Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Got another haircut today and it was much, much more of a pleasure this time. The young barber, Mylan, was incredibly efficient flashing his scissors about. Very personable fellow, not great with English, but said he had fun pretending to help Englishmen learn to speak French. Said he carefully trained them to say a line which translated, “Hello, my name is . . . and I am a little cat.” He laughed so much in telling his little story I feared he might lose control of those instruments at hand. He didn’t. The Palais du Tokyo was built for the 1937 world fair in Paris and it is a very accommodating space. It is located on Avenue Woodrow Wilson (reached by changing Metros at Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, incidentally). just across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. There are two enormous wings to the place, both centered on contemporary art, and there is a splendid permanent collection in one. The other, which I did not visit, is given over to a changing series of installations and other fresh works. I went in the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, operated by the city and free to visitors. I would say that the quality of the permanent collection makes this one of the best museums in town. Because it is not in the environs where the Louvre, Orsay, Picasso and several other name-brand museums are, it doesn’t have anywhere near the crowds cluttering the galleries. Therefore it is a great, great place to enjoy modern art. A lot of modern art. Raoul Dufy is probably the star because of a gigantic circular wall painting, La Fee Electricite, done for the world fair. It could be overwhelming because of its size, but Dufy’s little whimsical images painted in his signature bright colors bring you right up to it. Something of a challenge considering the subject has to do with the development of electricity. But here we see Thomas Edison chatting amiably with Marie Curie and the crowd and it seems quite approachable. Besides the splash with Dufy (on display in a separate room is a very nice oil, Le Paddock) there is an interesting grouping of Henri Matisse works, all related, progressing from an early unfinished piece to a final work. Mainly canvases painted by French artists fill the rooms, and the art runs the gamut. A nice marble sculpture by Jean Arp in a gallery with several Fernand Legers. Two nice pieces by Italian-born but Paris-based Amadeo Modigliani are fine; I just wish they had more of his delicious work on display. Representative works by Chagall, Utrillo, Derain and many other heavyweights may be found here. Also, there are a good many paintings executed within the past few decades by French artists that are very good. I jotted down many names as most were unfamiliar to me.
The signature place in the area is Place Alma and the signature piece in Place Alma is a full-sized replica of the flame on the Statue of Liberty. It is gilded to the hilt and easily seen. The piece was given to France (remember where we got our statue) by the USA as a gesture of friendship in 1987. Its distinction today, however, is that it stands just above the underpass where Princess Diana and Dodi crashed into the wall on that fateful night in 1997. All kinds of withered flowers and saccharine notes are cluttered around the base of the flame. For me it was home for a break, then out to Chez Rene just across the bridge on the Left Bank for some soup and chicken, then home for the night.

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