New York Arts in Paris

Le Salon du Dessin 2012 – UPDATE: Jorinde Voigt has won the Contemporary Drawing Prize of the Daniel & Florence Guerlain Art Foundation.

Jorinde Voigt, 55 Views Blue, 2011 , Coloured paper, pencil, ink on watercolour paper, 140 x 200 cm, Galerie Bernd Klüser GmbH, Munich. Collection Florence and Daniel Guerlain, Les Mesnuls.

Knowing the Salon du Dessin at first hand, and contemplating its 2012 iteration, I find myself thinking back on on the world of master drawings as it was when I first entered it in 1980 and how it has changed over the years. Attended by over 13,000 people in 2010, the Salon is a large, public event which spans five days. It brings together the larger part of the world’s curators, scholars, collectors, and dealers in the field in a busy, but rarely overcrowded public space, the Palais de la Bourse. One can survey the available stock at the dealers’ stands, attend conferences, lectures, and guided tours, visit exhibitions at the Bourse and at Paris museums, as well as satellite enterprises around the Hôtel Drouot, where drawings can be had at auction, and further afield. There is a wealth of opportunities to learn about drawings, as well as to collect them. In 1980, no one thought that a fair of this size might ever exist in the field, and in its early years, during the 1990s, no one ever thought it would grow to these dimensions.

Doisneau: Paris Les Halles at the Hôtel de Ville (English Version)

Les filles au diable, 1933. © Atelier Robert Doisneau.

To judge from the enormous queue in front of the Hôtel de Ville to get into this magnificent exhibition of Doisneau’s photographs, there remains a Les Halles shaped void in the Parisian heart. There is perhaps no real place in Paris which exerts such fascination as the memory of Les Halles, “le ventre de Paris.” Of all the wounds inflicted on the city during the same period, from the rive gauche expressway (1967) to the Tour Montparnasse (1973), perhaps none was so psychically damaging as the closing of Les Halles in 1969. There was something intimate about this particular blow; it was literally a punch to the stomach, a bureaucratic meddling with the primal, particularly in France, human need for nourishment.

Doisneau: Paris Les Halles à l’Hôtel de Ville (version française)

Les filles au diable, 1933. © Atelier Robert Doisneau.

Devant l’Hôtel de Ville l’énorme file d’attente pour cette exposition magnifique des photos de Doisneau atteste qu’il reste toujours un trou des Halles béant dans le coeur parisien. Probablement aucune autre lieu parisien soustrait autant de fascination que la mémoire des Halles, “le ventre de Paris.” Peut-être la différence entre la fermeture des Halles en 1969 et les autres blessures urbaines de cet époque, parmi eux la voie express rive gauche (1967) et la tour Montparnasse (1973), est sa qualité autant psychique que physique. Cette perte avait quelque chose d’intime, une véritable tape au ventre par les fonctionnaires anonymes contre le besoin humain de la nourriture.

The Skin of this Onion is Delicious: Learning from Rue Rebière (English Version)

Logements (Raphaëlle Hondelatte & Mathieu Laporte), rue Rebière, Paris. Photo © 2012 Alan Miller.

If Paris is a city shaped like an onion, formed of concentric rings as fortifications have been demolished and extended, then the site of the new îlot expérimental on Rue Rebière in the 17th arrondissement is the thin membrane just beneath the outer skin. The site is 620 meters long and only 12.6 meters wide, wedged between the Cimetière des Batignolles and the rue itself, which is what one might call a quiet street, or perhaps one too shy or cranky to admit cross-streets. Beyond the cemetery the Périphérique roars along a viaduct while on the other side of the street stands the rather impassive Lycée Balzac, not awful, not particularly inviting. It’s exactly the sort of unlovely site a young architect ought to love, particularly for housing, particularly for the social housing which has now been built here.

La peau de cet oignon est délicieuse: les leçons de la Rue Rebière (version française)

Logements (Raphaëlle Hondelatte & Mathieu Laporte), rue Rebière, Paris. Photo © 2012 Alan Miller.

Si Paris est une ville qui, grâce à ses fortifications successives, imite la forme d’un oignon, le site du nouveau îlot expérimental dans la rue Rebière au dix-septième arrondissement de Paris serait la dernière membrane avant la peau. Le site est 620 mètres de long sur 12.6 mètres de large, coincé entre la Cimetière des Batignolles et la rue Rebière, une rue peut-être trop timide ou même grincheuse à admettre les rues transversales. Au nord du cimetière gronde la Périphérique sur un viaduc et sur l’autre côté de la rue est le lycée Balzac, un bâtiment pas terrible, mais pas terriblement accueillant. C’est, en bref, exactement le genre de site à séduire un jeune architecte, particulièrement pour les logements et surtout les logements sociaux.

A New Permanent Exhibition at the Pavillon de l’Arsenal, Paris (English Version)

Flower Tower (2004), ZAC Porte d’Asnières, Paris, Edouard François, architecte. Notez le eucalyptus dans le parc devant! Photo © 2012 Alan Miller.

One arrives in a city and what to make of it all? Everything is either small or larger or noisier or quieter than you expected. In reaction, one seeks out the history of a place. In Paris, one of the best places to start to understand the city’s architectural history is the Pavilion de l’Arsenal, which has recently redone its permanent exhibition, Paris, la métropole et ses projets. One of the unique aspects of Paris is the way the many museums, at least the national ones, are meant to fit neatly together like Métro carriages. The Musée d’Orsay (freshly renovated) takes over from the Louvre in the revolutionary year of 1848, followed in turn by the Centre Pompidou and so on. But there are always pieces left over, with enough overlap to resist any amount of fist pounding. For Paris enthusiasts there is the Musée Carnavalet on the history of the city and for architecture and urbanism there is the Arsenal and the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine at the Trocadero. In comparison, the Arsenal is more contemporary, more open-ended, more Paris-focused and perhaps less concerned with monumentality.

Une nouvelle exposition permanente à la Pavillon de l’Arsenal (version française)

Le Pavillon de l’Arsenal, Paris. Photo © 2012 Alan Miller.

On arrive dans une ville, et comment la comprendre? C’est toujours plus petite ou plus grande, plus bruyante ou plus calme qu’on l’avait entendu. On recherche, instinctivement, l’histoire des lieux. À Paris, la Pavillon de l’Arsenal vient de refaire leur exposition permanente, Paris, la métropole et ses projets. À Paris les plusieurs musées, au moins les musées nationaux, s’emboîtent comme les rames du Métro. Le Musée d’Orsay (aussi renouvelé) commence où finit le Louvre dans l’année révolutionnaire de 1848, et puis le Centre Pompidou continue des 1914 à nos jours. Mais avec tant des musées il y a toujours les rames qui restent, libres peut-être. qui restent, libres peut-être. Pour les amateurs de Paris il y a le Musée Carnavalet de l’histoire de la ville et sur le plan architectural et urbaniste nous avons l’Arsenal et la Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine au Trocadero. Par rapport au Trocadero, l’Arsenal s’agit plus de Paris et en particulière sa architecture moderne et contemporaine.

Marcel Storr, bâtisseur visionnaire, English Version

Marcel Storr, sans titre 47 - crédit Liliane et Bertrand Kempf

One draws cities for practical and for visionary reasons. Whatever they may draw as preparation, usually builders are preoccupied with cities that can be built and lived in. As in New York, where there is not much difference between the drawings of Hugh Ferriss and the Chrysler or Empire State buildings, in Paris the difference between the visionary city and the one which exists is less clear than in other places. Haussmann’s projects were, for better and worse, the personal dreams of an imagination pierced by perfect boulevards. The Haussmannian approach was a response to practical needs which nonetheless expressed a very particular aesthetic, more even than the projects completed by Robert Moses in New York. The transformations which took place in Paris under the Second Empire, or even some of the grands travaux of the 1980s, were not far from the drawings of a visionary such as Marcel Storr. Consider the Bibliothèque François Mitterand, a strange building all the stranger for pretending to be rationalist. Once built these projects show us the joys and perils of visionary urbanism.

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