Monday, February 16, 2009

Which way to go? I headed off to the Picasso Museum, in part because it was open. Why do some museums have to close one day a week? Usually on a Monday. Why can’t the staff do whatever work needs to get done during the night and keep the place open all day, every day? Some museums do. Many don’t. En route to Picasso I had a bowl of fish soup and a baguette for lunch, which I remember only because it was forgettable. Even the most ordinary can be rewarding though, and so I took a picture of my wine and water. Nice, it seems to me. The Picasso Museum is loaded with works by . . . Picasso, but others as well. Quite the innovator, Pablo was. Less innovative is the presentation at the museum site. There is a table just inside the ticket booth offering stapled, mimeographed sheets describing the ”order of go“ to help navigate the many rooms displaying art. Apparently they had experienced an influx of British/American visitors, as no sheets were left for the English-speaking pilgrim today. Plenty of stacks in French, Japanese, German, etc. “Could you print out a few in English?”. “Not today, they are gone. You may want to go to the bookstore and buy a souvenir book.” “Maps, or a diagram of some sort?” Nothing of the sort. Picasso matured, or at least he morphed, into an artist producing very different outpourings over the years. It is best to get your arms around this most iconic of 20th century painters by following along as he moves from early figurative, to blue period contemplative, to cubism at its most innovative. Nothing that I could lay hands on here helped understand the progression and the progressive mind of the man and his genius. And only after I took a picture or two was I called down for taking a picture or two. In the Louvre, Orsay, Carnavalet, and every other museum in this or most other towns, even in Bayeux with its 1000-year-old tapestry, you can take pictures of the art as long as you do not use a flash. Not here. Picasso is probably the most celebrated artist of the last century and he certainly deserves his own museum. This one is in a grand old building in the third arrondissement, an easy walk for me, and it is a very good place to enjoy. It could me more user friendly, however.
Not far away is the Les Halles shopping center, where most of shops are underground, but the hook to get you there is what you see at street level. It looks like a set from Battlestar Galactica. Huge curved silver pipes and glass arc downward to surround a center space jammed with several levels of retail stores selling the sorts of things you find at an average mall anywhere. Just with more unusual trappings. An arresting visual, but not for everyone I would guess and, in fact, there looked to be only a few serious shoppers among the passersby.
Easily the best part of today was a late afternoon conversation over several glasses of Chateauneuf du Pape with Thomas Spencer, a man from St. Louis who has lived in Paris for some 15 years and who is a part of the team which manages the apartment where I am staying. Thomas is working on his PHD with a focus on medieval church architecture and is one of the more interesting people I have met. He has promised to share with me his appreciation for Notre Dame Cathedral (just out the window from du Pape) from his very particular perspective, and it should be a highlight for me. Stay tuned.

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