A Renaissance Under Blue Parisian Skies
Parler Paris–your taste of life in Paris and France
Monday, September 19, 2005
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I remember the first time I entered the Grand Palais. It was in October of 1993 for the International Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC). The many-stories-high thumb sculpture by Cesar (that now sits at La Défense) was out front marking the entrance. The interior of the building was more impressive than the art inside. The voluminous metal and glass roof drew your eyes up, up and beyond while the creative works below were vying for attention rather desperately.
Built for the World Fair of 1855 and inspired by the Crystal Palace in London, during World War II, the Grand Palais was bombarded then transformed into a truck depot. In 1962, André Malraux created the National Galeries of the Grand Palais in the northern section of the building — installed an architectural school, a faculty of arts and sciences and the Regional Direction of Cultural Affairs for the Ile de France. It was closed the month just after the FIAC I attended in November of 1993 following the drop of a rivet on from the framework of the nave 35 meters high and in November of 2000, it was classified as an Historical Monument.
Renovation to the massive structure began in October of 2001 and has involved 1,500 workers. A new foundation was laid consisting of 3,400 pilings made of oak (replacing 152 original pilings made of pine). The metal frames of the nave weigh 9,000 tons compared to the 12,000 at the Musée d’Orsay (once the Gare d’Orléans) and 7,000 at the Eiffel Tower.
The first phase of renovation was completed for a glorious reopening during Les Journées du Patrimoine this past Saturday. Thousands of visitors flowed through its doors to witness its renaissance under bright and sunny skies. Ethereal music filled the billowing space and set the surrealistic mood. Hanging under mirrored panels in the center (so all sides are visible) are two globes created by Franciscan Monk Vincenzo Coronelli, commissioned by Cardinal d’Estrées, an ambassador of Louis XIV, between 1681 and 1683. They are the largest of their kind, measuring 4.87 meters in diameter and considered to be the most beautiful ever created. One represents the earth, the other outer space (“Terrestre et Céleste”). The spheres will eventually make their way to the West Hall of the Bibliotèque Nationale François-Mitterand planned for 2006.
There were more than 2500 monuments and sites open during the two days of Les Journées du Patrimoine all over France. At the temporary “librairie” in one corner of the Grand Palais, I purchased a tome titled “Le Guide du Patrimoine en France” listing all 2500 of them. I didn’t manage to make them all on Sunday afternoon, but to visit even a small portion of them will make for a lifetime of pleasure.
A la prochaine…
P.S. This year’s FIAC (the 32nd) will take place October 6 to 10 at the Paris Exhibition Center, Porte de Versailles, in halls 4 and 5.1. Some 207 galleries (almost a quarter of them are new to FIAC) will exhibit, with 26 countries represented by 113 foreign galleries, 99 of which are from France. For more information, visit http://www.fiacparis.com
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======== Inside This Week’s =======
* Francois’ Follies PART I
“The idea that Paris in a century or two could become the privileged enclave of Japanese tour operators is a thought that makes Mitterrand bristle.” Luc Tessier, director of the Coordinating Body of Les Grands Projets, 1988…Subscribers Read On…
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A Renaissance Under Blue Parisian Skies
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