postcards from paris

What a fashion designer can teach us about the display of contemporary art, by Vivian Sky Rehberg.

Exhibition view of ‘Dries van Noten: Inspirations’, 2014, at Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris. Courtesy: Dries Van Noten and Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris; photograph: Luc Boegly
Exhibition view of ‘Dries van Noten: Inspirations’, 2014, at Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris. Courtesy: Dries Van Noten and Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris; photograph: Luc Boegly

Ah, the cliché of a Parisian summer! I’m writing this in August, when locals have fled and tourists wander around in droves, only to find boutiques and boulangeries closed. Department stores, museums and cultural landmarks, however, are wide open and ready for business.

This year, though, visitors may have noticed more Parisians around than usual, some grumbling about the stagnant economy and high unemployment. They also may have encountered protests over the Israeli offensive into Gaza, concern about Ukraine and heated debates around anti-Semitism. They may have already heard that President François Hollande is beleaguered by personal intrigues and political setbacks. Still, if visitors missed all that, they surely caught the major headlines announcing that there are rats, RATS!, infesting the Tuileries Garden just outside the Louvre. So much for that picnic, chéri, let’s go inside and watch Ratatouille instead.

Granted, it’s not that hard to overlook the grittier realities of Paris, especially in summer. The seductive splendour of the city’s art and architecture – from the 17th century Place des Vosges nestled in the Marais, to the belle époque architecture of the Musée d’Orsay – can feel like a museum. And one would be hard-pressed to find direct links between the current state of contemporary French society and the world at large in the exhibitions in major cultural institutions in Paris. At the Centre Georges Pompidou was a show of documentation related to the formative exhibition ‘Magiciens de la Terre’ (1989) and a retrospective of Martial Raysse, a supposedly under-recognized …

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Vivian Sky Rehberg is a contributing editor of frieze and course director of the Master of Fine Art at the Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

 

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