It’s Paris. You Don’t Come Here for the Weather. But, You Do Come for the Art and the Oysters! (Among Other Things)
“It’s Paris. You don’t come here for the weather.”
This quote has been attributed to me on thousands of websites. Pretty funny, right? But, you do come for everything else it has to offer. One of the main reasons I came here time and time again, and live here now, is to take advantage of the art and culture of which the city exudes.
MONET WITHOUT THE MITCHELL WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER (FOR ME)
Everyone said that the Monet-Mitchell exhibition at the Fondation Louis Vuitton museum was a MUST SEE. So, we went. It wasn’t easy to get tickets on a weekend, but we managed it.
It takes a bit of effort to get to the museum—an architectural work of art by Frank Gehry—from a Métro or bus to the shuttle at the Etoile, so without a car or a taxi, you need a bit of time. Truth is, if you can splurge for a taxi, it’s worth it. At this age, and with transportation costs a fraction of what they would be Stateside, I do that more and more often. Either way, to go to the Fondation Louis Vuitton, one needs a block of time. For me, that’s not usually so available. But, they said it was a MUST SEE, so I needed to see it, and so we went.
The weather was…Paris weather. The kind I wrote that quote about. It was drizzly damp, like being inside of a cloud; cold, but feeling colder than it really was because of the dampness and gray—that gray that is just everywhere you look, not just the color of the sky, which is a flat gray/white tone that even painters find hard to reproduce. Everything in Paris is gray now, including most of the apartment doors (why do they insist on changing the once beautiful burgundies, winter greens and navy blues to gray or “greige?”), the garbage cans, the Parisians’ attire, etc., etc. I’ve often wondered why Parisians, who live in such a gray world, don’t want to inject some color into their lives, but over the years, I’ve watched it get grayer and grayer. (I will leave this topic for another time…)
By the time we arrived at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in the tiny shuttle bus from avenue Friedland, the windows had fogged up so we had no view to speak of. A light drizzle was coming down. We were directed to stand in a line for those who had tickets at the 30-minute mark, as we were 30 minutes early. Forty minutes later—standing outside holding umbrellas as closely as we could—we were very damp, and very cold, huddling close like everyone else, we finally entered the museum.
The museum website claims “The exhibitions ‘Monet – Mitchell’ create an unprecedented ‘dialogue’ between the works of two exceptional artists, Claude Monet (1840-1926) and Joan Mitchell (1925-1992). The ‘Monet – Mitchell’ exhibitions present each artist’s unique response to a landscape and nature, illustrated in a particularly immersive manner. In his last paintings, the Water Lilies, Monet aimed to recreate in his studio the motifs he observed at length on the surface of his waterlily pond in Giverny. Joan Mitchell, on the other hand, would explore a memory or a sense of the emotions she felt while in a particular place that was dear to her, perceptions that remained vivid beyond space and time. She would create these abstract compositions at La Tour, her studio in Vétheuil, a small French village.”
(Here’s an interesting article about the house and their lives there)
I have never been a fan of the garble the curators write about the works on display because as much as they try to make sense of an artist’s work, there is no sense to it. Ask any real artist if they actually think about their creativity and they will tell you that it’s exactly the opposite —thinking has nothing to do with their creativity. They just do what they do because they can’t not do it! And they are certainly not thinking of any of the garble the curators eventually spew out about the work. I’ve become very cynical on this topic and wish they would stop trying to figure out what went on in the artists’ minds as they were painting, or sculpting or photographing…or whatever media they are using…because there is no way they could possible know!
Anyway, I digress…this was certainly the case with Monet and Mitchell. In fact, I found everything to love about Monet’s lilies and everything to dislike about Mitchell’s abstract broad-brushed frenetic canvases. I found her color palette (of almost all of the canvases) disharmonious and repulsive, her brush movement angry and violent, and not at all as engaging as Monet’s delicate and peaceful renditions of his Giverny garden. I understood why the curators felt compelled to juxtapose the works, but was it a MUST SEE? Not for me.
If you read our Nouvellettres® regularly, then you know that I am rarely critical when it comes to art exhibitions, as taking in all the art that is available in Paris (and elsewhere in France) is my “raison d’être.” It’s rare for me to have such a strong reaction, but this one seriously affected me. Maybe it was the cold, wet wait outside that affected my viewpoint, or just the obvious: Monet you can stare at all day long and find every canvas more beautiful the more you stare, while Mitchell’s just let you walk away feeling nothing, as if you hadn’t seen them, you’d still have a very full and enriched life.
The exhibition is on until February 27th, if you MUST SEE what I’m talking about! And even if you don’t find the exhibition as interesting as my friends did, you will love the museum itself, so be sure to visit every inch of it. And I do hope that when you go, the weather will be better!
Special note: try to book your visit for 1:45 p.m. so that you can go have lunch at “Frank,” the museum’s wonderful restaurant, before embarking on your adventure there.
THE OYSTER WAS OUR WORLD
Sunday the sun came out, as did the blue skies. No complaints, but surprised!
I hadn’t been to the Bastille Market in many a moon. It’s the biggest market in Paris, and could easily be the biggest in all of France.
I met up with a friend there to buy oysters on the half-shell along with some other goodies to take back to her apartment nearby and have lunch. She had never eaten oysters before, and wanted me to teach her how—I learned how to eat a raw oyster at the age of two (and love it).
I made the assumption that the purveyors of oysters would be prepared to shuck them, put them on a platter to go, and hand them over. I was wrong.
One vendor offers a “dégustation,” but only if you eat them standing at tables near their stall…otherwise they aren’t prepared to shuck them and send you off with your own platter. When we got that news, we went on a quest to find another oyster stall, but we quickly spotted a kitchen gadget seller who had a pan that I could use to either roast chicken or bring home a dozen-and-a-half shucked oysters. Perfect. That did the trick, so while we were shopping for all the other parts of our lunch, the oyster-seller was shucking our oysters and placing them on our roasting pan. After 20 minutes, we were home-bound with the oysters, boiled shrimp, sea snails, baguette and the fixin’s for a salad.
Our seafood lunch was perfect and crazy copious. These oysters were from Normandy and the “fatty” kind. The “vendeuse” (vendor) asked if I wanted oysters that were “gras” or…something else…not sure what she said in hindsight, but I asked if “gras” meant less salty, and so it does. These were not at all briny and more similar to the Gulf of Mexico oysters I grew up on, which I love. It turns out that Normandy oysters are flavorsome and fleshy, with a nutty taste.
We pigged out. The oysters were delicious. And I’ll be doing this again soon with my friends from Ann Arbor, with whom we have this tradition every Sunday while they are in Paris. This year, I will encourage them to try the fatty kind!
Note: Oysters are low in calories yet loaded with nutrients, including protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals and omega-3 fatty acids. They’re particularly high in vitamin B12, zinc, and copper.
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group®
P.S. Curious about who will be presenting at next month’s Aprés-Midi? You don’t have to wait until we announce it, you can look into the future right now! Visit our Aprés-Midi page to see who will be there in 2023.
Ref. your story about the Monet-Mitchell exhibition at Fondation Louis Vuitton, we absolutely agree with your comments and assessment of this exhibition. We saw a number of Mitchell’s works when we were in Paris back in late Sept. ’22 at the Musee Marmottan-Monet, (they were also juxtaposed with works by Monet) and we were glad we did, as we’d intended to head to the Fondation L.V. to see the exhibition there. As you found, we were totally unmoved, and in fact, quite turned off Mitchell’s style and general approach to painting. How anyone in their right mind could put her work alongside that of Monet and think them a fair or viable comparison is a mystery! Like yourself, we are art lovers and even if we don’t care for an artist’s actual style or subject matter, we can usually see some sort of artistic merit. With Michell’s work, that’s certainly not the case–in fact, we loathed it! Love your Nouvellettres, Best regards, Cheryl & Graham B
I love the Bastille Market and always go when in Paris and eat oysters standing at one of those tables. A fun treat. Am leaving for a few days in New Orleans next week and can’t wait to eat my share of gulf oysters, the first I ever ate and where I fell in love with them. Plan to eat lots of good food as I haven’t been there for 20 years. I have a picture of me outside Lafitte’s every time I’m there starting in 1962.
Normandy Oysters are the best! My mouth was watering. Have a great visit with your friends from Ann Arbor. It is one of our favorite towns and only 20 minutes from us!
All the best,
Nina from Howell, MI
For me, the best way to get to the Fondation Louis Vuitton is to take Metro line1 to Les Sablons station and then walk to the Fondation following the signs. It is a lovely 10-minute walk along the edge of the Bois de Boulogne.
Yes, on a nice day that’s a great way to travel. The little bus, since it drops you by the door is appreciated when it’s a damp.
So sorry to hear about the exhibit. We were back in Paris in October and had reservations for the Louvre. They’ve changed how they do things, and we had to wait outside for almost an hour before getting admitted ( what’s the point if you still have to wait in line soo long?). When we went in, it was packed. – it looked like someone had kicked over an ant hill. Munch was the star exhibit, & I was so disappointed. His paintings left me beyond cold. We usually spend a few hours when there; think we left after an hour at the most.
The other difference was the bicycles – nearly got run over at least once a day. Our friend in Paris said they changed the rules for them- they’re worse in Paris than in Amsterdam!
Yes, there were lots of tourists in Paris last year and the bicycles are a nightmare!
My daughter and I saw the Mitchell -Monet show last November at the L. Vuittan Museum–
Loved the Mitchell’s! (To each his own….)
C. Clark, Los Angeles
I share Adrian’s pain. Grey. We have a holiday home overlooking Westernport Bay. Truly the best location in the place. But…..it is in a row of 19, hence the owners corporation
The Chair, an extremely nasty and unimaginative woman, wanted grey, so instead of collaboration she decided on grey grey and grey. The main grey was a pale insipid colour. Many blindly followed. I’m unsure if they look like a row of factories , or bunkers to keep out the invaders.
Fortunately she couldn’t get the colours registered, so some of us painted in harmony with nature.
And the Paris weather is a tad more stable than Melbourne. It is summer. One day 19 degrees, with a freezing wind. The next day 36.