Art, art ... and art (?)...

The last couple of days in Paris have been full of events linked to art. Let’s talk about one event after the other.

I already talked about the opening of the” Fondation Louis Vuitton” (see here). It was inaugurated with some very official events last week, but opened to public Monday October 27 at 10 am… and I was there. I was among the 30 first visitors… To go there, you can use a small electric shuttle bus leaving from "l’Etoile”.

The top picture is from the roof with a view over the “Jardin d’Acclimatation” and “La Défense”.

Maybe just a reminder of what the new building looks like from the outside.

In one of the ground floor rooms you can study the conception and the construction details of the building and admire Frank Gehry’s (and a great number of other peoples’) job.

The interior offers a lot of spectacular views…

… not neglecting the views from the roof.

The basement level – the “sailing ship” is of course on water – is also fantastic…

… with a number of mirrors. (I couldn't help making some self-portraits.)

Having visited Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (see previous post), I must say that both buildings are spectacular, but I believe that when it comes to the interior I have a preference for the “Fondation Louis Vuitton”.

When it comes to the exposed art, I guess I was a bit disappointed as well by “Guggenheim” as by “Louis Vuitton”. In my opinion (for what it’s worth), both museums are especially fascinating for their architecture.

Before leaving you can of course visit the shop. I found a twisted Gehry version of a Louis Vuitton bag, sold at 3.000 €. I resisted.  

During the weekend October 24-26 was held the annual “FIAC” (Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain = Intenrational Fair of Contemporary Art). It takes place under the glass roof of the “Grand Palais” (see previous posts), but occupies also “tents” along the Champs Elysées. There are exposed (and for sale) works of the most distinguished artists of modern art. Some samples of modern art can also be found round the city, e.g. in the Tuileries Gardens and along the Seine, e.g. the Niki de Saint Phalle woman. (An exhibition of her works is at present ongoing at the Grand Palais.)

What (possibly) may be described as an art event is the Paul McCarthy exposition, which the same weekend opened at the partly newly renovated “Monnaie de Paris”, the 18th century building on the Seine banks, which is the site for the French Direction of Coins and Mints. The opening was preceded by the installation of an inflated “Tree”, which some people took for a “butt plug”, on Place de Vendome. It was rather soon vandalised by some protesters. I missed that part of the event, so I “stole” some photos from “before” and “after”.   The exposition at the “Monnaie de Paris” is basically a Chocolate Factory. Thousands of chocolate copies of the “Tree” and some kind of Father Christmas are manufactured. They are sold in the shop for 50 € a piece. I believe that I normally have a very positive attitude toward contemporary art, but…

.... I preferred to admire the ceiling.

The same weekend there was also a very extensive "Art Shopping Show" exhibiting some 450 artists at the “Carrousel du Louvre”. It included direct performances by street artists like Mosko, Gregos… 

Another very important event was of course the reopening of the Picasso Museum October 25. Well, I took the direction, but decided to go back another day. I could just observe a lady who obviously had managed to get in. 


The fear of the 'Fearless'.

Some four years ago, I referred to the "Tour Jean sans Peur" in one of my posts about the Philippe Auguste Wall, which was built around 1200 to protect the then much smaller Paris. I went back recently for a more thorough visit.

The tower (which you can find on Rue Etienne Marcel) is what remains of what once was the Hôtel (townhouse) de Bourgogne, owned by the Dukes of Burgundy. The tower was added 1409-11 to the then more than hundred years old building. The townhouse is gone, but the tower is still there and was renovated during the latter part of the 19th century. It’s open to public since 1999.

So, the tower was built when the owner was Jean sans Peur, John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy. The “Fearless” refers to some previous war bravery, but the tower was actually built because of some good reasons of fear. John was in conflict against Louis of Orléans, younger brother of the increasingly mad King Charles VI – they were both pretenders to the throne. In 1407 Louis d’Orléans was assassinated on the orders of John and John thought it useful, necessary, to find a safe place where he could hide in case of danger. The tower was built. 

The assassination led to what is referred to as the Armagnac (Orléans)-Burgundian Civil War which lasted to 1435 – and was indirectly linked to the already ongoing Hundred Years’ War against the English where the Burgundians often played to the advantage of the English. John was finally also assassinated in 1419, during what should have been some “peace talks” between the two family branches.

Maybe the below table helps to see how the families were linked. We can see how the assassinated Louis d’Orléans had had the time to leave some heirs – he was the grandfather of the King Louis XII and the great-grandfather of François I.  

The Burgundy townhouse and the tower were built adjacent to, just outside, the Philippe-Auguste wall. When you enter you can see some rests of the foundations of the building and also some rests of the wall. Here you can also see what the townhouse once looked like.

Climbing the tower, you do it first by some fairly large stairs on the top of which you can find a beautiful genealogic tree (see also top picture), originally painted in vivid colours. What we can see is the trunk of an oak tree, symbol of John’s father Philippe le Hardi (Phillip the Bold), Duke of Burgundy. Among the branches you can also find hawthorn flowers, symbol of his mother Margaret III, Countess of Flandres, and hop leaves, symbol of John the Fearless himself. This is certainly linked to the Tree of Jesse. It’s clear that John owned and studied several illustrations of the Tree. (The Tree of Jesse is the genealogic presentation of the ancestors of Christ, starting with Jesse, the father of David, and where Christ is the fruit or the flower on top of the tree.)

One detail which illustrates the tough fight between the family branches is that John the Fearless, in addition to his Coat of Arms had chosen an additional quite dramatic symbol, a plane. Both are visible in the tower.  

When you come to the top floors, the stairs get quite narrow – easy to defend.

On each floor there are some decorations and some explanations to read and in a basement floor you have temporary expositions.

One remarkable thing about the tower is that it’s probably one of the oldest buildings where you had latrines with inside evacuation. Also, you would find them just behind a wall with a chimney, which means that the "toilets" were reasonably heated. 

Here we can see on which level the beautiful ceiling tree can be found and on the 1572 map (where the Philippe Auguste wall is well visible), we can see approximately where the Burgundy townhouse was situated and also where the assassination of Louis d’Orléans was supposed to have taken place.

Actually, there is little alley on Rue des Francs Bourgeois in the Marias, where you are informed that it should be where the assassination took place. The buildings in this alley are quite old, but they were of course built some 200 years after the assassination.

If you click here, you will have a recapitulation of the different places I have so far visited, where the Philippe-Auguste wall is visible. 


A new Paris landmark

Paris has a new museum and cultural center, open to public as from Monday next, October 27, the “Fondation Louis Vuitton”. (I have a ticket for the opening hour – for some reason I was not invited to the more official inauguration ceremonies this week.) It will be a place for permanent and temporary art exhibitions for concerts (Kraftwerk, Lang Lang... programmed in November) and other events.

There has been criticism about the installation of this museum in the Bois de Boulogne, close to the Jardin de l’Acclimatation – which led to delay of the project. Anyhow, the architecture is spectacular and will certainly lead to discussions, probably more positive than negative though. Paris has got a new landmark.

Already by it looks it’s rather evident that the architect is Frank Gehry, known for a number of not-square buildings, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Dancing House in Prague, the 8 Spruce Street in NYC… and of course the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

Here are photos I took of the Guggenheim Museum some four years ago (see post here).

This is not the first intervention of Frank Gehry in Paris. In 1993 an American Center was opened in the Parc de Bercy (see previous post), later taken over by the Cinémathèque Française.  In 2006 he created a “telephone box” on the Gariglaino Bridge (see previous post).  It’s not there anymore (where is it, if anywhere?)

So, let’s have an outside look on the new Paris Museum, photos taken last weekend in a fantastic summer weather. (If I’m allowed to take photos inside, I will revert with a later post.) It’s described as a sailboat, inflated by the wind.

The glass sails envelop an “iceberg”, which will be the real exposition part.  

As it’s a boat, it’s floating on water. A very sophisticated water-and-foam play takes place in a basin in front of the museum.

Here we can see where the museum is located (the building was under construction when the Google Earth photo was taken)… and also Frank Gehry’s original architectural sketch.

You can read more about the Foundation here.    



So, on the way back from Uzbekistan (see previous posts) I stayed a few days in Istanbul.

Istanbul is of course specific in the sense that the city is split between Europe and Asia, situated around the Bosphorus. With a total population of about 14 millions, it spreads widely, but as a tourist for a few days you must of concentrate on the historic centre. 

Some history: Under the name of Byzantium, the city was founded by Greek colonists 657 BC. Then it was baptised Constantinople in 324 AD as the new capital of the Roman Empire, which later became known as the Byzantine Empire. The Column of Constantine was erected in 330, on the order of Constantine the Great. It stood then in centre of the Forum Constantine, disappeared since. The split between the Orthodox Christianity and Catholicism was confirmed in 1054. In 1453 Constantinople was conquered by Turks and became the capital of the Ottoman Empire, started to be known as Istanbul. Islamic culture took over. The Ottoman Caliphate (an Islamic State, led by a caliph, supposed to be the successor of Muhammad) was declared and was abolished only in 1924, when the first president of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, abolished the institution of the Caliphate. 

(In the bottom of this post, you may see a map, where I have indicated the places I describe.)

Here are first some pictures of the Hippodrome (yes it rained the last night I spent there), which was the centre of the Roman and Byzantine Constantinople. On the top of the since disappeared Emperor’s box, where he could watch the races, used to stand the four horses, which were captured by the Venetians to decorate the St. Mark Basilica, later captured by Napoleon but given back to Venice. Today remain, among other things an Egyptian obelisk brought here during the 4th century and a fountain building, a gift by the German Kaiser Wilhelm II to the Ottoman Sultan…

… and from the close by Sultan Ahmet Park...

… you can admire the Sultanahmet Mosque from 1616, the beautiful “Blue Mosque” with its six minarets. It’s still used as a mosque and is closed during ritual hours.  As in all mosques, you must take off your shoes, be decently covered…

… and the Hagia Sophia (see also top picture), dating from the 6th century, originally a basilica, for over 1000 years the largest covered space in the world (until the Seville Cathedral was completed). Between 537 and 1453 it served as the seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople until the Ottomans arrived and it became a mosque and got its minarets. It became a museum in 1935. The mosaics were covered during the Islamic period.

The city is full of mosques. I could not visit them all.

The underground Basilica Cistern dates from 532. It’s the largest of several hundred other underground cisterns. If full, it could contain 100.000 tons of water and actually continued to provide water until rather recent times. The Medusa visage column bases have obviously been placed upside down and sideways for pure practical reasons, taken from some older temple.

The Topkapi Palace was the home of the Ottoman sultans 1485-1856 until they moved to the Dolmabahçe Palace on the Bosphore banks. There are four major courtyards and a number of buildings. Some 4.000 people lived here. It’s now a museum – since 1924.  In some of the rooms you can admire some fantastic treasures, Islamic relics, jewellery… (no photos). 

You can also visit the harem, actually the home of the sultan’s mother, the wives and the concubines, the children, the servants, the eunuchs … in more than 400 rooms. 

There are facilities for eating and drinking with a fabulous view over the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus, the Marmara Sea…

A must is of course the Grand Bazaar from 1461 with a number of entrances…

… some 60 “streets” and some 3.000 to 4.000 shops. Today it’s of course mainly “touristic”, but it played a real role as a market for all kinds of goods during centuries.

The immediate surroundings are definitely also to be considered as part of the market...

… and the commerce and the restaurants are all over the city. (Please note the “Kuaför de Luxe”.)

Some wooden houses.

Islamic graves are supposed to be simple (forgetting the mausoleums of course). This cemetery with Ottoman graves, with pillars, obviously made for some prominent personalities, may be an exception?  

A visit around the Galata Bridge and the Golden Horn. There were plans to build a bridge here since ages, Leonardo de Vinci, Michelangelo and others made plans, but the first bridge came as late as 1845. The present (5th) bridge is quite recent. A nice and lively area to visit with its little fish market.

A boat tour around the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus is a must. There is a heavy traffic of cargo and some cruising ships, and of course the steady flow of ferries. Along the banks you can admire some of the old Sultan Palaces (partly museums, partly transformed to luxury hotels) The Roumeli Fissar fortress stands where the strait is at its narrowest point, built by the Ottomans around 1451, already before they conquered Constantinople, of course a perfect place to control the access to and from the Black Sea. The Asian bank is full of nice, often wooden, private houses. There are two fantastic suspension bridges connecting Europe and Asia, both quite recent, one from 1973, one from 1988.

It’s amazing to see the number of idle ships on the strait, waiting for cargo, waiting for a berth…?

A curiosity in Istanbul is the number of dogs and cats which walk freely around (or sleep).

The Islam is quite visible, and audible – loudspeakers with preachers may wake you up early morning.

Women are often covered.  Please note the Chanel version.