Sunday, 6 February 2011

Summer in Paris

Back in the summer, I decided to make a little trip to Paris to catch up on the Lucian Freud exhibition at the Pompidou Centre. Freud is a national treasure, our greatest living artist, so it was exciting to see his work showcased. I got the cheapest Eurostar ticket I could find (something like 5.20am, which meant I left home at 3am) and headed out there. It was a packed couple of days.
I was triggered to write this blog as the Tate (Britain) is currently showing a small gallery of Freud’s work as part of their pre-refurb exhibition, focusing on British art over the last 150 years or so. Well worth a visit. Especially if you like Bacon, Nicholson, Hepworth, Moore, Sickert and other great British stars. This finishes sometime in February I believe.
So while in Paris… I overdosed on art. I’d never been to the Musee D’Orsay before for instance and there was some amazing stuff in there, but I found the place totally overwhelming. The modern art museum however is outwardly slightly shabby and inwardly more accessible, I really loved the graffiti on this statue outside. It enhanced her.

Inside was one of Louise Bourgeois giant spider sculptures, there is a lady walking in the background to give a sense of scale and no, she wasn’t injected with venom and devoured, if she was, I’d have filmed it. Poignantly, Bourgeois had died a few weeks earlier. This spider wasn’t as immense as the one which stood outside the Tate Modern a couple of years ago when she had an exhibition there.

As well as the Freud exhibition, there was also a Munch exhibition in town.

As memories all merge into one, I can’t remember which order I did everything…. I was there for two long days. Galleries galore. My only fixed memory is of the one night I stayed out there, having a massive steak and watching a world cup match with my brother who was out there on business.
I also visited the catacombs, I got there late, 4pm, the staff were telling everyone there would be no chance of making it as the queue was so long. But I persevered and I was last one in! The american guy behind me, where the cut off took place, thought he was snoop dogg and was shouting “you cocksmokers!” at the French staff who just shrugged gallic-ally. But he wasn’t allowed in. I was. This also meant I could loiter until everyone pissed off so I could take photos on my own.
The catacombs is consecrated ground, the bodies of the poor within them were exhumed and moved from old plots to make room for more burials. Only the rich could afford their own permanent burial space. And so, this space (once used as a stone mine) was filled up, the bones arranged creatively.
It made me think about some bored monks, pulling this all together. And of horse drawn carts full of dug up bones, poured into the tunnel system below, so a single skeleton could end up over several locations in the network. Slightly disturbing. It wasn’t a frightening place in any way, but it did make me think.