New York Arts in Paris

Paris aime la photographie I

Although Photo Month in Paris is November, exhibitions of emerging and renowned photographers seem to take place regularly throughout the city. If you are traveling to Paris, here are a few that will take you off the hard worn museum path and are worth the exploration.

Perhaps the premier outlet for photography in Paris, and an important venue for experimentation in the medium throughout Europe, is the Maison Européenne de la Photographie. Situated conveniently between the Pont-Marie and the St. Paul metro stops, it is just a block’s walk north from the Seine. Through mid-June, there are a variety of solo photo exhibitions on each of the gallery’s floors.

La Nuit des Musées, Paris

Leonardo da Vinci, The Madonna and Child with St. Anne. Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Each year, there is a cultural event in Europe, La Nuit des Musées, when for one Saturday night in mid-May participating museums throughout Europe are open free and late.

If you are in Europe in May it is an event definitely worth investigating, if not for the opportunity to enter museums free of charge then for the sheer experience of some of the world’s most famous museums after hours, surrounded by more locals than tourists. Another plus is that as part of the event, many of the museums have special events, such as concerts and guided tours. Attending, however, requires special planning. Paris, the city where I was located during their La Nuit des Musées, had 45 participating venues with 179 events. I utilized roughly the entire time span of the event, 6pm – 1am, and managed four venues.

Some Paris Parks (English Version)

Les arbres rectilignes, mid-February. Photo © 2012 Alan Miller.

Writing about parks is more fun than writing about buildings. Parks are unpredictable, not so harnessed to the auteur system as buildings. The designer of a park is never so powerful as nature, who always has her say at the drawing board. Many building are most beautiful on the day they are finished but a brand new park, as Ronald Reagan said of the USA, has its best days ahead of it. Depending on how well they are built, buildings deteriorate or age while parks grow like living creatures from one day to the next and across the seasons. I would bet that many city-dwellers’ happiest memories take place in parks. They seem to be the most, and perhaps the last, mirthful places left in today’s cities. Rather than the ritualized coffee-drinking and passeggiate of the piazza, parks encourage an amplitude of movement and feeling. Down at the park a runner might push himself to exhaustion, a picnicker might scrub time watching an ant abscond with a crumb. Beyond their ecological benefits, parks are essential to our own well-being, our dignity even. In a park, as in a library, everyone is rich.

Quelques parcs parisiens (version française)

Les arbres rectilignes, mid-February. Photo © 2012 Alan Miller.

Les parcs m’intéressent plus que les bâtiments. Les parcs sont imprévisibles, ils évitent la politique des auteurs qui entravent l’architecture. L’auteur d’un parc n’est jamais plus puissant que la nature qui a toujours son mot à dire à travers les ans et les saisons. Les parcs viellissent un peu comme les êtres vivants. Un bâtiment est souvent plus beau le jour de son achèvement alors que un parc flambant neuf a ses meilleures années à venir, comme Ronald Reagan a dit à propos des États-Unis. Je ne seriais pas surpris si la plupart des meilleurs souvenirs des citoyens se passent dans les parcs. Ils semblent quelquefois les plus joyeux endroits de nos villes—et peut-être les derniers. Les parcs encouragent une ampleur de sentiment qu’on ne retrouve que rarement dans les rues. Dans le parc un coureur peut pousser son corps au maximum lorsque un pique-niqueur passe la journée en regardant les fourmis volant les miettes de pain. Dans le parc, tout le monde est riche.

Opera Houses in the City, Part II: The Opéra Bastille (English Version)

L'Opéra Bastille. Photo © Alan Miller 2012.

What does it matter what you say about buildings? Is it possible to be fascinated by a building without thinking it very good, or even without knowing whether it is good or not? I’m not talking about the architectural equivalent of a guilty pleasure, a treat which would have to be triple-Z grade  lousy indeed to cause genuine shame in a time in which you can watch Plan 9 from Outer Space at the Cinemathèque Française. I’m talking of course about the Opéra Bastille, a building which this sentence will not even attempt to sum up.

Les opéras en contexte, deuxième partie: l’Opéra Bastille (version française)

L'Opéra Bastille. Photo © Alan Miller 2012.

What does it matter what you say about buildings? Est-ce qu’il existent des bâtiments mauvais ou médiocres qui nous fascinent quand-même?  Je ne parle pas des “guilty pleasures,” une tendance devenue si quotidienne qu’on peut voir Plan 9 from Outer Space à la Cinémathèque Française. Je parle, bien sûr, de l’Opéra Bastille, une édifice qui résiste à chaque tentative de la décrire ainsi.


Opera Houses in the City, Part I: The Palais Garnier (English Version)

Un paon au parc de Bagatelle. Photo © Alan Miller 2012.

Imagine a peacock at the Paris Opéra. Having taken the Métro eastwards from his digs in the heavenly Parc de Bagatelle, he passes the intermission munching an eight euro canapé. As we stare at the cultured bird, we find his feathers blurring into the architecture. Does the peacock, we wonder, prove that ornament is hard-wired into nature? This is not a “modernist” bird, a bird with clean lines and sharp edges like an Australian King Parrot. Like the Garnier, the patterns of the peacock’s plumage are subtle and layered, they seem to curl in on themselves until, through modern eyes, it is difficult to read in the ornament anything but beauty itself. This is a particular kind of beauty, one which provokes émerveillement rather than analysis.

Les opéras dans la ville, première partie: le Palais Garnier (version française)

Un paon au parc de Bagatelle. Photo © Alan Miller 2012.

Imaginez un paon à l’Opéra de Paris. Après avoir emprunté le Métro de son nid au parc Bagatelle, il passe l’entr’acte en mangeant un canapé de huit euros. Lorsque nous regardons cet oiseau cultivé, ses plumes commencent à se mêler avec l’architecture de Charles Garnier. Le paon est-il la preuve que l’ornement vient de la nature? Certes, il n’est pas un oiseau “moderniste,” ses couleurs ne sont pas aussi nettes, aussi précises que, par exemple, le perroquet roi d’Australie. Son plumage est comme le Palais Garnier, subtil, dépendant des effets de la lumière et son grain, autant que de la couleur. Pour nous dans le monde contemporain, les bâtiments si ornés sont quelquefois difficile à lire. Cette architecture d’autrefois excite les sentiments flous, l’émerveillement plutôt que l’analyse.

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