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Jeff Koons – a retrospective

File this under “arts I do not understand”.

I was at Centre Pompidou with S to check out the retrospective exhibition on Jeff Koons, famed for its balloon dogs. As usual, I entered into the exhibition rather naively and knowing next to nothing about the artist. I feel reading up too much about an artist tends to colour one’s judgement since the articles will inevitably contain praises and criticisms; I like forming my own opinion without voices of others in my head.

Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons

What an eclectic mix of work. Sure enough, there was the giant balloon dog about half-way through the exhibition, but the retrospective began with a series of work “Pre-New” and “The New” based on vacuum cleaners (huh?) and advertisements. I was, simply put, confused. The section on “Banality” contains mostly porcelain-based sculptures, including a rather creepy one of MJ with his monkey. Right-io. Next came “Celebration”, which is prettier and happier, with balloons, heart, and more balloons.

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Musée Marmottan Monet

Musée Marmottan Monet is a gem. A little out of the way perhaps, it sits just at the eastern edge of Bois de Boulogne. There are no pomps to announce its presence just beyond a small playground in mainly, from what I gathered, a residential area. However, what’s hidden behind the seemingly plain façade is another story altogether.

The museum is one primarily dedicated to Impressionism, an art movement which I can’t seem to get enough of. I may as well admit now that I hold an annual pass to Musée d’Orsay so I could visit anytime in the year to indulge in my whims for the romance in Impressionist works, not to mention the added bonus of entry to Musée de l’Orangerie whenever I wish. Paris was central to the birth of Impressionism and I believe no better city could have been chosen for it to flourish. Today, Paris is also the best city to admire many of the masterpieces produced during the short time-span of the movement.

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Day 353: Speaker Mouths

There are some very eye-catching gigantic lips in Saint-Germain-des-Prés at the moment. An art installation, it seems like it’s here to stay for a month. The way this installation works is through public interaction – you’re supposed to talk into the microphone in front of the lips and it’ll be reinterpreted by these lippy “flowers”.

Created in 2010 by LLND who were duo artists originally from Saint-Germain-des-Prés themselves (but have been living in China for the past 3 years), this piece is intended to be a form of art and cultural exchange between their home neighbourhood and Huai Hai Lu in Shanghai (their adopted neighbourhood?), promoting the spirit of communications. Unfortunately, when I was there, the sculpture didn’t seem to be in working order. Hmmm…

Day 315: Bashful or not?

Yet another long weekend in Paris (it’s a public holiday today in commemoration of Armistice Day) and coincidentally it’s a binary day today (of 11.11.11). I had every good intention of wanting to go out and grab a photo at 11.11am but the continuous drizzle through the day hasn’t been particularly helpful. And I slept badly last night too, so that’s my sleep-in plan ruined.

I took myself up to Montmartre for a little bit of wandering about when I came across this small art gallery not too far away from Abbesses. Nude still lives. I think it’s rather brave for someone to bare it all like this to be painted. Art classes aplenty has such programme. Once upon many moons ago when I was in my “I’d like to do random stuff” phase, I did consider modelling for an art class, when decided that will be too risqué, not to mention, very much out of my comfort zone.

Day 246: Portrait

Over and around the back of the Basilica of Sacré Cœur is Place du Tertre. I don’t really remember ever passing it in tranquility – between restaurant terrace seatings, artists, portrait painters and the visitors, it is always teeming with people. Perhaps one day I would get there early so I can enjoy some peace and quiet time up on the hill, overlooking the beautiful yet sleepy Paris.

The trade of portrait paintings is roaring today. From an easel to another, you may assess the style of drawing before deciding on just the way you’d like to be immortalised on paper. Some portrait painters are more serious in their endeavour, drawing classically astute portrait. Other portrait painters prefer to produce caricature or allegorical object.

There are other artists there too, whose work (many Paris-themed) I was keen to look at but alas couldn’t buy. Just the thought that I may have to move at some is enough to spook me from accummulating things. Besides, without my own apartment, where am I going to realistically hang those?

Day 160: Burlesque doll

One thing about living in Paris is the availability of artworks everywhere. There are galleries – indoor within premises or outdoor open air stalls – catering to all kinds of arts, from the antiquities to the contemporary, from the cutesy to the vulgar (trust me, there are etchings commonly sold along the river bank that had Eiffel Tower does funny thing to itself), from paintings to sculptures to installations. Anyone can be a collector. The only points of the question are, how much do you value one and how much are you willing to spend to acquire one?

Artclub Gallery on rue de Rivoli is one of the many galleries that I often take a peek into. They often have rather particular pieces, and today, behind the windows to the side of Louvre, there’s a series of burlesque dolls peering out with their coquettish pouts. I think they are rather adorable. And fun enough to compete with a couple of paintings on the window to the side of Place Andre Malraux, which featured surrealistic Simpsons in a Parisian metro surrounded by Charlie Chaplin, Hulk, Vishnu, Tintin et al and another, also similar in style, of Simpsons visiting Parisian museums (it was a “portmanteau” of Louvre and Musée d’Orsay) with Mona Lisa guarded by a couple of Terminators and surrounded by Bruce Lee, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Asterix, Smurf et al.

Day 141: A roomful of Munch

I arrived late last night for a long weekend in Stockholm to visit Åsa who I haven’t seen for ages. Not only that, Matt also made a special trip down from Uppsala for the day and it was years I last saw him, at Iowa! We explored the Kungliga Djurgården (the Royal Game Park) and its nature trails, lunched at the organic café of Rosendals Trädgård (Rosendal’s Garden), and on Matt’s suggestion, went to Thielska Galleriet (Thielska Gallery) which I fell in love with immediately.

This museum is housed in what was originally a private residence to a banker, Ernest Thiel, and the collection of Scandinavian art within was his private collection, many of which the pieces were courtesy of his friends who are great artists including Edvard Munch, Carl Larsson, Bruno Liljefors and Eugène Jansson. The room photographed here is that of Munch’s collection.

What I love most about this museum is the use of the concept of minimalism to display the arts very effectively. As a result, one does not feel overwhelmed by too many pieces of work at any given space, yet the thread of theme which links one work to another remains. In addition, each display hall is spacious and filled with plenty of natural light. It just feels so — fresh. I don’t know how else to describe it. All I can say is, I was a very very happy bunny :D

Day 110: 59 Rivoli

Only in Paris – legalised art squat.

Just over a decade ago, artists began to squat at 59 rue de Rivoli, a dilapidated former building of Credit Lyonnais. What flourished next was a series of colourful installations at the façade of the street, attracting attentions aplenty and drawing admirers of free expressions of arts. It really is impossible to miss this building if you’re going down rue de Rivoli.

When the building was declared dangerous in mid-2000s, it was thanks to the support of fans as well as the media that the building, instead of simply being shut down, underwent a restoration process that would take approximately three years (between 2006 and 2009) to complete. Its reopening saw legalisation of the premises as free home to resident artists and the birth of 59Rivoli.org, its doors open to visitors without admission charges. It’s a dynamic art house with works at various stages, from inception to finalised pieces.

Day 105: Théâtre optique

I passed by Maison Internationale today to be tested for acceptance into a French course (general level: intermediate, grammatical proficiency: rubbish – seems like I’ve forgotten most of the conjugations I learned in the past, ops) and on my way out, there was a groovy little box with dancing people in it.

Closer look please. There’s a disco ball, a spinning disc, a general vibe from Austin Power, there are even weird observers – but the dancers, they look unsteady on their feet. Of course, they are, errm, how do I put it delicately – a tad indisposed but happy?

This théâtre optique by Pierrick Sorin is rather amusing, depicting an universal day-to-day scene, however with subtle messages that can be interpreted in one too many ways. Which is what art is about. I think. It’s open to observers’ commentaries and subjective to each opinion. To some, this is a youth night out just for fun. To some, this is a social issue fueled by alcohol. To some, this is just another funky installation.

Day 83: Perspective

As you may have noticed, most of my exploration of Paris so far has been on the Left Bank (“Rive Gauche” as we call it here). Today is no difference. Well, it is weekday and there’s a limit of how much distance I can cover after work. Inevitably, it’ll be somewhere nearby that I can get to, easily, on foot.

This door on rue Monsieur Le Prince has a lovely sense of perspective and depth to it. The door was cleverly carved in the way it looks nearly three-dimensional, and felt quite the same way too. It was not a simple flat carving by any mean. To me, this is no longer just the front to a building. It is a work of art in its own right.

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