Posts Tagged 'art'

Walk and Invent Your Life (Portes Ouvertes)

I saw this yesterday and thought, yes!

Walk and invent your life.

As it happened, that’s exactly what I was out doing.

I mentioned to you that my last trip home threw up a whole bunch of questions. I’m feeling my way and trying to figure out (yet again) just what the heck I’m doing with this “one wild and precious life” (Mary Oliver shout-out!)

Nope, I don’t have the answers yet (whoa, that would have been lightning fast!), but what I did say was that I was committing to making my life in Paris count, that I’d try to hold onto my newly refreshed New York sense of self here in the City of Light.

Part of that is just keeping my eyes (and ears and heart) open and finding inspiration wherever it may exist.

This week I haven’t had to look far. I’ve literally stumbled right into inspiration. On Monday I saw Deborah Levy speak at Shakespeare & Co. One word: Amazing. I have a new writer crush.

Then yesterday I saw a documentary film made by someone I hadn’t seen in a very long time. On the way home, I saw a small group of 4 people looking down at green pamphlets and looking questioningly at a door. Then they went in.

On the spur of the moment, I followed.

Turns out it was a “portes ouvertes” in my neighborhood. This is always one of my favorite events, and even better when discovered serendipitously. 56 artists in the ‘hood were opening their doors to their studios and showcasing their work.

Continue reading ‘Walk and Invent Your Life (Portes Ouvertes)’

New Girls’ Guide to Paris Article: Hotel des Academies et des Arts

The lobby of the Hotel des Academies et des Arts

Hello hello,

I have a new article over at Girls’ Guide to Paris if anyone wants to take a gander.

I thought I’d share the story behind the story, too. (Oh! Could that be a new feature? Let’s put it in quotes then: “the story behind the story.”)

One of Jerome Mesnager's figures having fun

So I got to visit this boutique hotel on the Left Bank – not far from the Luxembourg Gardens – called the Hotel des Academies et des Arts. A cute couple, Laurent and Charlotte Inchauspé, owns the small design hotel and gave “carte blanche” to renowned street artist Jerome Mesnager to do whatever he desired with the space. A modest group (6-7) writers were invited for a tour and to meet the artist in person.

The wellness room at the hotel

It soon became clear I was the only anglophone present. All of the other invitees were French bloggers and/or journalists. Question: could I cover a story entirely in French for the first time?

Continue reading ‘New Girls’ Guide to Paris Article: Hotel des Academies et des Arts’

Monumenta at the Grand Palais

Since 2007, the Grand Palais has hosted an annual exhibition called “Monumenta.” The French Ministry for Culture and Communication invites an international artist to create a new work designed specifically for the nave of the impressive space.

This year Indian artist Anish Kapoor has created something that truly lives up to the expos’s name. His piece “Leviathan” for Monumenta 2011 is…well…monumental.

Yeah. You’re seeing correctly.

Here’s another shot of tiny people next to the great big art object:

For the record, I don’t mean tiny people in that they’re small. No, they’re normal-sized people next to a friggin’ humongous installation. We’re supposed to say size doesn’t matter, but come on. It really kind of does, right? Visiting the exhibition was definitely an awesome experience.

First, though, you start inside the giant installation.

This was sort of like being inside a giant red womb.

One of the neat things about the Grand Palais is its huge glass dome. As the light changed (it was a cloudy day, with shots of sunshine in passing moments), both the appearance and feel of the object itself changed. When the light streamed in, what looked at first opaque soon transformed, as we could now see the metal armature of the building itself.

The womb was all well and good, but we were ready to get out into the world. And as with birth, nothing really prepares you for what the world actually has in store.

Continue reading ‘Monumenta at the Grand Palais’

Belleville’s Portes Ouvertes

Any guesses as to where this photo was taken?

If you said in the middle of Paris’ 20th arrondissement, gosh you’re good!

I, for one, was surprised (and delighted!) to come upon this patch of woods behind a very unassuming door in the city.

These sorts of serendipitous discoveries were numerous this weekend, as Belleville’s annual Portes Ouvertes took place over 4 days. Nearly 130 artists’ ateliers were open to the public.

I have to admit, finding interesting passageways and cute spaces was as much, if not more, my goal than looking at art as I set out. I just love stumbling into different nooks and crannies of the city, discovering spaces that are often hidden from sight.

Cutie-patootie courtyard

I started out on Rue Denoyez, which is definitely not a secret. It’s a popular street for graffiti artists and it changes by the day. It’s always a good bet if you need a riot of color.

I then went wandering at random. There was a list of all the different artists showing work, but I liked the idea of just popping in and out as the spirit moved me. Much of the arty scenery was simply found by walking around the back streets.

My favorite discovery was a little area around Rue des Cascades and Rue de Savies. It felt like its own private neighborhood – and the neighbors made us feel that, too! Many of the people on the street looked at us like we didn’t belong there and a woman yelled at us not to take a picture of her bar.

We went in to places, anyway. It was “portes ouvertes” after all!

Can't begin to describe how, ahem, interesting this studio was

On the lookout for those who don’t belong!

Rue des Cascades/Rue de Savies

Trying for an arty shot to go with the event:

Pouty Sion in Paris painters' forest

And me in my more natural pose (Can’t. Contain. Laughter.):

A great little stroll!

If you’re in Paris, there’s still time to visit. Today is the last day – Portes Ouvertes from 2 – 9 PM.

Street Art with a Statement

Stumbling onto street art is one of my favorite parts about wandering Paris. This week, a French street artist known only as “JR” won the $100,000 TED prize for his large-format portraits of every day people, often in some of the world’s most depressed areas.

His work first came to light when he took photos of people in the banlieues. (Banlieues, the ‘suburbs,’ are nothing like the American conception of prim residential areas, but often home to poor communities). He posted these photos in Paris’ most bourgeois neighborhoods.

JR - Art on Manette Street (Foyles)

In the video, he says that he doesn’t set out to change the world. And yet, his portraits have an impact, bringing people face to face – literally – with whom they might otherwise try to ignore.

Continue reading ‘Street Art with a Statement’

White Nights, Art in the City

Centre Pompidou, the buidling itself like an art installation

Last Saturday was the ninth edition of Nuit Blanche in Paris, an all-night arts festival where museums, galleries, churches, and just about any other public or private space that wants throws open their doors to creative exhibitions.

The open street also becomes a living playground. Light shows, sculptures, installations, performance art; you were bound to run into all of these things last Saturday, if you just set your mind to wandering.

I didn’t get to see much of Nuit Blanche, unfortunately. I was inside at a friend’s going away party. (I did, however, witness a whole different late night scene as my friend lives on Rue St. Denis, which – how to put this delicately – is where “working ladies of the night” and their clientele meet. That, however, is a whole other story.)

Nuit Blanche or not, Paris is known as an art capital year-round, with a bazillion museums and art galleries to its credit (close approximation). You may remember my gushing about the recent Yves Saint Laurent expo. Not only did I love the exhibition, but I adored being in the Petit Palais (little palace) at midnight.

That outing gave me the idea to pitch a short article about other Paris museums where you can get your late-night art fix. I picked a few major museums and coupled them with dining suggestions and voila! My latest published clip at Girls’ Guide to Paris!

Enjoy the article and bon weekend!

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Making out at the Musee D’Orsay

Musée D'Orsay
A few weeks ago, I went to the Musee d’Orsay for the first time. I know, I know; you don’t even have to say it. How in the world have I lived in Paris this long and never visited this fabulous museum?

Well, I have now, so there will be none of that.

The Musee d’Orsay is as wonderful as everyone says. The museum itself is gorgeous, a former railway station originally designed for the 1900 Exposition Universelle. And what it contains! A spectacular collection of impressionist (and post-impressionist) art with all the heavy-hitters: Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Matisse. Just to name a few, of course.

Be warned: Renovations are currently under way and the permanent collection from the (skylit) fifth floor has been moved down to the first two levels of the museum. This being Paris, though, even the renovations manage to be classy.

Practically, this also means that a fair number of the permanent pieces are out on loan. My friend Sarah was heartbroken that her favorite painting was currently at the San Francisco Museum.

But, we found plenty to feast our eyes on, as we meandered our way from one dreamy landscape to the next.

We were taken out of the artistic reverie by one pretty shocking display, however: a couple making out directly in front of the descriptive text introducing the museum’s collection.

I’m not talking a little kissing, either. (This is Paris! There is art! That could be forgiven). No, I’m talking about pushed up against the wall, hard-core, do they need a hotel room pawing. I’m no prude, but I felt so uncomfortable that I just had to leave the room (after picking my jaw up off the ground).

Now I know I’ve been encouraging a more friendly Paris lately; this is not at all what I had in mind, however.

Recovering from the incident and from taking in so much beauty, Sarah and I treated ourselves to lunch in the gorgeous restaurant. What would be become a 3-hour affair.

Now, I wouldn’t normally think to indulge in such a thing. Lunch in a museum would be overpriced, right? Not even. I had a delicious risotto for 16 euros, what you’d pay in a lot of places in Paris, and yet I felt like I was dining in a palace:

Fine dining at the Musee d'Orsay

One thing, though: it seemed we couldn’t order wine by the glass. I guess there are worse fates than being forced to spring for an entire bottle (or half-bottle) of Sancerre. (This might have accounted for why we spent 3 hours talking away – more and more animatedly, I might add).

All in all, well worth a visit. Both the museum and the restaurant. I love visiting museums at night, too. If you do, as well, the Musee d’Orsay has extended hours until 9:45 PM on Thursdays.

At that hour, who knows what frisky couples will be up to, though. Beware!

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TIP: The Fantastic World of Flateurville


Tucked away in a discreet passageway in Paris’ 10th arrondissement is the weirdly fantastical Flateurville, an imaginary city with a real-world address. Artist Laurent Godard has created an entire history and narrative for his fake village, and the space feels truly out of this world. If you didn’t think it possible to step inside someone else’s creative mind, come give this place a try.

When you first enter Flateurville, you’ll feel a moment of confusion. The first room is small and somber; there probably won’t be anyone lingering here. A TV might be playing, a few art objects scattered about, but otherwise the room’s a bit suffocating.

Head through the small hallway, however, and you’ll enter a room with a small stage, Christmas trees and other foliage (yeah, you read that right). This is where bands and other performers are invited to play.

Les Elles du Tambour - fabulous all-female percussion group

But the exploration has just begun. Next is a brightly lit room with paintings on every wall and a large vault in the center of the room. So many random elements, though you get the impression everything is there for a reason.

Frolic in the “playroom” on one side or head to the room on the other. Old black and white photographs, paintings, and machines; the first time I visited, I didn’t know where to set my eyes, there’s so much to see.

The largest room features not only Godard’s artwork, but also temporary exhibitions. It’s big enough to house cars, pianos, motorcycles, and bathtubs, too. On expo nights, enjoy cheap drinks and free snacks.

When writing in English I try not to slip into Franglais. But two French words seem the most apt to describe the feeling of wonder when I discovered this place: delirant, hallucinant. (Delirious and hallucinating – not an elegant translation, but believe me, those are the words that spring to mind).

If you’re looking for a different experience in Paris, head to Flateurville on Thursdays to see what’s on. You might not understand what world you’ve stumbled into, but you probably won’t forget it.

Flateurville
24 cours des petits ecuries
Paris 75010
Metro Strasbourg St. Denis

Note: Thursdays are open to the public starting at 6:30 PM, though it’s more animated later on. You can also visit by appointment – information available on their website. I’ve walked from the metro to Flateurville solo before, but it feels more comfortable walking in that area with friends.

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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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