26.11.2014 - 26.11.2014
Headed into the center of Paris for the first time. My first reaction is - it looks exactly like Paris. It is such a photographed city that it is hard not to come with a preconception of the city and it is hard for it not to be confirmed in the reality. As a result, I'm not tempted to take a bunch of pictures of the city per se (though I'm sure I'll sneak in a few). My second reaction is the city is a wonderful walkable mixed use community and that it achieves this by supporting a remarkably high population density. I have read estimates that the density is something like 200 dwelling units per acre, and given the vast number of 5, 6 and 7 storey apartments lining every street, I can believe. To put this in perspective for my Okemos friends, this is roughly equivalent to putting the entire township of Meridian in a space no larger than the Meridian Mall.
Well, all right, one picture - OK, two; one a quirky shot of the city at night and the other of the Pompidu center, my first museum destination.
The Pompidu is famous for its aggressively mechanical architecture and as a center for modern art. It is also overwhelming. I spend the whole day there and I could only manage the visiting exhibitions; another whole huge floor of the permanent collection was more than I could handle. I started with an exhibit about Marcel Duchamp, who is most famous two works - Nude Descending A Staircase, one of the most shocking works ever to be exhibited in America in its era, and for painting a mustache on a reproduction of the Mona Lisa.
The exhibit goes into exhaustive detail on the influences on Duchamp, starting with Dada and moving through Cubism, Fauvism, Impressionism, and more. It is interesting to see an artist work through all these styles, but I, as a layman, was left with the impression of more dilletantism with occasional brilliance. Interestingly, he wasn't a starving artist - he was supported by his wealthy father. Does this come into play in his inclination to move on in art rather than stake a claim and try to make it his, perhaps as other artists who needed the bread (literally) might be forced to do?
In any event, it was a lot to work through and it was nicely, if oddly, complemented by the other special exhibit of the works of Jeffery Koons. He has made no bones about making a living from his art and has become fabulously wealthy producing his unusual and frequently unsettling works. One element of the trajectory of his career can be encapsulated in three photos of objects from the beginning, middle and peak of his career.
The first is one of a set of assemblies of mundane inflatable objects and mirrors. In the second later piece he has retained the inflatable form and developed a reflective surface treatment. In the third and most recent object, he has scaled up and added color (and switched to a balloon dog). It's worth mentioning that an orange version of the inflatable dog sold for the highest price for any work by any living artist, $58.4 million.
He does other work as well, of course, much of it unsettling and some totally NSFW. He reminds me of Rodin, who was also extremely successful at marketing his works (did you know there are 28 more-or-less original full size statues of The Thinker out there?) and who also was as much an artistic director as a hands-on artist, relying on craftsmen to execute his concepts.
That took most of the day! Time for a late French lunch. There is a fancy restaurant in the Pompidu so I decided to splurge. I had a French green bean and mushroom (yes, the big white discs are mushrooms) salad and a classic French beef carpaccio with a nice glass of Chablis.
Armed with renewed strength, I tackled a Frank Gehry exhibit, equally deep and large, that took the rest of the day into evening (luckily the Pompidu is open quite late). There were interviews and documentaries and a huge collection of his models. He really kind of does work as shown in the Simpson's parody (where he crumples a letter from Marge asking him to build a building in Springfield and, after throwing it on the ground, decides it looks pretty good and so builds it) pushing and cutting chunks of cardboard and then staring at the result.
I like architecture (Frank Lloyd Wright fanboy) and in addition Robin works in a Gehry-designed building, the Stata Center. There was a model of the Stata center in the exhibition and I decided to out-Gehry Gehry. The model was in a display case and I set my phone for 'panorama' mode which is usually used to look out at a scene and instead I took an 'inside out' panorama, walking around the model. I think the result is pretty cool.
Well, that was quite a day. My brain hurt. So I wrapped it up with Boeuf Bourginone in a nearby brasserie - with more wine, of course.
I waddled back to the Metro and put my brain to bed. Nice day.