Paris, and among the very best in the world. Every year in early July, at the end of the academic year, they open their doors to the public to show the work of their students and allow a rare visit to their spectacular site.

The school is set in the heart of St Germain des Près, facing the Louvre on the other side of the river. It covers 2 hectares (almost 5 acres) and the vast complex of buildings date from the 17th – 20th centuries – the school was originaly founded by Louis XIV. Students study here for 5 years, taught by contemporary artists and surrounded by an incredible collection of over 450 000 artworks, a huge library and four centuries of artistic excellence.

We were thrilled by the chance to see not only the beautiful buildings steeped in the history of art, but also the creativity and passion of today’s students, and their varied and fascinating work. The Beaux-Arts do not open their doors to the public very often, but when they do, a glimpse into their world is something not to be missed.

  • Ecole des Beaux Arts, 14 rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris. metro: St Germain des Près

Website (in English)

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La Ruche – legendary artists in the 15th arrondissement

La Ruche is an amazing hidden treasure, not only beautiful but steeped in incredible history.

It literally translates as ‘the beehive’, and is a group of artists’ studios in the 15th arrondissement – in fact it is one of the most important artistic centres of the 20th century – set in a beautiful semi-wild garden and locked behind huge wrought iron gates. It was called as such first because of its octagonal shape (like a large beehive) with the studios set into it like a honeycomb, and also to evoke the feverish work of the artists who lived and worked there.

In 1900 Alfred Boucher, a wealthy artist from a humble background, bought 5000m2 of land in the Vaugirard area in the south of the city, an unfashionable and cheap part of town in those days. At the end of the Universal Exhibition of 1900, he also bought the Wines of Bordeaux Pavilion from the exhibition, a temporary building with a metallic structure designed by Gustave Eiffel, and had it rebuilt on this land. The gates were from the Women’s Pavilion and the two caryatides flanking the main doors from the Indonesian Pavilion. His aim was to set up a group of artists’ studios, providing living, working and exhibition space to artists in need of help and patronage, as he had once been.

The studios were small, with no electricity and one tap shared between all of them, but rents were low, or even non-existant for the most impoverished. Artists came from all over Europe, staying anything from a few months to a lifetime (the oldest resident today is apparently over 90 and was born there to artist parents) and included Chagall, Soutine, Zadkine, Modigliani, Apollinaire, Brancusi, Blaise Cendrars and Diego Rivera, amongst many others.

La Ruche fell into decline during WWII and was almost demolished in the late 1960s, but it was saved by another group of artists in the early 70s and later renovated by the Seydoux Foundation (who apparently had initially planned to finance the renovations of the Bateau Lavoir in Montmartre, after it completely burned down they decided to renovate and restore La Ruche in it’s place).

Today is is home to 70 artists who either live or work there, or both, 23 of them in the central ‘beehive’ building. The studios are slightly larger than they were originally, and the surrounding buildings also form part of the community, all set in idyllic gardens. It’s not open to the public, I went as part of a guided visit which I booked in advance, but they do run occasionally and if you speak French it’s really worth doing. It’s a magical place, both for its charm and beauty, its incredible history and that of the artists who have passed through its doors, and for the continuing creative activity today.

  • La Ruche, 2 Passage de Dantzig, 75015 Paris. metro: Convention

Website (in French)

JR and the disappearing Louvre pyramid

French street artist JR has an installation currently at the Louvre which is surprising to say the least, and lends itself perfectly to the grey days we are having at the moment. He has made the famous glass pyramid disappear.

JR Louvre pyramid, Paris

The pyramid was designed by Chinese-American architect I M Pei and unveiled in 1989 to general criticism and controversy in Paris (as it has to be said are most of the major architectural developments in this city, starting with the Eiffel Tower)! Now instead of seeing the pyramid itself, probably the most photographed part of the structure of the Louvre, we see what has been hiding behind it, the section of the building that has been largely ignored for all these years.

JR Louvre Pyramid - Paris

Instead of snapping selfies, visitors are invited to look at their surroundings in a different way, and to spend more time deciding which is the best viewpoint for their photo to allow the pyramid to completely disappear (the sides slope, so you have to be in just the right place to ensure it looks flat). By removing the pyramid, JR takes the Louvre back to its original state, yet his digital photography work is resolutely modern, and reminds us that the pyramid itself is too.

At the Louvre until June 27th 2016.

JR’s website (in English)

 

Open days – artists’ studios in Belleville

Last weekend over 120 artists’ studios and galleries around Belleville, showing work by 250 artists, opened their doors to the public. I really love these open days – not only do they give you a chance to discover the work of the artists, to meet the artists themselves and talk to them about their work, but they also open up hidden courtyards and passages, and encourage you to explore the city in a different way.

Belleville is a fascinating part of Paris, a cultural melting pot which still holds on to the village atmosphere of its past. Now home to a vibrant and diverse community of artists, you can wander the streets with the map provided and push open the doors into a sometimes hidden world.

The atmosphere at these open days is always festive and joyful, the artists are welcoming and you constantly bump into people strolling the streets armed with the map as you are. There is often music and always plenty of places to eat, and on a sunny day it’s a wonderful way to explore a part of the city that is full of creative energy.

The open days in Belleville are held once a year on the last weekend in May (this year they have been extended across 2 weekends), and this is the biggest of the open days held around the city. If you are here at other times of the year there are the open days in Abbesses in November, around Père Lachaise in late April, and several others throughout the year. All the open days are free.

metros: Belleville, Pyrénées or Jourdain, 75020 Paris

website (in English)

The Orangerie Museum

The Orangerie is one of my favourite museums in Paris. I’ve often heard it described as a jewel-like museum. It’s just the right size, not too crowded, is home to a collection of beautiful works, and regularly puts on fascinating temporary exhibitions. It’s one of those museums you can go to again and again and never get tired of.

The Orangerie was built in 1852 to house the orange trees of the Tuileries gardens that surround it, with a glass facade facing south across the Seine river. It was then put to various other uses, as a concert hall, an exam room or to house soldiers on leave from the trenches during WWI, and was not modified until the 1920’s when Monet donated his water lily paintings with very specific instructions for how he wanted them displayed. It has since been modified again, adding the Post-Impressionist Walter-Guillaume collection, and was fully restored in 2006, demolishing the upper level and moving the Walter-Guillaume collection into a newly developed lower level so that the Nympheas could once again be seen how Monet intended, their aspect changing with the changes in the natural daylight that floods in from outside.

Probably the most spectacular section of the museum are the rooms dedicated to eight giant paintings of Monet’s Nympheas – each is 2m by 6m. The paintings were donated by Monet in 1922 and are shown exactly as he wanted them to be, on curved walls in two simple oval shaped rooms full of natural, diffused light that allow the works to surround you on all sides. They have actually been glued to the walls, and stayed in the museum throughout WWII and all the renovation works.

However don’t just go for the water lilies. Don’t miss the Walter-Guillaume collection downstairs, featuring works by Cezanne, Renoir, Utrillo, Matisse, Picasso and Soutine, amongst others. This newest level is also full of natural light, and the Soutine collection is said to be the best in Paris.

The museum also puts on regularly changing temporary exhibitions which are included in the ticket price, the current one is dedicated to Guillaume Apollinaire.

Make sure you buy a ticket online before you go as lines can get long.

  • Musée de l’Orangerie, Jardin des Tuileries, 75001 Paris. metro: Concorde

Open daily except Tuesdays 9:00 – 18:00

Museum website (in English)

Serge Gainsbourg in the rue de Verneuil

If you are interested in French culture you almost certainly know of Serge Gainsbourg. His wikipedia page describes him as a singer, songwriter, film composer, poet, painter, screenwriter, writer, actor and director. He’s most famous as a singer/songwriter, his huge output of music covering all genres from rock to funk to new wave – he even recorded a reggae version of the Marseillaise, the French national anthem. His lyrics were compared to poetry, he played with words and was clever, funny and often controversial, in life as well as in his art.  He is regarded by many as the greatest French popular singer ever.

Already a legend in life, after his death he also became a cult hero. The house in the 7th arrondissement where he lived from 1969 until his death in 1991 now belongs to his daughter, actress and singer Charlotte. There were stories that it would open as a museum, as inside it’s apparently left as it was when he died, but this did not happen, or at least has not happened yet. So fans from all around the world travel to pay homage to him on the walls of his house and garden.

The otherwise chic street in St Germain des Près seems to tolerate the colourful and ever evolving graffiti. Every now and then it will all get painted over, possibly by the local residents, but reappears almost immediately.

If you are interested in learning more about Gainsbourg and his work a good place to start is his wikipedia page or this Vanity Fair article. If you already know and love him, a trip to the rue de Verneuil is a must during a visit to Paris. You can also pay your respects at his grave in the Montparnasse Cemetery.

  • 5 bis rue de Verneuil, 75007 Paris. metro: rue du Bac

An enchanted forest in the Louvre

Set in the heart of the Cour Carré in the Louvre, is a magical, mirrored box that allows you to step into another world. Artist Eva Jospin’s Panorama is both architecture and art. The box is encased in steel, reflecting the beautiful buildings of the Louvre that surround it.

Louvre Cour Carré Eva Jospin

Inside, a mysterious forest grotto has been sculpted entirely from cardboard. Only a few visitors are allowed in at a time, it’s quiet, fragile, detailed and incredibly beautiful.

The Panorama has been designed specially for this site and is on show until August 28th. Admission is free.

  • Musée du Louvre, 75001 Paris. metro: Palais Royal Musée du Louvre

Find the Paris space invaders

Looking for space invaders in Paris is a great activity, for all sorts of reasons. The main reason I like it is that if forces you to look up, to take notice of your surroundings in a different way, to pay attention to parts of buildings that you would not normally look at. It’s a fantastic way to explore a city and also to keep children involved and excited. And of course it’s fun when you find a new one.

Many cities around the world have been invaded now, but Paris particularly is home to a vast array of these creatures of all sizes. Each one is mapped and catalogued by Invader, the artist who remains anonymous. He apparently attended the prestigious art school Les Beaux Arts in Paris, although according to his wikipedia page he tells people he attended a tiling school on Mars.

There is also a great app you can download onto your phone called Flash Invaders. Each time you find one you photograph it through the app, you are given a score and entered into a table where you compete with others all over the world to find the most. The app works across all cities and has very cool 80’s graphics and sound.

So if you are visiting Paris with children, download the app and enjoy the hunt. It will allow you to walk the streets for hours! And even if you don’t have children, keep your eyes open. It’s free art, a different way of looking at the city, and a great surprise every time you find one.

And don’t just look for these creatures, other ‘visitors’ are popping up all around the city!

Invader’s website (in English)

Monet at the Musée Marmottan

Lovers of Monet should make sure to include a visit to the Musée Marmottan in the 16th arrondissement. Much less famous than the Musée d’Orsay or the Orangerie (which houses his Nympheas), this discreet museum is in fact home to the largest collection of Monet’s paintings in the world. Monet’s son Michel donated his entire collection to the Museum in 1966, and even though only around 10% of it is on show at any one time, it’s spectacular. In 1940 the museum had already received a donation of Impressioniist works, including ‘Impression Soleil Levant’, Monet’s painting which gave the movement it’s name.

The collection is housed in a magnificent ‘hotel particulier’ or Parisian mansion, which is partly furnished and also home to the world’s leading collection of paintings by Berthe Morisot, the first female Impressionist painter, and a wonderful collection of illuminations. The museum also shows temporary exhibitions, and you can buy a ticket that also includes entrance to Giverny – Monet’s incredible garden in Normandy, to see the real life inspiration for the beautiful works housed here.

(Photos are not allowed inside the museum).

  • Musée Marmottan, 2 rue Louis Boilly, 75016 Paris.  metro: La Muette

Open daily 10:00 – 18:00 except Mondays, open until 21:00 Thursdays

Musée Marmottan website (in English)

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Mallet Stevens at the Musée Mendjisky

For fans of Robert Mallet Stevens, I can highly recommend a visit to the Musée Mendjisky in the 15th arrondissement. The museum opened in 2014 in the former workshop of the master glass maker Louis Barillet, designed and built by Mallet Stevens in 1932. Later the studios of Maurice Mendjisky and his son Serge, it’s now a museum dedicated to the ‘Ecoles de Paris’, 2 generations of artists who made Paris the artistic capital of the world from 1900 – 1960.

Mallet Stevens designed the atelier as both a work space and a home for his friend Barillet. They knew each other well, and in 1929 when Mallet Stevens formed the Union of Modern Artists, Barillet was a member, as were Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand and Jean Prouvé. The atelier has 4 floors which can be used as workshops or exhibition space, the most impressive being the main studio – with a double height ceiling and mezzanine level it’s flooded with light from a window that takes up almost all of the facade.

 

The beautiful stained glass windows both exterior and interior were designed by Barillet (he also worked with Mallet Stevens on the glass in the rue Mallet Stevens in the 16th arrondissement), as are the floor mosaics. The members of the Union of Modern Artists believed in a ‘total art’, where spaces would incorporate all disciplines.

Downstairs there is a permanent exhibition of the works of Maurice and Serge Mendjisky, and the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions and performances. It also has a small but excellent bookshop for those interested in life and art in Paris in the 20th century.

  • Musée Mendjisky, 15 Square Vergennes, 75015 Paris. metro: Vaugirard

NOTE! The Musée Mendjisky will close its doors on December 31 2016, due to lack of visitors. The future of the building is still uncertain.

Website (in French)

Ai Weiwei at the Bon Marché

Le Bon Marché department store on the left bank is currently home to Ai Weiwei’s first work ever created for a retail space, allowing him as he put it ‘to encounter a new audience’. Er Xi – Child’s Play – begins outside in the department store windows, showing a prelude to the works inside. Depicting fantastical creatures alongside a contemporary storyline, many refer back to recurring themes in his own previous works as well as paying homage to Paris through both his father’s work when he lived in Paris in the 1920’s and 30’s as a young poet (‘Paris, tu es absurde’) and references to Marcel Duchamp.

The delicate and ethereal creatures floating in the main atrium above the cosmetics department were inspired by the 2000 year old Chinese traditional children’s stories Shan Hai Jing (Classic of Mountains and Seas) which Ai Weiwei laments have been lost to recent generations due to the censorship laws imposed in the PRC. Made by master Chinese kite makers from bamboo and white silk paper, the works were constructed using traditional methods and took a year to complete. Several are left in bamboo skeleton form, without paper, so we can better appreciate the intricate craftsmanship.

A 20 metro long dragon, broken into four parts, fills the gallery space. Here you can also watch a short film of Ai Weiwei explaining how the exhibition came about, and how he feels about Paris.

Don’t miss the ‘selfie wall’ upstairs, reminding us of Ai Weiwei’s prolific use of social media. When asked about exhibiting in a store as opposed to a museum or gallery space, Weiwei says “People experience the art as they go about their day and something unconsciously happens”.

Er Xi is at the Bon Marché until 20 February

  • Le Bon Marché, 24 rue de Sevres, 75007 Paris.  metro: Sevres Babylone
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Fred le Chevalier around the Canal St Martin

Recently whilst wandering around the Canal Saint Martin I was delighted to see some new works by my favourite street artist, Fred le Chevalier, and decided it was time for another post. Previously to be found around Menilmontant, his beautiful and poetic drawings can now be seen more often in the Canal Saint Martin area in the 10th arrondissement, also sometimes in the Marais and parts of the 11th arrondissement.

I always find it such a delight to come across one of these drawings, they are pasted on the walls and disappear gradually depending on the weather, offering fleeting moments of gladness when you see one. They seem especially poignant now in the area that was hit so tragically by the attacks in November. ‘Invent monsters to scare away our fears’ is often something he writes under his drawings. Musicians play to a monster with death pinned onto his lapel, a child snuggles up to a great beast.

Fred Le Chevalier-Paris 2Other drawings show benevolent angels looking down on us, or scenes of comfort and peace. Each time I come across one of his works I am reminded that not only that it is possible to confront our fears, but also that art, beauty and joy still surround us every day.

If you are interested in his work you can see more on his Facebook page.

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Open days – Artists studios from Anvers to Abbesses

This weekend it was the turn of 120 artists living and working in the 9th and 18th arrondissements – between approximately Anvers and Abbesses – to open their workshops, galleries, shops and sometimes even their homes to the public. Organised by the artists association ‘d’Anvers aux Abbesses’ it takes place each year on the 3rd weekend of November, and this year celebrates it’s 20th anniversary.

It’s a wonderful way to spend a day – you get to explore areas that you may not otherwise visit, to step into hidden courtyards, down tiny stairways into workshops, or go up the stairs into apartments and studios, all filled with amazing works of contemporary art. More than that, it’s a chance to meet the artists, to talk to them about their work, buy works if you wish and show them your support.

The association organizing the weekend provides a free, easy to follow map with a list of all the artists and their mediums. You can wander around and visit as many or as few as you like, in any order. The area around Montmartre is also full of lively cafés and restaurants and there are plenty of places to stop and relax between visits. On a beautiful crisp, sunny day like today, Paris is at her creative and beautiful best.

Anvers aux Abbesses artists association website (in French)

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Atelier Brancusi

The Pompidou Centre is one of the iconic building in Paris – love it or hate it, you certainly can’t miss it. However it’s easy to miss the much more discreet building just next to it. Designed by Renzo Piano, the Atelier Brancusi is almost invisible, yet this fascinating space is another of those tiny hidden museums that is well worth a visit.

Atelier Brancusi, Paris

Constantin Brancusi came to Paris from Romania in 1904, and from 1915 worked in a studio in the 15th arrondissement. Considered one of the most influential sculptors of the 20th century, he was one of the pioneers of  the modernist movement, arriving Paris at a moment when the art world here was effervescent with new ideas. His friends included the leading figures of the artistic and intellectual scene in Paris at the time: Picasso, Modigliani, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Guillaume Apollinaire and Ezra Pound.

In these studios he produced most of his work, and many of these works he arranged in the studio space, often in groups.  The studio and the arrangement of the sculptures in relation to the space and to the other works surrounding them became integral to each sculpture. So much so that he often refused to sell them, if he did he would replace them with plaster casts.

In 1956 he bequeathed his studio and its entire contents to the French state, on condition that it would be reconstructed exactly as it was on the day of his death. Renzo Piano designed the current space, where we can see not only his sculptures, but tools, sketches, furniture and his library. Here we can view his work as he wished it to be viewed, and comprehend it as he wished it to be understood.

Another of his most famous works, Le Baiser, can be seen in Montparnasse Cemetery, which is also where he is buried.

  • Atelier Brancusi, Piazza in front of the Centre Pompidou (rue Rambuteau side)

Open daily 2-6pm, except Tuesdays and May 1.  Free entrance.

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La Villa des Arts

Hidden on a small street in the 18th arrondissement, at the foot of Montmartre cemetery, I discovered (again thanks to the Journées du Patrimoine) a beautiful and fascinating building, La Villa des Arts.  Built in 1888, the Villa des Arts has been home to artists such as Cezanne (he painted the Portrait of Ambroise Vollard here), Renoir and Picabia, to name but a few, and has witnessed almost every artistic movement through the work of its residents. Famous visitors to the artists in residence included Picasso, Joan Miro, Gertrude Stein, André Breton… Fellini also came here, filming Les Clowns, as did other cineastes such as James Ivory for his film Quartet.

The Villa consists of a group of artists studios set around a pretty courtyard garden. Belonging to the same family since 1888, in 2007 it was bought and renovated by the City of Paris – saved by its residents who formed an association to prevent real estate agents from buying and breaking up the studios. Today it is still home to artists of all kinds – painters, sculptors, filmmakers, photographers, writers and poets, and part of the building is also let out as social housing. In order to be able to rent one of the studios, you have to be a working artist, and apply via the Ville de Paris. It can be a long and complicated process, but it ensures that buildings such as these are preserved and remain true to their vocation.

Inside we were able to admire the magnificent monumental staircase, and beautiful ironwork on the balustrades and in the structure.

And finally, to really understand the size and scope of the Villa des Arts, head around to the rue Ganneron, from where you get a spectacular view of the studios overlooking the Montmartre Cemetery.

La Villa des Arts_Paris

 

There is also a gallery, run by the Association to promote the work of their artist members. Check out their Facebook page and website for information about events and visits. The Villa is not open to the public generally, but will open for special events such as the Journées du Patrimoine, and also occasionally for weekend visits guided by one of the residents.

  • La Villa des Arts, 15 rue Hégésippe Moreau, 75018 Paris. metro: La Fourche

Website (in French)

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La Maison du Pastel

At the back of a small courtyard in the Marais there is a tiny shop, open one afternoon a week for 4 hours, selling the finest handmade artist’s pastels. La Maison du Pastel opened its doors for a few small group visits this weekend for the Journées du Patrimoine, and I was lucky enough to be able to get myself a place on the list.

Maison du Pastel - Paris

La Maison du Pastel is home to the Pastels Roché, owned and run by the Roché family since 1865, (although it was started in 1720, five years after the death of Louis XIV, making it the oldest pastel house in the world). We were welcomed by Isabelle Roché who took over the family business from cousins 15 years ago, and who has put all her passion and energy into bringing the declining business back to life.

Suppliers of exceptional quality pastels to artists such as Degas, Whistler, Redon and Vuillard, Pastels Roché were producing over 1600 different shades by the 1930s (other quality pastel makers – and there are fewer then 20 of them in the world – produce between 500 and 600). In 1937 they won a gold medal at the Universal Exhibition. During World War II the business was almost completely destroyed, it was revived by the Roché family and run through the 1960s and 70s with some success, thanks to artists such as Sam Szafran, until it eventually started to decline in the 1980s.

The pastels are still made in the original atelier in the countryside 60km outside of Paris, all are handmade from start to finish – from mixing the pigments to rolling each individual pastel. The exact ingredients used are secret, and the results are beautiful, intense shades with an incredible depth of colour, beloved by artists the world over. Isabelle has brought the palette of shades back to just over 1000, the business had almost disappeared when she took over in 2000, and she and her American assistant Margaret continue to develop not only the business but also the amazing range of colours, still producing everything themselves.

Spending an hour listening to the fascinating history of the Pastels Roché, witnessing the passion, hand work and perseverance that has gone into creating and maintaining this very special family business, and watching box after box of beautiful and luminous jewel-like colours being opened on the counter before us, was a joy and a privilege. Artist or not, a visit to this tiny shop is a very special moment.

  • La Maison du Pastel, 20 rue Rambuteau, 75003 Paris.  métro: Rambuteau

Open Thursday 14:00 – 18:00 or by appointment

La Maison du Pastel (website in English)

Barbizon – the artist’s village

Another lovely day trip from Paris, that can easily be combined with a visit to Fontainbleau or to Milly la Foret, home of Jean Cocteau, is Barbizon. Generally acknowledged to be amongst the prettiest villages in France, Baribizon is most well known for the pre-impressionist painters who lived and worked there from 1850 onwards.

These painters were both French and foreign, coming to Barbizon to paint the beautiful natural landscapes that surround the village. Corot, Millet and their contemporaries, later to be known as The Barbizon School, were followed by Monet, Renoir and Sisley and then writers and philosophers, actors and singers. Robert Louis Stevenson was another famous resident. The village opened inns and art galleries to welcome them, many still in existence today.  You can visit the studio/houses of Theodore Rousseau and Jean-François Millet, and the Auberge Ganne, one of the original inns that was home to many of the painters, is now a small museum dedicated to the Barbizon school.

You can wander through the village, have lunch on the terrace of one of the lovely auberges, and enjoy perusing some beautiful artworks, all in the space of a very easily walkable area. You will need a car to get there though, but it’s well worth the effort, particularly if you take the opportunity for a stop in the gorgeous town of Fontainebleau nearby with its magnificent chateau, and why not a walk in the beautiful forest that so inspired these artists.

  • 77630 Barbizon.
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The Montmartre Museum

Today I visited one of the most charming museums in the city, in one of the most charming areas of the city – Montmartre (if you avoid the tourist traps around the Sacré Coeur and the Place du Tertre then Montmartre is gorgeous). The Montmartre Museum was created in 1960 in the oldest building on the Montmartre hill, and has recently been completely refurbished and the gardens redesigned.

Set in two buildings that have been homes and studios to the likes of Renoir, Raoul Dufy, Suzanne Valado and her son Maurice Utrillo, it’s now home to a collection of artworks that tell the story of the artistic life of Montmartre – its cabarets, studios, cafés and those who frequented them. The caretakers lodge was also home to Pere Tanguy; artists such as Picasso, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne and Van Gogh would get their art supplies at his shop nearby. If they couldn’t afford to pay him they would give him one of their paintings instead.

You are also treated to an up close and very beautiful view of the Montmartre vineyard (yes they still grow grapes there, and the wine is made in the cellars of the town hall, another post to follow on that!)

Montmartre Museum: Paris

 

And finally you can visit Utrillo’s studio, which has been reconstructed as it was when he lived there until 1926 with his mother Suzanne Valadon.

There is a lovely café in the gardens (closed for a few weeks for refurbishment but due to reopen shortly). The Montmartre Museum is not only a fascinating visit, but also a haven of peace and quiet beauty away from the crowds nearby.

  • Musée de Montmartre, 12 rue Cortot, 75018 Paris. metro: Lamarck Caulaincourt or Abesses

Open daily 10:00 – 18:00.

The Montmartre Museum

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Open Days – Artists studios around Pere Lachaise

Several times a year it’s possible to visit working artist’s studios in the city. Different ‘quartiers’ or associations will organize open days when a group of artists open their studios and show their work – maps are provided and it’s easy to walk between them all This weekend it’s the turn of the artists working around the south side of the 20th arrondissement, in a fascinating part of eastern Paris. Not only is it a chance to discover, meet and talk to the artists, as well as buy their work, it also gives you the opportunity to explore areas of the city that you may not otherwise find yourself in, and generally if there are groups are artists working there I find they are areas well worth exploring. The area around the southern side of Pere Lachaise cemetery has tiny lanes which almost transport you into the countryside, studios both old and new tucked away in courtyards and gardens, vintage shops, organic shops and a diverse range of cafés and restaurants, both modern and traditional, all hidden behind modern apartment buildings.

The area around the rue des Vignoles is home to around 15 tiny alleyways dating from the 19th century, originally built to house local workers. We loved impasse Poule, 60 metres long and only 2 metres wide! We spent a lovely afternoon wandering around the studios, and stopping for mint tea and cakes in between visits. 40 artists opened their studios, and do so twice a year. Next week it’s the artists around Belleville who are holding open days, and I’ll be heading up there to see their work and explore another fascinating and often overlooked part of the city.

  • Area between metros Alexandre Dumas and Maraichers, 75020 Paris

Open days – Pere Lachaise

Jean Cocteau’s house and chapel in Milly la Foret

For fans of Jean Cocteau, or just those looking for a day out of the city, I recommend a trip to Milly la Foret. This lovely little town 50km south of Paris is where Jean Cocteau bought a house in 1947 with Jean Marais, living between there and Paris until his death in 1963. Several rooms have been restored exactly as they were during his life, and the upstairs has been transformed into a small museum, showing pictures, writings, portraits of him by Man Ray, Andy Warhol and others, as well as posters and excerpts from his films.

The house is set in beautiful gardens by a small river close to the centre of the town. A short walk away is the 12th century chapel of St Blaise des Simples. Once part of a community housing and treating lepers, this small building is all that remains. Saint Blaise was reputed to have treated the sick with medicinal plants, or ‘simples’, and the chapel is surrounded by a small botanical garden growing such plants. But the most interesting aspect of the chapel nowadays is that Jean Cocteau entirely decorated the inside in 1959, and is now buried there.

Cocteau depicted these medicinal plants on the walls of the chapel, along with a scene representing the resurrection, and designed the stained glass windows too. The chapel is tiny and very beautiful, a commentary read by Jean Marais is played over a speaker, and if you can manage to be inside when nobody else is, it’s quite magical.

  • Maison Jean Cocteau and La Chapelle Sainte Blaise des Simples, 91490 Milly La Foret

Maison Jean Cocteau

Chapelle St Blaise des Simples

Both websites are only in French. We drove and it took under an hour from Paris. Otherwise you can take the RER D to Maisse which takes 1 hour 15 minutes and is 6km from Milly. If you want a taxi from there you need to order it in advance. Milly Tourist Office (taxi numbers) or if you’re feeling energetic you can take your bicycle on the RER!

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The Picasso Museum

I have just re-discovered one of the most incredible museums in the city. The Picasso Museum re-opened a few months ago after 5 years of renovations. Set in the historic district of the Marais, housed in a spectacular ‘hotel particular’  or town mansion – the Hotel Salé, built in 1660 – the new Picasso Museum completely took my breath away. Visiting this museum is a delight – each room producing more and more treasures, each work set in a magnificent, light and airy space. The collection is comprehensive and is arranged in thematic and chronological order, enabling the visitor to follow and better understand the development of Picasso’s art. Despite the amazing collection of works, the museum is not overwhelming, it still feels small and intimate. I haven’t felt so excited by a museum in a long time, and can’t wait to go back and take friends and family with me.

As with all the museums in Paris, watch out for the huge lines! Buy a timed entry ticket on the internet, or be prepared to wait (although the lines are well managed and move pretty fast). If you’re hungry afterwards there is a pretty café on the roof, otherwise pop round the corner to one of my favourites, the Swedish Institute Café, and then enjoy a stroll around the beautiful Marais afterwards.

  • Musée Picasso, Hotel Salé, 5 rue de Thorigny, 75003 Paris. metro: St Paul

Open Tuesday – Friday 11.30 – 18:00. Saturday and Sunday 09:30 – 18:00

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The Musée Rodin in Meudon

The Musée Rodin is one of my favorite museums in Paris, and I just discovered that Rodin had a house and studio where he lived and worked just on the outskirts of Paris, in Meudon. He is also buried there with his companion Rose Beuret, in the gardens under a sculpture of The Thinker, and it’s a wonderful place to get a more intimate view of the life and work of this great artist.

Here we can see the house, ‘La Villa des Brillants’, bought by Rodin at an auction in 1895, and with his studio still attached. He later added the front of the Chateau d’Issy to the lower end of the garden, which he saved from demolition (it had been burned during the Paris Commune of 1871), creating a place where he would entertain friends, models, collectors and fellow artists. Around the house at the time were also several other smaller houses and workshops where some of the 50 people working for him lived and worked.

Next to the house is a gallery style museum, built in 1931, and filled with plaster casts of many of Rodin’s famous works. It gives a great insight into the work and process that went into producing his great masterpieces.

The house and museum are surrounded by gardens with wonderful views over the city.  There’s also a gallery space next to the house for temporary exhibitions, currently showing a fascinating exhibition of photos of sculptors in at work by Robert Doisneau. If you’re a fan of Rodin, this is a wonderful place to come and feel much closer to the man and his work.

  • Musée Rodin Meudon, 19 avenue Auguste Rodin, 92190 Meudon.
  • RER line C Meudon Val Fleury

Open all year Friday/Saturday/Sunday 13:00 – 18:00

Musée Rodin Meudon

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A hidden gem – the Musée Zadkine

Last weekend I discovered a tiny museum tucked away in a hidden courtyard behind the Luxembourg gardens. Former home and studios of Ossip Zadkine and his wife the painter  Valentine Prax, set a lovely garden in the heart of the 6th arrondissement, this beautiful museum houses a wonderful collection of his sculptures. A Russian born sculptor and  friend of Modigilani, Blaise Cendrars, Henry Miller and Max Jacob, Zadkine is considered one of the masters of cubism, and lived in this house for forty years from 1928. Valentine Prax bequeathed her legacy in order that it could be transformed into a museum. Here you can see his sculptures in bronze, limestone, granite, plaster and different kinds of wood, sometimes lacquered or overlaid with gold leaf. My favourite is Head of a Woman (main picture above) which used to be part of the designer Eileen Gray’s collection in her apartment in Paris.

The museum is very small and feels very intimate. Entry is free, and you don’t need long to visit it, although it really is worth spending some time there and enjoying the beauty of the artworks and the tranquility of their wonderful setting. I look forward to coming back in the summer and enjoying the peace and beauty of the gardens as well as the lovely museum. It’s the type of place I’d love to pop into whenever I’m nearby, just to spend a few moments imagining what it would be like to live and produce these beautiful works in such a wonderful place.

  • Musée Zadkine, 100 bis, rue d’Assis, 75006 Paris. métro: Vavin or Notre Dame des Champs

Free entry. Open 10:00 – 18:00 daily except Mondays and public holidays

Musée Zadkine website

The Louvre

The Louvre is one of the must-see museums in Paris, if not in the world. However it’s a daunting prospect – 403 rooms, 14.5km of corridors, 35 000 works of art on show (plus more than 400 000 more in store in the basement), huge lines outside and inside, crowds in front of the major works….

But don’t miss it. The artworks are breathtaking, the architecture awe inspiring, the pyramid delicate and beautiful. My advice? Take a guided tour, in a small group with a passionate guide. Believe me, this will totally transform your visit. A good guide will negotiate the lines, the endless corridors and the crowds for you, and bring the works of art to life. They will show you the major works housed in this amazing museum, and also introduce you to many other incredible treasures. I work with many wonderful guides, and hearing them share their knowledge of and passion for the artworks and artists is something I will never grow tired of. Even better, take a tour in the evening on a Wednesday or a Friday when the museum is open late, and enjoy the beauty of the fading light outside as the museum empties – you may even find you have some of the rooms to yourselves.

pyramid-louvre-paris

There is much, much more to the Louvre than the Mona Lisa, and even if you only spend a couple of hours there, do make sure you see more than just her.

  • Musée du Louvre, 99 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris.  métro; Palais Royal Musée du Louvre

Open daily except Tuesdays, 9:00 – 18:00. Wednesday and Friday open until 21:45

The Louvre Museum

Olafur Eliasson at the Fondation Louis Vuitton

In 2003 I saw Olafur Eliasson’s installation The Weather Project in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern in London. It was, and still is, one of the most incredible art installations I have seen.

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So when I read that Eliasson has the first major exhibition at the newly opened Fondation Louis Vuitton, I went as soon as I could. Open since 17 December, and running until 16 February 2015, Contact did not disappoint. I left feeling completely enchanted, as if I had just spent some time in another dimension. Set in a series of darkened rooms, each space transported and delighted us.

Buy a timed entry ticket online on the website of the Fondation, you go straight past the lines and it gives you access to all the permanent exhibition space too.
One thing is sure, I’ll be going back to see Contact again before it ends.

  • Olafur Eliasson – Contact – Fondation Louis Vuitton, 8 avenue du Mahatma Gandhi, 75116 Paris

Take the metro to Les Sablons and it’s about a 10 minute walk (it’s signposted). Otherwise take the electric shuttle bus from Charles de Gaulle Etoile, on the corner of Avenue Friedland, for 1€

Fondation Louis Vuitton

 

Fondation Louis Vuitton-Paris-Art

The Museum of Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art is located in one wing of the Palais de Tokyo, one of the beautiful buildings that was created for the Universal Exhibiton of 1937 (the Palais de Chaillot at the Trocadeo was also built for this occasion).

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The museum houses over 9 000 pieces of 20th century art, and is also home to temporary exhibitions, also based around 20th century movements or artists, that change regularly.

It has a beautiful oval room covered with murals painted by Raoul Dufy in 1937 called La Fée Electricité. Originally painted for the building of the Paris electricity board, it was moved to the museum in 1961.

Outside there is a large terrace that adjoins this wing of the museum to the Palais de Tokyo on the other side and overlooks the Seine. In the summer the museum restaurants put their tables out here and it’s a great place to have lunch on a nice day.

palais-de-tokyo-paris

Check out the temporary exhibitions as well as the permanent collection, currently there is a retrospective of the life and works of Sonia Delaunay which I really enjoyed.

  •  Musée d’art Moderne, 11 avenue du President Wilson, 75016 Paris. métro: Iena

Open Tuesday – Sunday 10:00 – 18:00, Thursday open until 22:00

Musée d’Art Moderne

The Fondation Louis Vuitton

Designed by Frank Gehry, and open since last Monday, the Fondation Louis Vuitton is already becoming one of the major buildings in Paris.

Home to a contemporary art museum covering 11 000m2, the building sits on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne and looks like a huge cloud that has come to settle in the park. Encased in over 3 600 sheets of glass, it reflects the light, the colours and the trees and people around it.

I found the building really beautiful. I didn’t go in, I just wanted to initially see the building that everyone is talking about, and will visit the gallery another day (and to book in advance on the internet to avoid the huge queue!) so that will be for another post. But even just a visit to see the outside in the fading autumn sunshine is really spectacular.

Update! I’ve since been in. Inside there is a permanent exhibition, a space for temporary exhibitions (I was there for Olafur Eliasson) and a concert hall. The building is as beautiful and exciting inside as it is outside,

Book your tickets online, it’s quick and easy and you walk straight past the long lines. Check out their website also for musical events and temporary exhibitions. There’s also a restaurant and a beautiful bookshop.

  • Fondation Louis Vuitton, 8 avenue du Mahatma Gandhi, Bois de Boulogne, 75016 Paris

Open Monday, Wednesday & Thursday 12:00 to 19:00. Saturday and Sunday 11:00 to 20:00. Closed Tuesdays.

Take the metro to Les Sablons and follow the signs, it’s about at 10-15 minute walk. Otherwise you can get an electric shuttle bus for 1€ from Place Charles de Gaulle, on the corner of Avenue Friedland.

Fondation Louis Vuitton website