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Following Obama from Berlin to Paris

While the illustrious U.S. President and his family were working their way to Germany in honor of “Jour-J” (“D-Day”) and making a visit to the Buchenwald concentration camp on Friday, we were soaking up Berlin photographic art oblivious to the important anniversary of the Normandy landings during World War II.

The first stop was the Helmut Newton Museum to which we paid two visits in the course of the three days — first to see his private collection and second to see its newest exhibition. If you don’t know Newton’s work, think sex, think fashion, think dark, in that Germanic way that so many have tried to copy, but can’t effectively imitate. There is no evidence of war in his work, except perhaps a war between the confusion of sexes…women with men, women with women, women dressed as men, women undressed and dressed. There simply isn’t another Helmut Newton.

The Newton Bar is supposedly one of Berlin’s hippest spots, but at 12 noon on Friday, there were only two lone drinkers — a good looking man in dark glasses and a well dressed pretty young woman, not together, but looking as if they should be. Now we know that the cool corner bar was competing with Barack Obama’s attention by the press and the people.

The auction was held Thursday afternoon at Villa Grisebach, an establishment founded in early 1986 by five Berlin art dealers to support art of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries located just off the Kurfürstendamm. With a standing-room-only audience and a wide selection of photographic works on sale, my photo which had been featured on the back cover of the catalog and inserted as a fold-out poster, sold above the reserve as a result. There was a Newton photo in the collection, but it didn’t sell…surprisingly. A few pieces didn’t — works that were sure to fetch a handsome price, but were left unsold to be returned to their original owners. Throughout the bidding, my pulse was racing, my breathing shallow and I fought back the tears from the excitement as it moved quickly from one bidder to another, until the gavel struck “sold.” We left not long after, happy with the outcome and ready to see more of Berlin.

In the “Mitte” district, art abounds. You may want to pass it quickly as it can look quite foreboding, but don’t miss seeing the Art-Centre Tacheles. One could mistake it for a “squat” or a building soon to be demolished, but is instead a historical architectural monument in what was once the Jewish Quarter in East Berlin, now recognized for its 13 years of artist activities on an international scale.

Just down the street on Oranienburger Straße at Tucholskystraße is C/O Berlin, an International Forum for Visual Dialogues, in a building that once housed the Royal Post Office. There is an exhibition on titled “Visions of Our Time” until July 19th featuring the work of artists such as Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Sebastião Salgado and others.

Not to miss much, we took in a 3D film at the IMAX theater in the stunning new Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz before dinner and had an American-German culture clash that helped us understand the conflict during World War II.

We took seats in the theater, not realizing they were numbered…of course. Would an American think seats in a movie theater were assigned? No!, but when a family came along behind us and discovered we were in their seats, a bit of a row ensued between the father and my daughter. She, exclaiming, “But you have hundreds of seats to choose from!” He insisting, “But ‘das’ is my number!”…and so we moved ourselves and all belongings just two seats down! We chalked it up to our cultural differences and chuckled over it even days later.

Returning to Paris late Friday evening, not long after Mr. Obama and the First Family landed at Orly Airport, we came home to a city buzzing with excitement to get a glimpse of the man the French have come to revere. Traffic was tied up in knots all weekend long as security was tight and onlookers strained to see them. They dined Saturday evening at “La Fontaine de Mars,” one of my favorite bistros on rue Saint-Dominique near the Eiffel Tower (great Boudin Noir!) while we dined at one of my favorite neighborhood “dives” (with the best lamb chops in Paris) — “Le Felteu” at 15, Rue Pecquay, 4th (tell Jerry “Adrienne” sent you).

And then the weather turned cold and rainy, a carbon copy of Berlin’s gray days, but at least it was Paris, in all its beauty, great food and romantic pleasures.

Erica and Adrian in 3D Glasses at the IMAX, Sony Center, Berlin

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

P.S. Act now to book “Le Balcon Planté” luxury one-bedroom apartment during high season — from June 15 and all through August at a 20% discount. Plus visit Paris in August and take advantage of the lowest rental rates on all Parler Paris Apartments! Visit /parlerparis/apartments or email John at [email protected] for more information.

P.P.S. See you tomorrow at Parler Paris Après Midi! Don’t forget — 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at La Pierre du Marais. Visit /parlerparis/apresmidi.html for details.


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