Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Grey Building for A Grey Day


I didn't so much have a bad day today as a day that feels quite overcast. The sky is quite overcast, which is perhaps why I feel this way. But I think primarily it's a matter of realising my own ideas about living in Paris probably won't match with the reality.

I was offered one job today and told that the company I interviewed with yesterday weren't interested in hiring me, which promptly had me questioning whether I was skilled enough to actually take the job I was offered, since they're similar positions. My main ideas about childcare in Paris are derived from the film 'Flight of the Red Balloon' and as I remember it the sky is often overcast in that film too. All the journalism positions I've seen advertised don't pay at all (which is usual when you're young but still depressing) and Paris is a really expensive city.

Anyway, I walked past a building today that I felt generally matched my mood: grey, interesting, unusual, but ultimately not much fun.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rodin's drawings: art, exercises or unexciting?

I've spent much of this week trying to set up a French bank account and rental insurance. The (lovely) woman who sets up accounts at the branch I walked into doesn't speak much English, which makes the process akin to the hardest French exam I ever took in high school. It's probably really good practice for me, though when my one and a half hour meeting yesterday ended with the instruction to come back in a week and a half I was so exhausted my mind looked for ways out of the next rendez-vous.

Interestingly, though, is the small talk. I was caught quite off-guard when Valerie's second sentence, after "did you bring your passport?" was "did you go to a museum this morning?"

She's never asked about what I studied and wouldn't really know that I go to an abnormally large number of museums, so I suspect it's just that in France there's more of a culture of going to museums on the days when one isn't at work. This ties in with the bizarrely long queue I saw stretching around the Hôtel de Ville for the Doisneau exhibition on Wednesday and the hour-long for the Cité de l'Architecture's Hôtel Particulier exhibition a few weeks ago.

I had presumed it was just that these shows were particularly popular (and it still might be, with regard to the queues), but I like that I'm now living in a country where bankers ask if you spent your morning at a museum.

I'd spent my morning sleeping, though, so I didn't know how to respond. Instead I resolved that I'd stop being so lazy and leave my flat instead of lying around reading the International Herald Tribune and so today I woke up and walked to the Musée Rodin to see 'Capturing the Model: 300 Drawings 1890-1917,' which closes on Monday.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I love Le Bon Marché, and Other Thoughts on Grand Magasins

When I first realised that the old 17th century building in which I was about to reside was within ten minutes walk of Le Bon Marché, my first thought was one of trepidation.

"Oh no," I thought. "I'm going to spend all my time and money at Le Bon Marché."

I think I was correct on the first part. I lasted all of three days in Paris before giving in to the psychological current pulling me down the Rue de Sèvres. I told myself I was going to open a bank account (and I did step into the bank, to my credit) and I somehow ended up at La Bon Marché.

It's still my first week so I probably can't give myself too much credit just yet, but I didn't spend all my money at Le Bon Marché. I realised, gliding up the escalator, that my salvation from extreme poverty lies in just how beautiful the store is; there's no product there that can tear my attention away from the building itself.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Neon, finally given the respect it deserves...


There aren't really any precedents for 'Neon: who's afraid of red, yellow and blue?' at Maison Rouge. As the introductory notes remind you, the first neon sign was ordered in Paris in 1912, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy recognised its artistic potential in the 1930s and neon really came of age in the sixties. Neon has been significant in the art world for a while, yet there haven't been a lot of shows about it.

Nonetheless, this exhibition didn't disappoint (and I had high expectations).

Fittingly, this exhibition begins with a 'TABAC' sign, albeit Franck Scurti's 2003 take on the icon from the 'Reflets' series. The focus is firmly on neon as art, looking primarily at the 1960s and the last ten years, organised thematically.

My love for neon (attested to by the fact that when I went to New York in December I spent the night before reading New York Neon and taking notes -if it wasn't stealing another's idea I'd write my blog about neon) meant that I was initially jumping up and down at every piece. But the thing about a whole exhibition on neon is that quickly the medium has its seductive/shocking value muted a bit and even the most hardened neon addict starts to think critically. If everything's neon, a work can no longer succeed just by being neon.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Yayoi Kusama at the Tate Modern

"Exhibitions should be free, not a dollar fifty."
          -Yayoi Kusama, Press Release for 'Grand Orgy to Awaken the Dead at MOMA,' 1969.

If you aren't familiar with Yayoi Kusama's work you might enjoy the retrospective at the Tate Modern. But you probably wouldn't understand just why it is that Kusama has such a cult following. As great as some of the earlier works on paper are, the exhibition just doesn't focus on her best work. It's ten pounds to get into the exhibition and so before it even begins you feel the weight of time and the institution pushing back Kusama's radicalism.

I should probably note that I had very high expectations. I've read reviews and spoken to others and it seems like those who are particularly fond of Kusama were disappointed while others enjoyed the show. It could be that I'd already seen the better parts of the exhibition in better settings. But still: I thought the Tate Modern would have the budget and the clout to put on something really spectacular.