Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Frank Gehry's Fondation Louis Vuitton

John and I couldn't miss a visit to Paris' latest art museum, the Fondation Louis Vuitton. Celebrity architect, Frank Gehry has designed a striking home for the Vuitton collection on the edge of the Jardin Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne.
John thinks Gehry's building looks like two upside down ships with their sails in the ground. It reminded me of a grander vision of the glass, wood and metal sail that adorns his renovation of the Art Gallery of Ontario in our hometown, Toronto.
Since the line-up for the new museum is long and slow moving we were glad when staff offered us umbrellas to protect us from the sun.
The structure is surrounded by a below grade moat.
The Vuitton collection is still being installed and the temporary collection was almost non-existent so we were less than thrilled that the Fondation still charged a full admission price (14 euros!).
John and I rode an escalator to see a temporary collection of world contemporary art in the windowless basement.
 Then we climbed upward in a mostly unsuccessful attempt to see some of the Vuitton collection.
As Bruno, one of our Parisian hosts, had warned us, the "artist" on show was essentially Mr Gehry. One climbs into his building as if it was a walk-in sculpture -- all glass, wood and metal fittings.
We found amazing views of the pleasure garden with its boat rentals, carrousels and bandstands and Paris beyond
but only the odd piece of Vuitton collection on view, always in small hard to find galleries. This is Thomas Schütte's sculpture, Mann im Matsch [Man in Mud], 2009.
Ellsworth Kelly's Spectrum VIII, 2014, in the Auditorium.
The proximity of the pleasure gardens, the Jardin Acclimatation,  outside the Fondation suggested to me that perhaps Gehry was trying to create an "art playground" with layered levels. Perhaps that will be the case one day, but at the moment we were disappointed with the odd layout of the building.
The far end of the museum where Olafur Oliasson's Grotto begins is fun
because there is a wading pool for kids across from the Grotto's reservoir. We thought that it related well to the Jardin Acclimatation and was a concrete enticement for  people to visit.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Olafur Eliasson's Grotto

Our favourite piece of art at the Fondation Louis Vuitton is Eliasson's Grotto built into the basement of Frank Gehry's building.
It begins as a cascade of irregular waves from the children's wading pool just outside the building.
The cascade flows into a basin at the foot of the art gallery
and leads to the "grotto" area lined with mirrors and yellow backlit panels.
In the grand style of grottos visitors become part of the grotto's entertainment.
John catches me catching the museum guard walking along the narrow walkway between
the mirrors and the water channel.
The pictorial possibilites seem endless.
Olafur Eliasson's work is always a pleasure.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Les Passages, Paris

Do you know of the Passages of Paris? Early versions of shopping malls -- covered shopping streets from the 18th and 19th centuries.
John and I started our tour of the passages at the courtyard garden of the Palais-Royal. Any excuse to visit those gardens! I like to think of the ghosts of Colette and Jean Cocteau looking down at us from their fabled apartments here.
 I sat down to compare the map of a passage tour I'd clipped from our Paris guide book with my trusty little Knopf fold-out Map Guide. 
It's all very civilized and relaxed in that space. But off we go!
 We enter the doorway of Passage Vivienne and discover the most luxurious of the passages
-- an elegant world of shops and cafes.
 At this arch we find a bookstore -- the Librarie Ancienne & Moderne.
 John was mesmerized by the books in the windows. Unfortunately the shop wasn't open but we will return one day.
It was Colette's favourite bookstore.
 A short walk along another street brought us to Passage Choiseul.
 A much more pragmatic, spare feel to the halls.
 Lots of Middle Eastern and South Asian eateries.
When we got to the exit from the Choiseul
we stopped for espressos at a bar beside the exit doors.
 The Passage Jouffrey was right across the street from the Choiseul.
 It had art galleries
 and nice looking restaurants.
We'll come back one day and try some of them.
 When we left the Jouffrey passage we were confronted by a huge Netflix ad for Orange is the New Black, featuring live models in orange outfits.
 Our next doorway led to the Passage Verdeau, the last of this tour.
 This passage was funky and nicely lit
 and was a haven for bookstores
 and little cafes.
 This is Librarie J.M. Danton.
 We'll definitely come back to Passage Verdeau.
The Verdeau hallway opens into Rue du Faubourg Montmartre. There are several metro stops nearby.