Art galleries

There are art galleries a bit everywhere in Paris, but some of the more exclusive ones can be found in the area around Avenue Matignon and the nearby streets, in the 8th arrondissement.

Here are some pictures from a recent walk, mostly taken through the show windows, some from inside a few galleries. There are of course a lot of famous names among painters, sculptors… which you no doubt recognize. Other galleries offer other types of art, like furniture, glassware… (I was surprised to see the number of Bernard Buffet paintings offered by many galleries – any special reason?) The only painting where I dared to ask for a price, was a small, modest watercolour by Emile Bernard, Vincent van Gogh’s best friend during his Paris years - 28.000 €. Finally I went home without any purchasing, which anyhow, I must admit, were not planned.

I have a hope that the art market will give a chance to real art lovers and to living artists. Today, in my mind, there is a lot of pure speculative business, where some of the most sought after artists often end up hidden in a safety vault in Switzerland, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong... , not even visible to public. Other less known artists struggle to survive. 


Sacré Coeur - from the outside only...

I realized that, after a few years of blogging, I have not made a real reference post about the Sacré Coeur Basilica. Well, one reason is of course that it’s the only Catholic Church in Paris where photos of the inside are not allowed. (The reason seems to be that the church is devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which puts it on another sacred scale than the churches devoted to just “normal” saints etc…)

You may today be a bit perplexed when you learn that the official reason for building the church was to “expiate the crimes of the Commune” (the revolutionary government of Paris in 1871). This created several years of controversy between different political and religious parties and movements. Today, the church is rather (or also?) considered to be dedicated to the 58.000 victims of the Franco-Prussian war 1870-71. Mainly financed by support from parishes throughout France, it took a few decades before it was finished, from the foundation stone in 1875 to the completion in 1914 – during WWI. It was officially dedicated only after the war, in 1919.

We should know that the surprising architecture is due to Paul Abadie, who died well before the completion of the building.

So, no photos from the inside here, but a selection of photos taken from different places in Paris under different skies. Thanks to its place on the top of Montmartre, the basilica is visible from almost everywhere.


Hidden alleys and courtyards

Walking along the streets in Paris, I always wish to push doors and gates to see what’s behind. Very often it’s not possible due to digital codes etc.. It’s of course understandable that people who live in the hidden courtyards and alleys wish to be left in peace, but... very often you can be - almost - as satisfied by taking a photo through a little opening, like here.

This was on Rue du Bac. I was luckier with another gate. I’m not giving the street number, as I’m not sure that I was officially admitted, but anyhow I managed to get in.  

I found out that here was the home of Louis-Pierre Baltard (1764-1846), engraver and architect and the father of another architect, Victor Baltard (1805-74), the creator of the famous Baltard Pavilions (Les Halles) and also of the Saint Augustin Church.

This is also where the American-born, European-based, painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) resided now and then during the years 1892-1901. Maybe we should also remember that Whistler and Oscar Wilde were good friends at first, but that their friendship later broke down and that Whistler and his works obviously inspired Wilde when writing “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1890). 


Le Bon Marché – Ai Weiwei

The Chinese multi-artist – and activist – Ai Weiwei is at present (still for a few days) exposing his works at the department store “Le Bon Marché” (on which I already posted, see here). Ai Weiwei has often had difficulties with the Chinese authorities, being in house arrest, prison…, although he has also had some more official assignments, like collaborating in the design of the Beijing National (Olympic) Stadium. There is too much to say about his activities – and problems – here, maybe one could just mention that he recently wrapped the Berlin Concert Hall with 14.000 refugee lifebelts, salvaged from the Greek coastline. (Pictures “stolen” on the net.) (You can read more about Ai Weiwei here.)

The dragons, birds etc. that we can see “flying” in the air at “Le Bon Marché” are based on ancient Chinese traditions, using bamboo sticks, silk paper.... Here are some examples.

To learn something more about how he and his team worked to produce these artworks, you are invited to watch a video.

Once in the building I thought I must also show some of the splendid ceilings.

You can also see some of Ai Weiwei’s artworks in the show windows, but the reflections made it quite impossible to give them justice. 


The weather wasn’t the best…

When the weather is warmer and drier, a Tuesday evening in the Marais, all the streets, bars, restaurants… should be crowded. Well, the weather wasn’t warm and dry the other day.

If you wanted a Vélib’ bike, it was easy to find one.


Another part of the "Petite Ceinture"

I already wrote a few times about the “Little Belt”, the “Petite Ceinture”, the railway that was created around Paris in the middle of the 19th century to interconnect the then newly created major railway stations and also to allow travelling around Paris - before the creation of the metro system. (I already wrote about it e.g. here, here, here, here and here.) Most of it is abandoned, but to a large extent the tracks, the bridges… are still there, awaiting a possible new utilisation.

The other day I made a little walk along part of it, starting at the Villette basin. What I first discovered was that something existed in the vaults under the railway tracks. Well, does it really exist or not? I saw nobody… but there are several Internet sites about “La Vache Bleue” (The Blue Cow) and several coming events are announced (see e.g. here and here). It’s a place for different artistic activities. I have to go back, maybe during the warmer periods of the year.

I found these inscriptions on the walls, which may indicate that the activities are threatened, but found nothing on the net that confirms this fact.   

Following the tracks you will find the old railway station “Pont de Flandres”, open for passenger traffic 1869-1934.

A bit further away, just before the abandoned “Petite-Ceinture”-tracks disappear underground, you can now find the newly opened and almost completed, metro-tram-railway station “Rosa Parks”, serving the partly parallel railway lines connecting Paris with the eastern suburbs. (I wrote about Rosa Parks recently, see here.) The whole area, formerly very industrial, is under reconstruction into a mixture of housing and offices.