The art of curation

You know the phrase ‘the show must go on’? Well, curating is all about ‘the show must go up’. Here I am in Paris with the two-person CARAVAN team to install The Bridge exhibition in an ancient chapel inside the most historic church in Paris – Saint Germain des Pres. This is the church’s first foray into exhibiting art on this scale (47 original paintings). There are many limitations accompanying such a venue not the least of which is the prohibition to touch or attach anything to the walls. This calls for major creative problem solving.

Saint Germain des Pres
Saint Germain des Pres

I love curating but it is not nearly as glamorous as it sounds. Like most things worth doing, curating a show involves lots of hard work and you have to be prepared to be a jack-of-all-trades.

Unpack five large crates of artwork
Unpack five large crates of artwork
Building 3 meter high frames out of PVC piping
Building 3 meter high frames out of PVC piping
Holding up ladders
Holding up ladders
Painting a faux stone finish on the support frames
Painting a faux stone finish on the support frames
Attaching hanging hardware to some 30 paintings
Attaching hanging hardware to some 30 paintings
Restoring a damaged painting
Restoring a damaged painting
Hours deciding on the arrangement and hanging of the works
Hours deciding on the arrangement and hanging of the works

Four days later, the show is up and we are now taking care of the many small details in anticipation of the official VIP opening on February 8th. Some of the hung works are pictured below:

Opening 17

Opening 2

It’s been an incredibly rewarding, challenging and tiring time. And obviously I did not accomplish this gargantuan task alone – our team consisted of Paul-Gordon Chandler, founder of CARAVAN and CARAVAN’s Program and Development Associate, Claire Marie Pearman, both of whom worked tirelessly, fighting colds and physical exhaustion due to climbing up and down ladders and filling sandbags. It was a pleasure and an honor working with them!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

There’s still one more task a curator has to take on…

Plastering posters on Paris streets
Plastering posters on Paris streets

The exhibition will travel to Cairo, London, Rome, Barcelona and the United States.

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Au revoir, Paris

Tour Eiffel

Before saying au revoir to the City of Lights on a stormy summer’s day, I would like to mention three exhibitions that range from the grand to the understated.

blog wordle

1. Impressionist Works from Private Collections

Musée Marmottan Monet, until July 6th, 2014.

To mark the 80th anniversary of its opening to the public, the Musée Marmottan pays homage to fifty private collectors who have amassed a stunning pool of Impressionist works never before exhibited in public. The Impressionists created some of the most popular artwork in the history of art. Exhibited along with the usual suspects – Corot, Boudin, Manet, Monet, Degas, Morisot, Cassatt – I discovered Jongkind and Guillaumin. It was a particular treat to see the esquisse (preliminary sketch) of one of the most iconic Impressionist works – Edouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies Bergères. See the sketch and the more familiar finished painting below.

Degas

 

Edouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère.jpg

For an overview of images from the exhibition here is the French link.

2. Dans l’air mûr: Paintings and Sculptures by Rosy Lamb

Galerie Joseph, Marais district. Closed.

rosy lamb I

By far my favorite gallery show, Rosy Lamb is an artist’s artist. Her world is her studio, her paintings are gloriously painterly and her sculptures translate the immediacy of her hand. Her medium of choice is plaster – she paints with oils on plaster ‘canvases’, and sculpts in plaster. The grouping of sculptural work brings to mind the sculpture courts of the Louvre, but Lamb plays up the fragility of the plaster with an air of insouciance.

rosy lamb III

I feel very fortunate to have caught this show, as US-born, Paris-based Lamb has not exhibited for years and this exhibition was only up for four days. Wonderful little video of the artist at work here.

3. Micro exhibitions by Cirrus.

Streets of Paris, 2014.

I almost walked straight past Cirrus standing modestly on a Paris sidewalk behind what  looked like an architect’s scaled-down model of a small apartment.

cirrus I

These model constructions are actually self-portraits. Cirrus has asked the people in his life to provide him with personal photographs or artworks of their choice. He then makes mini paintings of these collections and curates an imaginary art exhibition on a micro scale. These open-air works represent those closest to the artist and thereby present a slice of his intimate world.

Cirrus II

I was fascinated by this totally unique perspective, and was completely awed by his dedication when I happened to pass by four hours later and saw him patiently explaining his work to other passersby. He can be reached at cirrus.j@free.fr.

Paris revealed its creative soul to me in so many ways. As I take my leave I think about all the wonderful art I was not able to see, but just like the cherries I had to leave behind on my friend’s cherry tree outside of Lyon, I will leave some art for others to discover. One can’t be too greedy…

Visit to lyon Cherry pickin (64) - Copy

Man versus Beast in Paris

hunt museum IX I have never understood hunting as a sport. The very idea of killing an innocent animal is repugnant to me. I rarely eat meat and I have been known to gently scoop up stink bugs and release them into the garden. But today my agenda in Paris was to visit the Museum of Hunting and Nature. The reason was twofold: I wanted to understand the history of hunting in France as part of the research I am doing on a book, and secondly I am always interested in how museums fold contemporary works into traditional collections to create a dialogue between old and new. The museum’s collection is grouped into hunting weapons, hunting ‘products’  like taxidermied animals, and artistic works related to hunting. hunt museum III The contemporary artist whose works are currently dispersed around the museum is Danish artist Lin Utzon whose father designed the famed Sydney Opera House. Lin Utzon’s Cosmic Dance exhibition at the Museum of Hunting has been heavily influenced by sparse nordic landscapes and her belief in the interconnection between every living creature and the common destiny we share. hunt museumIn the museum’s inner courtyard, her tall, sentinel  ceramic forms (above) are set on a sea of black coals and make a startling introduction to her work. However, I find her black and white imagery even more interesting when set against hunting artifacts and the depiction of hunting throughout the ages. hunt museum V I suppose I can accept that hunting was part of the natural order way back when, but when an animal is pitted against a man with a gun, that just seems wrong. I silently asked forgiveness of some of the taxidermied animals but the one room covered in ‘trophies’ made me queasy. hunt museum VI They were displayed in the same gallery as antique guns with beautiful mother of pearl inlays and other ornately decorated firearms. As my museum buddy pointed out, there was an uneasy juxtaposition of the dual beauty created by Nature and by Man. Utzon’s work at times seemed very graphic, almost Ikea-like, yet on the whole her oeuvre conveyed the nobility of Nature and provided an important reminder that the museum is called the Museum for Hunting and Nature. hunt museum II In one tiny little room, preserved animal parts were suspended in large glass containers, but the curator lightened the mood by including one jar containing a preserved teddy bear. In the same room a video of a unicorn was mesmerizing. hunt museum X Apart from the trophy room, the  museum was beautiful and partially succeeded in conveying the sense of respect that hunters hold for their prey. One gets an understanding of the long history and ritual of hunting  in French culture and in a way, I was able to see the connection between hunting and conservation. I was still having mixed feelings about the museum when I heard a distant but unmistakable roar of an angry crowd that makes one’s hair stand on end. I hurried out to the street to see what was going on and walked straight into a sea of demonstrators holding placards and yelling obscenities at the museum and its visitors – myself included. hunt museum VIII The manif (demonstration) was organized by the Society for the Protection of Animals, and where better to air their opposition to inhumane farming practices and hunting than the Museum of Hunting?  I could not believe the timing of this event with my visit. I was already in two minds about the nature of the museum’s contents and to be confronted by hundreds of emotionally charged protesters violently opposing the existence of the museum at that very moment I finished my tour certainly shook me up. I overheard a passerby asking one of the demonstrators what sort of museum this was and the response was: “A museum for psychopaths and assassins”. hunt museum VII When the procession of demonstrators and police cars finally moved on and the shouts of “Liberté aux animaux” died away, I snuck guiltily down the rue des Archives away from the museum whom only moments earlier I had looked at in a more favorable light.

France and the Art of Living

Artwork from Artists of the Marais group exhibition in the park.
Artwork from Artists of the Marais group exhibition in the park.

“Beauty in terms of art refers to an interaction between line, color, texture,    sound, shape, motion, and size that is pleasing to the senses.”

I’m in Paris and I’m a sucker for the infinite ways the French incorporate beauty into their daily lives. They have been honing the Art of Living for centuries, and that’s partly what makes France and Paris in particular, so beautiful – the veneer of the present letting the light of the past shine through. I will let the images speak for themselves.

I love the florist shops, as tempting as the patisseries
I love the florist shops, as tempting as the patisseries

 

Eric Kayser bakery on the rue du Bac
Eric Kayser bakery on the rue du Bac

 

The jazz clubs may have shut down but you can hear some of the best jazz on Paris'streets and bridges.
The jazz clubs may have shut down but you can hear some of the best jazz on Paris’ streets and bridges.

 

Graffiti pop quizz: Love is a)true b)false or c)dead
Graffiti pop quiz: Love is a)true b)false or c)dead

 

How do they walk those cobblestone streets in these?
How do they walk those cobblestone streets in these?

 

Container of creme fraiche brought to the table
Container of creme fraiche brought to the table

 

If you have time to kill, try the piano at the busy Gare de Lyon
If you have time to kill, try the piano at the busy Gare de Lyon

 

Boutique perfumery on the Ile Saint Louis
Boutique perfumery on the Ile Saint Louis

 

The right touch with a throw and some pillows
The right touch with a throw and some pillows

 

Catch you later. I've got some art to see!
Catch you later. I’ve got some art to see!