Monday, July 4, 2016

Paris 2016 - Coulee Verte, Buttes Chaumont, Parc de Villette

Part of our "Off the Beaten Path" itinerary involved visiting some large parks either bordering on or actually in the suburbs of Paris, including the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Parc de la Villette, and the Bois de Vincennes, which is the largest park in Paris and sits at the eastern end of the Coulée Verte walking trail. We wanted to have good weather for these outdoor excursions.  When we first arrived in Paris, we experienced quite a bit of rain, including the occasional down pour.  Luckily we were never far from home on those days and got back just before the intense storms started. But we definitely did not want to be caught in the middle of a vast park far away from home during a heavy rainfall, so we did a lot of weather watching and juggling of our schedule to make sure we that embarked on perfectly clear days.

Similar to the Highline trail in Manhattan and parts of the Kay Gardiner trail in Toronto, the Coulée Verte ("Green Belt") is a partially elevated walking path that follows an old railway line, in this case the former Vincennes line in the 12th arrondissement.  Also known as the Promenade Plantée, the extensive tree-lined walkway starts near the Opéra Bastille and extends in a south-east direction for almost 5 kilometres before exiting at the western point of the Bois de Vincennes.  The western end of the Coulée Verte runs along the top of the Viaduc des Arts (formerly the railway line Viaduc de Bastille), a 10-metre high bridge with 64 red brick arches or vaults with shops and art galleries located underneath, running along avenue Daumesnil.  Stairs and elevators are available at various points to allow access up to the elevated path.

The Coulée Verte is more than just a walkway.  It is a linear park that is beautifully landscaped with plants, shrubs, flowers, arched trellises and even water features.  There were very few people on the path and many of those that we did see were clearly locals out enjoying the sunshine, reading newspapers on the benches, or taking leisurely strolls.  The path offers a wide variety of plants including cherry blossom, holly and lime trees, evergreen shrubs, climbing rose, clematis and honeysuckle bushes, that mix with natural vegetation such as moss and wild poppies.

The elevated Viaduc des Arts offers up some great views of the architecture in the 12th arrondissement.  We saw ornate rooftops of Art Nouveau buildings and wide tree-lined boulevards like the ones that we had in the 16th arrondissement where we stayed.  I'm not sure what style it is considered, but I really liked the building with the grey egg-shaped domed roof that reminded me a bit of Eastern Orthodox churches.

The most interesting sight on this stretch of the Coulée Verte has to be the awesome sculptures lining the top of the Art Deco building at 80 Avenue Daumesnil, designed by Spanish architect Manuel Nunez Yanowsky.  The building is currently used as the police station for the 12th arrondissement. The "cheeky" sculptures are modeled after Michelangelo's masterpiece "Dying Slave" which is in the Louvre.

As we came towards the end of the Viaduc des Arts, we saw more examples of the Art Deco Streamline Moderne style of buildings.  I was particularly interested in two buildings that stood on either side of the walkway, which from afar appeared to be a single building that was cut in half.

The elevated portion of the Coulée Verte ends near the Jardin de Reuilly-Paul-Pernin, which consists of a large lawn area used for sports and suntanning, surrounded by smaller themed gardens.  Designed by landscape architects Pierre Colboc and Thierry Louf, this is the largest green space in the 12th arrondissement.  It is spanned by the Reuilly Bridge which leads to Allée Vivaldi, a two-laned road that is divided by a wide, tree-lined promenade named after Italian violinist Antonio Vivaldi.  When we first exited the parklands and arrived at this street with traffic and apartment buildings on both sides, we thought that the Coulée Verte pathway had ended.  We proceeded on through the promenade just in case and quickly found that it did continue.

At the end of the Allée Vivaldi, we reached the Tunnel de Reuilly, an underground passageway leading towards the Bois de Vincennes that acts as a path for cyclists, scooters, skateboards, joggers and pedestrians.  The walls are decorated with rock art and trickling waterfalls.

After traversing through the tunnel, we arrived at a new woodland path that eventually led to the Square Charles Péguy, the largest city square in 12th arrondissement, named after a 19th Century French writer, poet and essayist.  Having reached the end of the Coulée Verte, we were tired after walking almost 5km.  Accordingly, we did not do a good job exploring this square and missed out on seeing a pretty cascading fountain and some other park features.  We did end up at a community garden area that apparently led to another 19km trail called the Petite Ceinture, but we never found that either and probably would not have had the energy to walk it even if we had.  These will be areas we can plan to explore on our next visit to Paris.  There seems to be an endless list of things to do and see in this beautiful city.

On another sunny day, we set out to visit two large parks in the 19th arrondissement, situated in the north-east end of Paris–the Parc des Buttes Chaumont and the Parc de la Villette.  

The beauty of the Parc des Buttes Chaumont is even more impressive after hearing about the sordid history of its location.  From the 13th through the 18th centuries, it was the location of the Gibbet of Montfaucon, the main gallows where bodies were hung on display after execution.  After the French Revolution of 1789, it became the dumping ground for horse carcasses, garbage and sewage.  Finally in 1864, it was decided to turn this toxic, disease-infested area into a public park, designed by Jean-Charles Alphand who also created the Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes. To revitalize the area and create the park, 200,000 cubic metres of top soil were used to landscape and create sloping lawns, hillsides and a 3.7 acre lake.  The chief gardener of Paris planted flowers, shrubs and thousands of trees of both indigenous and exotic species. 

Steep cliffs (buttes) were created using explosives, resulting in the small island "Île du Belvédère" with a 50-metres high mountain.  Atop the mountain, a miniature Roman temple was erected, modeled after the Temple of Vesta near Tivoli, Italy.  Named the "Temple de la Sibylle",  you can see wonderful views of the Montparnasse district from its perch.  

A 12-metre long stone bridge and a 63-metre long suspension bridge lead to the island from the south and the north sides of the park.  The stone bridge was nicknamed the "Suicide Bridge" due to a number of highly publicized suicides that occurred from this location.  Mesh wiring has since been installed to prevent further incidents.  We accessed the island from the stone bridge, admired the views, then returned to the main park via the suspension bridge.

There are some very picturesque views of the temple, mountain and lake from the bottom of the park, with people are seen sunbathing and even fishing by the edge of the lake.  As we strolled around the Buttes Chaumont, we admired the designs of three very different artificial waterfalls.  In each case, hydraulic pumps are used to lift water from a nearby canal up to the highest point of the cascade.  The first was a flow of water rushing down the side of a tree-lined cliff that looked so natural that you would not think that it was man-made.  The second waterfall was given a romantic setting with slow streams of water trickling over sculpted rocks, guarded by the sculpture of a woodland tree monster reminiscent of something out of Lord of the Rings.

The third and most impressive chute was a massive cascade flowing down 20 metres from within an enormous grotto that was created out of an old gypsum and limestone quarry.  This 14-metre wide cavern was decorated with artificial stalactites and giant stepping stones which guide the stream of water out of the grotto and back towards the lake.

Located a mere 20 minutes walk north-east of the Buttes Chaumont, the Parc de la Villette is an "urban park for the 21st century" that defies past preconceptions of what a park entails.  Built in the early 1980s on top of  former 19th century cattle slaughterhouses, the design by architect Bernard Tschumi incorporates traditional green space with buildings and architecture dedicated to arts, science, culture and entertainment.  Located within the massive 55 acres of the Villette are multiple concert halls and venues for live music, sports facility, exhibition space, a science museum, a museum of historic musical instruments, several movie spaces including an IMAX dome, and a children's play area.

When we first reached the southern end of the park, we wondered whether there would be any green space at all.  The sign said that we were in Parc de la Villette, but there was no sign of any trees or grass. We first passed by the Philharmonie de Paris concert hall designed by Jean Nouvel, whose innovative, sparkling metal façade could easily be mistaken for the work of Frank Gehry.  Then we entered the Place de la Fontaine aux Lions, a large square featuring the 19th Century fountain with lion sculptures created by Pierre-Simon Girard.  Temporary carnival rides are installed in the middle of the square during the summer months (July/August).

At the rear of the square is a large building called "La Grande Halle", which was originally called "La Grande Halle Aux Boeufs" due to its history as a beef tallow processing plant.  Today, the 220,000 square foot space made of glass and cast iron is used as an event space for traveling exhibitions, fairs, festivals and cultural events.  It was interesting to note that the current exhibition "James Bond: Fifty Years of Bond Style" was the same show that played in Toronto's TIFF Bell Lightbox a few years back.  Also located in the Place de la Fontaine aux Lions square is the "Cité de la Musique", a museum of musical instruments as well as the restaurant "Café des Concerts" where we decided to stop for lunch.


After walking well into the early afternoon in the Buttes Chaumont, it felt good to sit down and get some rest and nourishment before continuing to explore the park.  We were able to score a prime seat on the patio.  I ordered an excellent "Croque Monsieur" with salad, while Rich ordered the "Croque Madame" which additionally included a fried egg on top.  The Croque Monsieur is a "French toasted" ham and Gruyere cheese sandwich which is dipped in an egg batter and fried or grilled.  The one at this restaurant was particularly generous on the Gruyere cheese and was one of the best versions that I've ever had.

After lunch we walked further north in the park towards the Canal de l'Ourcq and finally came across green space.  In a large lawn area, an outdoor movie theatre screens films in the summer evenings.  An annual open-air film festival is held in July and August which features a different theme each year, such as the 2010 theme "To Be 20" dealing with movies about youth and self-discovery at age 20.  Scattered throughout the park are 35 bright red metal structures, known as "follies" that the architect intended as "architectural representations of deconstruction".  It is like the physical representation of the Cubism art movement.  These structures are mainly decorative as well as acting as directional points of reference in the park, although some have been re-purposed to be house information booths or snack bars.

As we approached the canal, we caught sight of a large reflective dome that reminded me of the Cloud Gate (aka "Bean") sculpture in Chicago's Millenium Park. In fact, it is the "Geode", a geodesic IMAX movie theatre which shows films on nature and science.  The theatre sits on top of the "Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie", the largest Science Centre in Europe.

An elevated boardwalk provides excellent views of the canal and the parkland on either side of it.  We watched people walking across a bridge to cross the canal, while small boats and paddle boats slowly approached and waited expectantly.  We wondered how the boats were going to pass, and soon we got our answer.

The bridge is actually a motorized temporary platform that slowly swings around until it sits parallel to one side of the canal, opening up a space for boats to pass.  We stood for a while and watched the mobile bridge as it swung open and closed. The bridge is supplied by the company Contraste, which specializes in rentals of floating platforms, barges, kayaks, paddle boats, and other leisure flotation devices.  The "Pont Mobile" is probably only installed during the busy summer months in order to alleviate the traffic on the permanent foot bridge that sits further down the canal.

From our perch on the elevated boardwalk, we noticed what looked like a colourful sculpture of a giant bug or some other type of creature.  Once we crossed the bridge and got a closer look, we realized that this was an enormous 80 foot slide that is part of a larger children's play area.  Although it did not seem like it to me, the slide is actually meant to be shaped like a Dragon

Since we reached the Parc de la Villette so late in the day, we did not have time to give it a thorough exploration.  We missed many of its featured attractions, including going into the museums and concert venues, or visiting the 10 different themed gardens such as the Garden of Mirrors or Garden of Bamboo.  We even found out later that there is a submarine called "The Argonaut" that you can board for 3 Euros.  We will have to spend more time in this beautiful park on our next visit.

Paris 2016 - 16th Arr. - Bois de Boulogne, Fondation Louis Vuitton

When we first made our plan to walk through the entire length of the Bois de Boulogne (the second largest park in Paris), to get from our home to the Fondation Louis Vuitton museum at the northern end of the park, it sounded like a fine idea.  According to Google Maps, it would be a leisurely 4.1 km stroll through scenic green space, gardens and ponds and should take just under 1 hour.  We did not count on getting lost for a bit in the beginning while trying to enter the park and find the right northward path, which added over 1.5km and 30 minutes to our excursion.  Having had moderate and even cool weather all week, we also did not account for how hot it would be on this day in the blazing sun, which added to our fatigue.

To start with, we walked through what we thought was the southern entrance to the Bois de Boulogne, but it turned out to be the Jardin des Serres d'Auteuil.  Although we did not plan to visit this park, it was so pretty that this was considered to be a happy accident.  Had we continued north from here, we would have been back on track after only a minor detour, but instead we doubled back once we realized we were in the wrong park and ended up near Roland Garros Stadium before finding another entrance.

What we discovered was that the southern end of the Bois de Boulogne aptly reflects the name of the park, since it consisted more of forest and trees (i.e "bois") than scenic parkland and this resulted in a long, slow slog.  For a while, it felt like we were lost in the woods before we encountered the main trail and at one point, we walked through a large parking lot that seemed to be home for trailer park campers.  But by the time we reached Lac Supérieur and Lac Inférieur, the beautiful views that we had hoped for finally met our expectations and we were re-energized as we continued our trek towards the Fondation Louis Vuitton.

We passed by waterfalls, a small temple, paddle and row boats on the lake, and a sculpture of a pair of lovers in an embrace, which we spotted across the water.  We also caught yet another glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, which never seems to get old and always provides a bit of a thrill.  Again unable to resist, we had to take more photos of this iconic structure.

The Fondation Louis Vuitton is a new art museum and cultural space sponsored by the French fashion conglomerate and designed by architect Frank Gehry, who is renowned for his elaborate, avant-garde creations.  Selections from the museum's permanent collection of Contemporary art are put on display in the 11 galleries on a rotating basis, in conjunction with temporary exhibits.  Prior to the gallery's official opening, it was used as the venue for Louis Vuitton’s women’s spring/summer 2015 fashion show.  When we finally reached this brightly colourful masterpiece of overlapping glass "sails" inspired by sail boats and the glass roof of the Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées, we thought that Gehry had produced yet another mesmerizing structure to add to his extensive resume.

Imagine our surprise when we discovered that Gehry's original design consisted of slightly frosted clear glass sails with faint white strips and that the colours were actually a temporary in-situ art installation by French artist Daniel Buren.  Named "Observation of Light", Buren used semi-transparent, multi-coloured filters of bright pink, orange, blue, green and yellow to cover Gehry's glass sails in a checkerboard pattern that glimmered in the sun.  These vibrant additions complement Gehry's design so perfectly that it is impossible to imagine going back to the Fondation's original state, which will feel so plain by contrast.

The designs and features in the interior of the building are as beautiful as the exterior.  On top of the two floors of main galleries are several levels of rooftop terraces which provide more glimpses of the glass sails from underneath, as well as stunning views in the horizon of the skyscrapers in the La Défense business district.  The galleries on the bottom level open out to a long walkway decorated by series of triangular columns, covered with mirrors on two sides and a mosaic of yellow glass on the third surface.  Running along side the passageway is a long reflecting pool.  Standing in front of the mirrors, you can see your own reflection replicated in both directions in each of the panes, resulting in a carnival fun-house feeling.  Looking out at this pathway from a glass wall inside the gallery, the people walking by provide back-lit silhouettes that are reflected in the water.  At the far end of the pathway, an inclined and rapidly flowing waterfall had been created.

It had been such a long, hot journey to get to the Fondation Louis Vuitton that we arrived tired and hungry.  We decided to have lunch and rest in the museum restaurant "Frank" before tackling the exhibits.  We wondered whether all restaurants in art galleries designed by Frank Gehry are called Frank, since that is also the name of the one in the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).  The restaurant was decorated with an installation of large wooden fish hanging from the ceiling, with the coloured sails visible in the background.  Again I thought how much the temporary colours enhanced this view.  For appetizers, both Rich and I ordered the chilled mint and pea soup with a touch of cayenne pepper and the most amazing pieces of tart lemon jelly with flavours that just burst in your mouth.  The sweetness of the mint and pea soup, the spiciness of the cayenne and the tartness of the jelly all mixed together for a delightfully unique myriad of tastes, making this the best pea and mint soup that I have ever had.  For my main course, I was intrigued by the interesting plating of a dish that people all around me seemed to be eating, so I ordered it for myself.  It was a stacked Caesar salad consisting of wedges of iceberg lettuce, drizzled with creamy, garlicky dressing, covered with a large piece of crispbread, then topped with caramelized chicken oysters (livers).  Rich had the salmon in a tomato broth with broad beans, candied lemon and tomatoes.  Sated and rested, we were ready to walk through the museum.

The focus of the current exhibition featured works of Chinese artists from the permanent collection.  The first few rooms were showing short films and videos by artists Yang Fudong (Tonight Moon, New Women II), Cao Fei (Second Life), Zhou Tao, Tao Hui and others, which didn't interest us that much.  We were too tired and didn't have the patience to stand around and try to interpret these slow, moody, and mostly silent films.  So we moved on, hoping that there would be more to see and wondering whether the splendor of the building itself would be the highlight of this museum visit. 

Then we came across the galleries with the impressive, large-scaled sculptures that were much more to our tastes.  I was fascinated by the slightly subversive work called My Ideal by Zhang Xiaogang, which  involves a painting and bronze sculptures depicting five youths dressed from the waist up in clothing or uniforms of traditional professions in Chinese society–the student, the farmer/peasant, the soldier, the worker and the merchant.  But if you look closely, from the waist down the figures are nude with their penises exposed.  The work refers to the tensions between individual aspirations and the pressures and expectations of the family or the motherland.

Xu Zhen has rendered a computer-generated replica of the sculpture of Chinese Buddhist goddess Guan Yin that sits in the Forbidden City.  Instead of the typical white porcelain hue, the statue is turned into a work of pop art, covered in bright primary colours that resemble a Gay Pride flag.  Xu Zhen also created the sculpture called "Eternity" which stacks an inverted replica of the Louvre's Winged Victory of Samothrace sculpture on top of a Buddhist sculpture like the ones found in the Tianlongshan Grottoes in China, mixing Eastern and Western iconography.  While we didn't even notice it when we first entered the museum, from the windows of the upper levels, you get an excellent view of German artist Isa Ghezen's giant stainless steel rose, which is on display in the main lobby.  Since this sculpture does not fit into the Chinese theme of the current exhibit, my guess is that it is a permanent installation.

Huang Yong Ping and Ai Wei Wei both created sculptures of trees.  Huang's "Fifty Arm Buddha" tree is made from a metal bottle drying rack, where each "tree branch" is an arm with gnarly fingers that is holding a different object.  According to Huang, some of them are "symbolic objects from Buddhism, such as a steel bowl, a Goddess of Mercy bottle, a small pagoda, a spiral sea shell, a lotus flower, a snake" while others are "daily objects incongruent with religious context, including a broom, a feather duster, and a cane".  The many arms extending in all directions reminded me of the Hindi goddess Kali.  Ai Wei Wei's sculpture, simply named "Tree", is intentionally much more stark, comprised of pieces of dead wood visibly fused together with nuts and bolts.  The barren, leafless tree highlights a society losing its identity as it is "caught between individualism versus collectivism, tradition and modernity".

Huang Yong Ping also created the sculpture called "L'Arc de Saint Gilles", depicting the front and back of a doe with a hollow body in the middle.  Made of wood, fiberglass and iron, covered by dog hair and gold leaf, the image is based on the legend of 7th Century hermit Saint Gilles who saved a doe from King Flavius' arrow.


Multiple works throughout the exhibition are contributions of internationally renowned painter, sculptor and performance artist Zhang Huan, whose works we first saw in an exhibition at the AGO, and who also created the magnificent piece of public art called "Rise" in front of the new Shangri-La Hotel in Toronto.  There are two separate giant head sculptures, one of the goddess Guan Yin and the other of a male "Buddha", modeled after the artist's own face. Made of copper, "Long Island Buddha" is a reminder of all Buddha sculptures destroyed in Tibet during the Mao Cultural Revolution. The work "Sudden Awakening" depicts a peaceful Buddha with closed eyes, and is made from steel covered with ash collected from the incense burned in temples.

Zhang uses this same technique to create massively-scaled, intricately nuanced "paintings", using the different colours of ash as his "paint".  His piece called "Great Leap Forward" depicts labourers constructing the Grand Canal between 1958-1960 during times of great famine. It is amazing to look closely at the detail that has been captured using ash.  We saw previous examples of these ash paintings in the exhibit at the AGO but it was just as stunning to see them again here.

The highlight of the exhibit must be Zhang Huang's enormous sculpture Giant No. 3, made of steel, wood and foam covered with cow hide.  The seated giant seems to be hoisting another human form on his back, while hoofs can be seen attached to the hides covering the sides of his legs.  The theme of the sculpture is transformation as you wonder whether this is a mother carrying a child, or a shaman covered with animal fur or some other interpretation.  Zhang says the sculpture has to do with the body and the superficial layers of skins on the surface that hides a "sense of sadness, sense of incongruence, of frustration and despair."

In light of the numerous terrorist attacks that have plagued France and especially Paris, extra security precautions have been ramped up on the streets in general and at all of the museums in particular.  While we would expect armed guards to patrol and protect the major tourist attractions, we have even seen them on seemly quiet residential streets in the 16th arrondissement where we lived.  At the entrance of all museums, guards are checking the contents of bags and occasionally using a metal detector wand.  The Fondation Louis Vuitton took it one step further and created a security check environment similar to what you would expect at the airport.  It is sad to know that we live in a world where such extreme measures are required.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Paris 2016 - 16th Arr. - Museum of Modern Art, Palais Galliera, Palais Tokyo

On the day that we walked through the 16th arrondisement to see Art Nouveau houses, we continued north along the River Seine to tour two new museums that we had not visited on our previous trips to Paris–the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, a modern art museum located in the magnificent Palais de Tokyo building, and the Musée Galliera, a museum dedicated to the history of fashion.

Walking along the wide tree-lined boulevards of Avenue du Président Kennedy and Avenue de New York, which hug the left bank of the Seine, we passed by the Jardins du Trocadéro and Place du Trocadéro on one side and the Eiffel Tower on the other.  On our "Off-the-Beaten-Path" tour of Paris, it had become almost a badge of honour to not include any of the main tourist attractions in our itinerary.  But while we did not actually re-visit the Eiffel Tower, we could not resist taking multiple photos of this iconic structure when we passed by so close to it.  In honour of the Euro Cup Soccer Tournament being held in Paris, a large soccer ball was hung near the base of the tower.

The Palais Tokyo was built in 1937 for the Paris International Exhibition of Art and Technology.  Its east wing houses the Paris Museum of Modern Art while the west wing contains temporary exhibition space.  Its dramatic frontage features an enormous bas-relief by sculptor Alfred Janniot, whose works we saw in the Thirties Museum a few days earlier.  A large reflecting pool is flanked by a series of reclining nudes.

The permanent collection of the Paris Museum of Modern Art includes over 10,000 works of European and International art from the 20th century while temporary exhibitions rotate every six weeks.  The most impressive installation of the permanent collection is an enormous floor-to-ceiling fresco by Raoul Dufy called "La Fée Électricité" that encircles an entire room, spanning 600 metres.  The work was originally commissioned by the Electric company for the 1937 Exposition and conveys the history of electricity and its applications.  It was donated to the museum and installed in the Salle Dufy in 1964.

Chronologically from right to left, the lower half of the fresco depicts the portraits of 110 scientists and inventors who contributed to the development of electricity from classical times through to the 20th Century.  Also depicted are some of the inventions used to experiment with and conduct electricity.  The upper half of the mural incorporates imagery of mythology and allegories interacting with technology, as Olympian gods are connected to power station generators by Zeus' thunderbolt.

Two separate sections are each devoted entirely to the works of a famous 20th Century artist–one room for Henri Matisse and another for Robert Delauney.  Two versions of Matisse's masterpiece "La Danse" are on display featuring the iconic interlinked dancing figures that he is known for.  Considering the first one to be too colourful, decorative (and pink?), Matisse created a second version with paler shades of blues and greys.  Delauney's room illustrates the wide range of his styles, from his multi-coloured abstract circles that convey motion and rhythm, to a Cubism-styled painting of female nudes with images of Paris in the background that reminded me of Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, to a stylized view of the Eiffel Tower from above.

Since we had seen similar works by Matisse and Delauney before in other galleries, it was more interesting to discover new French artists that we had not previously heard of.  I liked the style and tone of the war painting "Une Gare" (1922) by Marcel Gromaire, the colours and subtle cubic shapes of Auguste Herbin's "Femmes et Enfants" (1914) and the cartoon-like painting by Gaston Chaissac.  The Paris Museum of Modern Art did a good job of explaining and showing examples of different artistic styles that were prevalent through the 20th Century.  We learned that the Dada movement (1915-192x) promoted the use of assembled media such as collage, found objects and makeshift materials to interpret art, often in a humourous fashion, such as Marcel Duchamp's famous urinal sculpture.  For me, the best example of the Dada Style on display was Jean Crotti's "Le Clown" (1916) collage, made of lead wire, glass discs covered with coloured paper and glassed "eyes" that look like marbles.  Despite the high level of abstraction, I could actually envision a clown and his movements when I looked at this piece, although I'm not sure I would have been able to figure it out without the aid of the title of the work.

Another large room was dedicated to the later-life works of Italian artist Giogirio de Chirico, whose earlier style of Metaphysical Art with its mysterious, dreamlike states and contrasting of light and shadow influenced such noted Surrealists as Salvador Dali and Max Ernst.  The works on display, which were donated by de Chirico's widow, represented his later "Neo-Metaphysical" stage, which many Surrealists considered to be a betrayal of the original principles which he promoted.  I looked up some of the earlier works and to my untrained eye, I couldn't really tell the difference.  Regardless, I found these pieces to be quite intriguing to try to interpret the strange combination of images.  His "Offerta a Giove" (Offering to Jupitor 1971) seems to have religious overtones, while "Retour d’Ulysse" (Return of Ulysses 1973) places Classical elements within an urban living room setting.  The "Soleil Levant sur la Place"  (Rising Sun on the Square 1976) implies that the sun is actually an artificial element powered by an electrical cord.

 
I always like sculptures in art museums and the Paris Museum of Modern Art had its share of  pop art including a giant pack of matchsticks.  There were also works by some artists familiar to us, such as Yves Klein's relief portrait in his signature florescent blue colour, A.R. Penck's bronze sculpture which might have been the same one we saw in the temporary sculpture show in Amsterdam last year, and a gothic-looking rendering of Notre Dame Cathedral by Niki de Saint Phalle, whose work we loved in the Nice Contemporary Art Museum.  I enjoyed being able to walk around the floor sculptures of a pitcher shaped like a foot standing next to a urinal, and through the sculpture of the giant spider.

The museum had a small collection of very interestingly designed furniture including some chairs covered in snake skin and an all metal desk made of zinc with bright red, laquer disks that rotate outwards to expose more table surface.  There were also more traditional examples of Art Deco furnishings.

When we bought our tickets for this museum, we did not understand that you paid one price to see the permanent collection, and then separate prices to see one or more of the temporary exhibits.  The sign indicating the options was in French and when the cashier pointed at one of them and asked if this is what we wanted, for expediency, we simply accepted. It turns out that we picked the Albert Marquet retrospective of French seascape paintings and Paula Modersohn-Becker's Portrait exhibit titled "Intensity of a Look" because all her subjects looked out at you with creepy, intense stares.  In retrospect, we would have done better just to see the permanent collection since it was so big that it took most of the day and we found those works more interesting than the temporary exhibits anyways.  It did not help that photos were not allowed in the temporary exhibits so I had to look some up on the Internet afterwards for memory sake.


The Palais Galliera has been the home to the Fashion Museum of Paris since 1977, but is only open during temporary exhibitions including recent shows featuring the Clothes of the 1950s, Influences of Foreign Designers, Works of the French Fashion House Lanvin, and the wardrobe of Élizabeth, Countess Greffulhe, a 19th century Paris fashion icon.  Luckily, the museum was open during our stay in Paris and was hosting the exhibit "An Anatomy of a Collection" which provided a wide retrospective of the museum's permanent collection, from the 18th century through to current day.  Some of the historic pieces on display included a corset worn by Marie Antoinette, a vest for future king Louis XVII, and a gorgeous muff made of lamb's wool belonging to princess Mathilde, decorated with of peacock feathers and ermine fur.

In terms of more recent pop culture, there was an elaborate fur collar worn by French stage and film actress Sarah Bernhardt during the Belle Epoque period (1898), the Christian Dior wedding dress of American film actress Geraldine Page (1965) designed by Yves Saint Laurent, a Givenchy day dress (1966) worn by always chic and stylish Audrey Hepburn, and pajama-styled evening wear worn by Tilda Swinton for the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.  I really like this idea of going out in one's comfy pajamas!

While it was fun looking at historic clothing and haute couture worn by celebrities, the real treat came when we got to the section that featured the wild and wacky designs that were presented on the runways of high-end fashion shows.  These included the synthetic hair "robe", the "shoe" hat that was co-created by Surrealist artist Salvador Dali and designer Elsa Schiaparelli, the mummy-like top made of white flowers, the dress with the gigantic image of a woman's face, and the cone dress that might have come out of singer Madonna's closet.  These pieces prove that a beautiful model really can wear anything.