"Atelier des Lumières"

The « Atelier des Lumières » is a digital art centre, which opened in April this year. It occupies what used to be a foundry, created already in 1835 – well hidden behind some more recent buildings (through which you enter). You can hardly imagine the huge ex-foundry buildings if you don’t open Google Earth and get the view from the sky. 

The place offers a surface area of 3.300 m2 (some 35.000 sq.ft), with some 10 m (30 ft) high walls, and the “show” is performed via some 140 video projectors accompanied by music via a fantastic sound system… 

It is run by “Culturespaces”, a private enterprise, majority-owned by “Engie”, the French leading energy company (electricity, gas, nuclear…) and which manages a number of museums and cultural spaces around France, including in Paris the Jacquemart-André (see my post here) and the Maillol Museums (see my posts here and here). They are also involved in a similar operation at Baux-de-Provence, “Carrières de Lumières” (see previous post).

These first photos may give you an impression of the space…   

The present “show” concentrates on three Austrian artists, mostly on Gustav Klimt, but also on Egon Schiele and F. Hundertwasser (who was not only a painter but who also transformed his fantasies in the construction of real (ecological) buildings).

So, from the show… some Klimt impressions…

… some Schiele impressions…

… and some Hundertwasser impressions..



After years of difficulties (and a number of legal issues, involving lawyers, former ministers, leading auctioneers…) the French public utility institution “Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti”, created by the French Ministry of Culture, has at last been able to open a place of exhibition.

Alberto Giacometti (1901-66) was born in Switzerland, but spent most of his life in Paris. In a previous post I showed where he used to have his studio from 1926 till his death. Many fellow artists were frequent guests - Picasso, Braque, Becket… and Jean Genet (see more below...).

His widow, Annette (1923-93), managed to save the walls and the interior of his studio before demolition and this is now – at last – exhibited (see also top picture).

The Foundation is occupying a building originally belonging to a famous designer, Paul Follot (1877-1941), who worked for Christofle, Wedgwood…,  decorated the steamer Normandie… and of course his own house. You can still see a lot of traces of the original decoration in the building - classified as “monument historique” - despite a complete renovation.

The Foundation holds a collection of some 5.000 works – including some 95 paintings, 260 bronze sculptures, 550 plaster sculptures…. Maybe you get the impression that rather few of his famous sculptures are exhibited, but we must remember that the Foundation also organises exhibitions worldwide…

At the moment, there is a special exhibition linked to the Giacometti’s studio and his long talks with Jean Genet (1910-86) which led to some famous writings by Genet and to a portrait of Genet by Giacometti (normally at Centre Pompidou). Jean Genet was of course a controversial personality with some criminal background, but who became an important novelist, playwright, poet… and always remained a political activist. Some of his plays have been produced at the finest international theatres and his play “The Balcony” has even been filmed by Hollywood (see here), but he remains controversial… Below we can see him with Giacometti, but also with William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg during a pro-Black-Panthers demonstration…

I was lucky to be there for the inauguration, which took place June 20. Beautiful weather made it possible to offer the champagne outdoors, in the (temporarily closed) street. We are on a street, close to the Montparnasse Cemetery (see previous post) and we can remember that Picasso had his studio in the neighbouring building 1916-19 and that Simone de Beauvoir lived in this street 1955-86.  



Part of the Sorbonne...

Unless you are a teacher or a student, normally you will not be allowed to enter this building except when there is an art exhibition – and...  there is now one ongoing.

This building houses the Faculty of Law of the Sorbonne University and you find it on Place du Panthéon. It seems that what you can see from the Place was part of an end-of-the-18th century project which also included what was supposed to become the Sainte-Geneviève church, but which finally became the Panthéon, with J-G Soufflot as architect (he died before the end of the work). I wrote more about it here. ... and I wrote more about the Sorbonne University here.

As I officially went for the art exhibition, I will of course show something of it. The artist’s name is Sophie Verger and she specialises today in sculptures inspired by animals, often in surprising postures. We can find some outdoor examples in the courtyard….

… and others on an upper floor.

To reach this upper floor, you have to climb some amazing stairs.

Actually, for me, this was especially the chance to see the interior architecture of this building.

There is another entrance to the building, from Rue Saint Jacques – closed... 

... but you can reach it from the inside and visit what is referred to as “Galerie Soufflot” – see also top picture.  I haven’t managed to find any information about this part of the building – including the stairs -, but, looking on different city plans and on the building material used, it seems obvious that it has been added later during the 19th century.

There are some other nice stairs also in the older parts of the building … and you can find the statue of Jacques Cujas (1522-90), a prominent legal expert, scholar and teacher….

… who gave his name to a recent addition to the building complex, along Rue Cujas - the photo to the right, below. Once again, I haven’t been able to find the name of the architect – I guess in any case it would be better not to mention or remember it. Well, the real “guilty” ones are of course they who made such decisions in the 1960’ or 70’s. … and, actually, the building is nicer on the inside than on the outside.


... and some street art again

The Batignolles area in the 17th arrondissement used to have a covered market of the old Baltard type. It was replaced in the 1970’s by this quite dull building. Well, the building – in addition to the market - now also offers a number of flats for older people and via Google Earth and the site “Le Jardin des Moines”, we can see that there is a calm and nice space on top of the market roof. I talked to some people who live there and they seem to be satisfied, so maybe I shouldn’t be too upset about the destruction of the old building.

To make the building look a bit less dull also from the outside, I was pleased to see that it recently has been decorated by four street artists. One has realised that the arrondissement was lacking street art, and this project is obviously at least partly sponsored by a popularly voted City of Paris “participatory budget”. 

I was especially pleased to see that one of my favourite street artists, Seth, has made some remarkable illustrations (see also top picture), obviously referring to kids and reading - just opposite the street where he has painted, there is a library, specializing in youth literature. I have already written about Seth here and here.

The other - excellent - artists are Pastel FD…

… Ratur…

… and Jaw. 

You can see read more about the artists here: Seth, Pastel FD, Ratur, Jaw.



Not easy to keep your feet dry. It has been raining… and raining.


The Champs Elysées at 10 pm.

No big crowds on the terraces…


Square de l'Amérique Latine

Waiting for a bus the other day, I discovered this little square, "Square de l’Amérique Latine”. We are in the extreme north-west of the 17th arrondissement, close to the Paris border. Actually, we are on a space close to where the last Paris defense wall, the “Thiers wall”, could be found. (Most of it was demolished in the 1920's, but I showed some remaining parts of the wall in a recent post, see here.)  If you are interested in visiting the square, it’s easy to go there, the close by Place de Champerret can be reached by metro (line 3) and some six bus lines.

The “Square de l’Amérique Latine” was created in 1931. It’s a small, very modest square, but it has room for nine sculptures honouring different Latin American personalities. Actually there are eight busts, spread in a half-circle with flowers in between… and with in the middle a more full size statue – see top picture.

This is the opportunity to learn something about the different personalities that are represented. I just wrote a few words.. 

Maybe a special remark about José Marti, who wrote the text to the famous Cuban patriotic song “Guantanamera”… “Yo soy un hombre sincero…”, interpreted by Pete Seeger, The Sandpipers, Joan Baez, Julio Iglesias, Nana Mouskouri, Trini Lopez, Gipsy Kings… and of course by the Bueana Vista Social Club. You can listen to a recent Cuban version here.... or just below.

In the square you could originally find the statue of Simón Bolívar, “El Libertador” of Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Panama. In 1980, 150 years after his death, the statue was transferred to its present place on the “Cours de la Reine” (The Queen’s Promenade), see previous post. Two years later Bolívar was replaced in this square by Francisco de Miranda, who also was a revolutionary military and somehow a predecessor to Bolívar.

You can also find here the entrance to the – underground - discotheque “La Main Jaune”, very popular during the 1980’s and 90’s, now forgotten.