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Culture in the Name of Paris

Alan Riding Interviewing Diane Johnson at the American Library in Paris
Alan Riding Interviewing Diane Johnson at the American Library in Paris

Because I’m spending more time in Nice and less time in Paris than in past years, I have to make the most of my time in the city that is a cultural Mecca. So, when I’m in the City of Light, I try to cram in as many events and exhibitions as I can. In fact, this is one of the reasons for having come to Paris in the first place—the unbelievable amount of cultural things there are to do, which in my opinion, rival other cities of similar stature: New York, London, Rome, etc.

There are approximately 136 museums within the Paris city limits. By comparison, says there are 83 museums in total among the five boroughs of New York. For art lovers, any of these cities will satisfy, but there’s something very special about seeing art and exhibitions in Paris that differs from the other cities—and that could be the way they are curated and executed.

I’ve seen photographer Steve McCurry’s work in other museums and venues, but never as beautiful and awe-inspiring as is the current exhibition at the Musée Maillol (on until Mary 29th). I had the distinct pleasure of hearing him speak at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP) a few years ago. My daughter (a photographer) visited his studio and lunched with him once. His work is both breathtaking and heart-wrenching.

Poster for the Steve McCurry photo Exhibition in Paris with his photo, Afghan Girl

What seriously put him on the map is his photo of an Afghan girl with piercing green eyes which has appeared on the cover of National Geographic several times. He took that photo in 1984, having been smitten by her beautiful eyes, without knowing anything about her. It was the first time she had ever been photographed. Seventeen years later, the National Geographic team ferreted her out and he photographed her again. McCurry said about her, “Her skin is weathered; there are wrinkles now, but she is as striking as she was all those years ago.”

Afghan Girl and Afghan Woman by Steve McCurry, photos taken 17 years apart

Afghan Girl and Afghan Woman by Steve McCurry, photos taken 17 years apart

What makes the exhibition even more special is the unique way in which the photos are presented. Each on its own, on a free-standing panel or on the wall; the walls a very dark gray, almost black; one single light shining on each one of the images. The images glow. The somber atmosphere creates a very hushed tone and you heard almost no voices. Either people were speechless or the atmosphere itself created the feeling that nothing should pierce the silence. On a Sunday afternoon, there were way too many people in the museum at once, so I’d urge you to pick another time if you can avoid the weekend. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t.)

Photos on display at the Steve McCurry exhibition in Paris

Photo of two african shirtless african boys rolling hoola hoops arcoss a dirt road, on display at the Steve McCurry exhition in Paris

No matter what you choose to see in Paris, don’t miss this one.

At the American Library last week, author Diane Johnson was interviewed by Alan Riding under the topic of “Homecoming in Changing Times.” Riding is no slouch himself, as an author and journalist. He was a long-time foreign correspondent for The New York Times and is currently the newspaper’s European Cultural Correspondent based in Paris. His latest book is And The Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris. But, he was acting as the interviewer of Ms. Johnson, an author we know best for her book Le Divorce which was later made into a film of the same name, directed by James Ivory and starring Kate Hudson and Naomi Watts with Leslie Caron. Other books of which you might be familiar include Le Mariage (2000), L’Affaire (2003) and Lulu in Marrakech (2008). She was a National Book Award finalist and the winner of the California Book Award gold medal for fiction for Le Divorce.

Book cover for Le Divorce, by Diane Johnson

I read Le Divorce during the throes of my divorce in 1997, which was quite poignant at the time. I came to know Diane just before it was published as she was active at the time in Democrats Abroad, as was I. I was there by invitation of Janet Hulstrand (author of Demystifying the French). Diane’s new book, Lorna Mott Comes Home, was being sold at the event by The Red Wheelbarrow and she was signing them. Of course, I got my personally autographed copy. (I urge you to buy an author’s book whenever you have the chance to have it signed. We need to support our favorite writers and this is a small gesture that means a lot.)

Diane Johnson with Janet Hulstrand

Diane Johnson with Janet Hulstrand

The cover for Lorna Mott Comes Home, by Diane Johnson

The event was private to library supporters, but was also available on Zoom, so if you couldn’t be there in person, you can join-in in other ways. To see upcoming events at The American Library in Paris, visit their website.

The Palais Galliera is paying Tribute to Alber Elbaz, an Israeli-born fashion designer who was the creative director of Lanvin in Paris from 2001 until 2015, after having done stints at a number of other fashion houses, including Geoffrey Beene, Guy Laroche, and Yves Saint Laurent. He founded the Richemont-backed label AZ Factory in 2019. He died of Covid-19 on in April last year at the American Hospital at the age of 59.

Alber Albaz's face superimpose on a designer gown on exhibit at the Galliera in Paris

Forty-five of his fellow-designers worked very quickly to amass this amazing exhibition, “Love Brings Love”—each to create one single outfit in his memory, to be inspired by their relationship with the designer. The collection was first shown as a fashion show in Paris before the fashions were staged on mannequins at the Palais Galliera for all of us to see. It is clear he was loved and admired by the most illustrious in the industry.

Designer gowns inspired by Alber Elbas on exhibit at the Galliera in Paris

While you’re loving every moment of fashion fun in honor of Elbaz, be sure to visit the garden level of the Palais Galliera where for the first time in the history of the museum, the new galleries offer you a unique look at the history of fashion, from the 18th-century to the present day, through a renewed tour of their collections.

Designer gowns inspired by Alber Elbas on exhibit at the Palais Galliera in Paris

On a totally different note, our ability to enjoy outdoor-dining in cold weather has come to an end, as the outdoor restaurant terrace heaters were banned in France as of April 1st. The measure is expected to save 500,000 tons of CO2 each year. When Covid-19 hit, the heaters were our godsend, enabling us to dine outdoors even in inclement cold weather. They wanted to enforce it a year ago, but postponed the inevitable. So now that we can safely be indoors once again, the ban is in full force. There are a few exceptions, however—”the closed tents of circuses and fairground activities; covered and closed mobile installations for temporary cultural, sporting or festive events; waiting areas in stations, ports and airports; bars, cafes, restaurants whose terraces are entirely ‘covered and closed on their sides by solid walls connected by an airtight joint to the upper wall.’”

Photo copyright by Lisa Anselmo for Save the Paris Café

Photo copyright by Lisa Anselmo for Save the Paris Café

To reduce carbon emissions, we must pay the price. Those who violate the law will face fines of up to €1,500 for a first offense.

My advice: go to warm museums instead and leave the smokers to the cold outdoor tables!

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds at the McCurry Exhibition, photo by Brenda Prowse Adrian at the McCurry Exhibition, photo by Brenda Prowse

P.S. If you wish to be informed personally when our shares of the next Fractional Ownership properties go up for sale, email us today.


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