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A Paris Overload of the Visual Sense

While some Parisians were breathing in the intoxicating aroma of chocolate at the annual Salon du Chocolat this past weekend, I was soaking up art in many forms and flavors. There is simply so much of it to be absorbed this season that one might be concerned about overload of the visual senses.

The 33rd edition of the FIAC 2006 (Foire International d’Art Contemporain) is taking place in two venues this year — the Grand Palais and the Cour Carée du Louvre. The first time I visited the FIAC was long before moving to Paris; one of the last years to have taken place in the Grand Palais before it closed for renovation. FIAC boasts of having re-inaugurated the Grand Palais in 2005 only days after it reopened. This year it hosts 98 galleries on two levels in the overwhelmingly magnificent structure built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900 in stone, glass and steel architecture.

It was thrilling for me to walk through the main doors of the Grand Palais once again after such a long hiatus. The Art Nouveau architecture of this building of 240 meters long and 40 meters high with a glass roof of 15,000 square meters is an incomparable backdrop for the annual fair. While one is looking at the art on the temporary walls of the galleries and the sculptures on their pedestals, it is impossible for eyes not to be drawn to the stunning domed metal and glass window to the sun or star-lit sky, the elegant staircases and the massive power of the structure itself.

As my accompanying friend, with a history of the art industry in New York, remarked about the art, “There are lots of ‘old friends’ here,” meaning art and artists’ work with whom we are already familiar. True, and with that work we were made to feel comfortable and at home, yet, a few new and innovative breaks from tradition caught our attention. My three favorites were each very different — a photo/painting of what MUST be an American woman donning the grin that seems to be on the faces of most first-time Paris visitors’ with the tag line “I can’t believe I’m in Paris. I just can’t believe I’m in Paris,” a convex structure on which are painted doors that when photographed appear concave — a corridor down which to walk lined with doors leading to where know not and finally, a sculpture of about 2 feet long of a beautiful nude woman straddling a large cigar.

This is the first year that FIAC installed a itself in a second venue at the Cour Carrée of the Louvre in an “ephemeral transparent structure” of 5200 square meters in the center of the courtyard, housing 71 exhibitors. Lack of time prevented me from visiting it and today is the last day to visit either venue, and only until 5 p.m. If you are a fan of contemporary art, and enjoy the creative spirit and humor of the work as much as I do, then mark your calendars now for FIAC 2007 scheduled for October 18 -22. (Consult http://www.fiacparis.com for more information.)

In a completely different spirit, being a serious afficionado of photography, Sunday we headed to the Jeu de Paume on the northwestern corner of the Jardin des Tuileries to see Lee Friedlander’s photographs capturing the workaday side of American cities and daily life from the 1950s to now — a 50-year career expressed in 477 black and white photographs and six color images. This major retrospective was originally organized by the Museum of Modern Art of New York made possible by the William Randolph Hearst
Endowment Fund and presented at the Jeu de Paume under the auspices of The International Council, with the support of Neuflize Vie and the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre and in partnership with Télérama and France Info.

It would be tough to choose a favorite, as the work is filled with humor and an amazing clarity of what passes most of us by on a daily basis…but a close-up of a young Aretha Franklin (1968) begged me to take her home and hang her on the wall. Since that, unfortunately, wasn’t possible, instead, back home with friends, I took out my favorite Franklin CD, popped it in and turned up the volume so that with that image in my mind, I could imagine her and Lee Friedlander here with me in Paris.

The exhibit is on until December 31st of this year. (Consult http://www.jeudepaume.org/ for more information.) November marks the 14th edition of the biennial celebration of the photo as art known as “Mois de la Photo.” More than 101 exhibitions will take place throughout the month. In coordination with that, coming this November 11 – 14 at the Carrousel du Louvre will be the 8th Annual Paris Photo, the world’s leading photography fair with 105 galleries from 16 different countries. (Consult http://www.moisdelaphoto-off.org/ for more information.)

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]

P.S. Happy Halloween and reflective Toussaint, November 1st (All Saints Day), a holiday here in France. The Parler Parlor French-English Conversation Group will be open tomorrow night (Halloween) at La Pierre du Marais, but closed Wednesday for Toussaint. (Consult http://www.parlerparlor.com for more information.)

P.P.S. Rent the studio “Le Provençal” between November 16 and December 19 at special last-minute rates. Scroll down or visit /parlerparis/apartments/rentals/provencal.html for more information.

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