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Jean Paul Gaultier at Grand Palais

I love my museum passes. Main perk? I can drop in to any exhibition I’d like to see at any time and not even have to worry about the queue. Downside? I get complacent and put off certain visits until near the end of the exhibition period. Which was exactly what happened with that of Jean Paul Gaultier – days before it closes!

JPG @ Grand Palais

JPG @ Grand Palais

Admittedly, I had not really planned to go and see it, and was thinking I’d give it a miss. Afterall, I know next to zero about fashion and trends, and with a bunch of things happening in the day-to-day, this exhibition was placed low on the priority list. However, my curiosity was piqued when friends who have seen it found it well-curated, along with a very cryptic hint that it is “special”.

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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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Niki de Saint Phalle

We made a last ditch effort to catch the exhibition of Niki de Saint Phalle at the Grand Palais today. My colleague S saw it recently and absolutely loved it. I don’t know anything about Saint Phalle, except some of her sculptures are permanently installed by the Centre Pompidou and her style of work is so distinctive that I immediately recognised it when I saw “La Tempérance” in Luxembourg City.

(Note to self: I should write about Luxembourg City one of these days, as this blog contains only two measly P365 posts about it.)

Niki de St Phalle

Niki de St Phalle

I had expected to see more of her characteristic colourful and bountiful figures, and I ended up getting to know a lot more about the artist – sculptor, painter, filmmaker; the sources of inspiration – albeit painful ones in some cases – of her works; and some very personal story brought forth to the surface. I learned that art was “a way of taming those dragons which have always appeared in [her] work” and she wanted “to show everything; [her] heart, [her] emotions”.

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Recently, at the Grand Palais

We are terrible at keeping up with exhibitions. Never mind that we have annual passes that allow us to visit on multiple occasions throughout the period of the exhibitions. Instead, we typically wait till a good portion of the periods is over, then either rushed through them or risked missing them altogether. Currently, in the Grand Palais, two exhibitions are taking place: both started in early May, with one ending in about a week and another in 3 weeks. Armed with our Carte Sésame, we headed over one evening this week.

Exhibition at Grand Palais

The installation of Monumenta this year is by Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Russian-born artists, who brought us “The Strange City”. Indeed it is a peculiar one, for even by the main entryway, a large probe-like installation beamed changing colours amidst strange music, if you can call it that. And scattered in a few other “rooms”, there are wood carvings of flying angels and weird city layouts. Neither F nor I know what to make of these.

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It sparkles at Cartier

Hurrah, I finally got round to getting my Grand Palais Sésame 2013/2014 pass! The first exhibition I saw with my all-access pass was that of Cartier, slated to run until 16 February 2014 in the Salon d’Honneur.

I am not one who’s particularly interested in sparkly and expensive jewellery, but still curious enough to want to see what makes others gasp with joy given the beauty of gems and precious metals set into decorative items, both wearable and non-wearable. It is also always interesting to learn the role that Cartier plays in the history of decorative arts, and to take a brief look into the creative process behind some of the exhibited pieces. I must say I still don’t know the topic sufficiently well to try to write about it, but I have some photos that I can certainly share with you.





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Dimension, Perception and Illusion at DYNAMO

You could say we were a wee bit late to the party. Grand Palais has been hosting DYNAMO since early April, and yet we have just been able to make a trip over to check it out this week. It’s like arriving when the last call for a drink had just been announced. Nonetheless, as one would say, better late than never.

Modern art, as a subject, often baffles me. If it had not been for Joan Miró – I felt an instant connection the first time I saw his work in Tate Modern, London – I doubt that I would even make an effort to try to understand modern art. DYNAMO explores the concept behind “a century of light and movement”, often involving an interpretation that combines dimension, perception and illusion, in a really fun way. Have a look.

DYNAMO Exhibition

DYNAMO Exhibition

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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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Paris and Sempé

Several times a year, the Hôtel de Ville in Paris plays host to exhibitions that are free for all visitors, proudly showing off the connections between the featured exhibitions and the city itself. If you’re lucky to be around when two exhibitions are running concurrently (i.e. one at Salon d’accueil which entrance is on 29 rue de Rivoli, one at Salle Saint-Jean which entrance is on 3-5 rue de Lobau) you could easily see both, one after another.

The latest exhibition organised by the Mairie de Paris flaunts the illustrative talent and humour of Jean-Jacques Sempé. I managed to contain my (considerable) excitement and eventually queued up for the exhibition a week after its opening, first thing on a Saturday morning, along with a (not-so) secret partner in crime. ;)

I first got to know Sempé’s work through another exhibition at the Hôtel de Ville itself, back in 2009. I happened to be passing the city and managed to squeeze in the exhibition of Le Petit Nicolas on its last day. (Over at Salle Saint-Jean, an exhibition on Gustav Eiffel was attracting the crowd with its longer queue.) In case you wonder, Petit Nicolas is a series of children’s books which I quite like and they make good reading materials for non-fluent non-Francophones like me. The author René Goscinny (of the Astérix fame) enlisted Sempé to visually bring the characters to life with simple (mostly) single panel drawings. I remember leaving the exhibition smiling wistfully to myself, such was my enjoyment of these imaginative and story-rich oeuvres.

Sempé not only provided illustrative works for these books, but is humourist in his own right. With a few clever strokes and glibly-filled speech bubbles, Monsieur Lambert was born. Throughout his career, he also sketched the lives of Parisians and New Yorkers, sometimes with teeming crowd, other times with elegant single lines which cleverly create the silhouettes he intended them to be. Even his “silent” drawings tell you more than a thousand words, often leaving you chuckling, softly or right out loud.

Many a cover of The New Yorker magazine have been created by Sempé. The photo above is a mere collage of four covers which I managed to sneakily photograph during the exhibition – moi la rebelle quoi ;) – there were dozens more from over a hundred commissioned. Overall, with some over 300 pieces of his work on display in this exhibition, it does take a little time to go from one drawing to another, some coloured, some in black and white. I even bought the exhibition’s companion coffee table book so I can peruse through them in my own time at home.

If you want to know what Sempé has sketched of Paris, my advice would be to see them for yourself. Get to the Hôtel de Ville early in the morning so avoid having to queue outside for too long (this winter may have been mild but standing outside for more than 20-30 minutes could quickly turns unpleasant and chilly) and to enjoy the exhibition without having to jostle with the other enthusiasts. Especially now that the exhibition is closing soon. In my personal experience, closing exhibits tend to pull crowd in like nobody’s business – a wait of 2-3 hours would not be out of place!

Sempé, un peu de Paris et d’ailleurs has been in exhibit since 21 October 2011 and is due to end on 11 February 2012. Just a month to go peeps! Open daily except Sundays and public holidays, from 10am to 7pm (last admisssion 6.30pm).

Day 297: Cœurs de nature en France

I have just got round to look at the photos currently on exhibition along the Jardin du Luxembourg. It started about 6 weeks ago, of which I was away for a good couple of them. Entitled Cœurs de nature en France, this exhibition will run in two waves – the first from 15 September to 4 December, and the second from 6 December to 15 January 2012.

The exhibition is showcasing some of the most spectacular photos of nature of France, be it within the l’Hexagone or the overseas territories. It makes me want to abandon my desk and head out to the natural parks and experience that piece of beauty myself, in person. Then I recall I am not that outdoors-y a person, and I won’t even have the right gear to be out there safely. Still, a girl can always fantasise. Or learn how to survive the great outdoors. ;)

Day 115: Les impressionnistes at Hôtel de Ville

The Mairie of Paris organises a number of exhibitions every year, housed within the Hôtel de Ville. They are often interesting, and it shows, given the long queues to visit the exhibits. An hour or so of waiting is not unusual. I have, in the past, explored a number of exhibitions, including one of Petit Nicolas. (Don’t know who Petit Nicolas is? Check the Wiki.) Needless to say, I enjoyed them very much.

Two exhibitions are running at the moment, one of which I saw last week – Paris: at the time of the Impressionists. The collection came from Musée d’Orsay (possibly my favourite museum in the city – yes, more than Louvre) and have not often been on display, so it’s a gem to behold even if the number of exhibits are limited. So much so that I bought postcards to some of these masterpieces.

The exhibition runs from 12 April to 30 July 2011, and opens daily from 10am to 7pm (last admission 6.15pm) except Sunday and public holidays. Entry is free.

Day 81: Femmes Éternelles

From time to time, photo exhibitions are held along the fence of Jardin du Luxembourg. In conjunction with International Women’s Day a couple of weeks ago, the French Senate together with Olivier Martel brought forth “Femmes Éternelles”, an exhibition of 80 portraits of women from all over the world, with scenes from daily lives to ceremonial events. I have been over to look at them a number of times at this stage. What can I say? I really like them.

One particular photo that touched me most is that of mother and child in hospital, taken in 1987. The baby was living inside a bubble and yet laughing so joyously, a look reflected in the mother’s visage, despite what must have been poignant that she could not yet held her baby close to her without the barrier but keeping her morale high that this would be the good start the child needed. It is a powerful image, even if not as colourful or exotic as other shots of the series.

The exhibition runs until 15 June 2011, and if you can’t make it to Paris between now and then, you can still enjoy the photos from Martel’s website. Which photo inspires you most?

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