Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Behind the Gold D'Or: Versailles

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Jeff Koons and Versailles-Made in Heaven

Perhaps Sofia Coppola said it best with her film Marie-Antoinette. In that film she used contemporary pop references to show that during the time of the teen princess from Austria, Pop was all the rage and in essence Versailles was the hub of Pop. People who go to Versailles thinking it the height of greatness, I think somehow only get half the picture. In it's conception the Chateau de Versailles was to be the Pleasure Dome, the Shangri-La. The manifestation of the best of the best and at the same time, the height of artificiality. It glorified the fake and frivolous while reminding everyone Louis XIV, the King of France, was the gateway to the Kingdom of Heaven. I will admit that I love seeing all the gold and the marble (especially the faux marble) and the rich fabrics and exotic woodwork. At the same time, for me, the gardens are truly sublime and speak more of the intellect of the Sun King than any gilt work can convey. Where the chateau is a feast for the eyes, the gardens are for the mind. They are reason. This brings me to Jeff Koons. One of the most controversial artists of my generation, he has seen much and exhibited everywhere, but no where more appropriate than Versailles. Koons is Pop. He always has been. From vacuums in Plexiglas cases, to balloon animals of aluminum, Koons has had his finger on the banal and the magnificent combined. He can take something so familiar and not only make you notice, ala Warhol, but he can actually make you feel. Seeing his Puppy in New York's Rockefeller Center is a feast of emotion. An enormous West Highland Terrier illicit smiles and genuine laughter from viewers. It is incredible. Currently Koons' work is being shown at Versailles. The playfulness, the color and the underlying melancholy is all there, just like Versailles, because you see...even with the courts, the parties and the bodice ripping romps, the court at Versailles came to a tragic end. With all of Koons bright hopefulness, there is still a body of work that, at it's core, is about loss. You need only to learn of the artist's personal history to glimpse at what that loss is. The beauty of this joining of the two houses is that the works fit seamlessly in these opulent surroundings. The Pop kisses the gilt and the loss holds hands with a bright future. There was a time when Jeff Koons even seemed to embody the aire of The Sun King, untouchable and always radiating. He once had the reputation of arrogance, full of hubris and representing all that was wrong with contemporary art, but in a recent interview he seemed so humble and grateful, a man still wide eyed and hopeful. This exhibition at Versailles shows a man at the height of his powers, able to create all that he wants and more. Louis XIV was the same. He was a man able to create all that he wanted and more and like Koons, managed to make himself immortal by simply dreaming.
Jeff Koons at Versailles
9 September 2008- 4 January 2009

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Paris Eye

The Paris Eye-
Focusing on the beauty that is a city
Next Post:
Jeff Koons and Versailles-Made In Heaven

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Sheer Touch of Luxury

Perhaps this is not the time to talk about luxury, with the economy in a mess and no end, or upswing in sight why should anyone even care about beautiful and expensive things? I must start by saying that during the Great Depression, Hollywood flooded the film market with what people hungered for...glamour. People wanted to know that tomorrow was going to be better, so Hollywood gave them Busby Birkley extravaganzas and Shirley Temple. The world looked brighter on film. People broke out in song and everybody danced. Shiny ballrooms replaced cold-water flats and you could count on Fred Astaire to take you to Heaven at any given moment. I am reminded of this as luxury fashion houses seem to expand and expand during these troubling times and no one seems worse for looking at these extraordinary things being offered. Growing up in the U.S. of course we had luxury. You can not spend one half hour in Neiman Marcus or Bergdorf Goodman and not realize you were in the lap of luxury. There is something incredible about wonderful service and America excells at this. You walk into a store and are made to feel like a millionaire, whether you are or not. People are willing to make your dreams come true. You want that handbag in the finest ostrich? Right away ma'am! You want your car seats in the finest leather and the keys in pavé diamonds? Yes, Sir! No is not in the vocabulary. At the same time, growing up, there was still one phrase that popped the eye of the most weary, Made In France. Objects and items from France always stood out as the most stylish, the most exclusive, the most beautiful and the most coveted. Once my grandmother was given a bottle of Shalimar from Guerlain and the oohhs and ahhs were directed to the fact it was french and therefore somehow better. Now, I will not go into a dispute to if the french make things better, but I will say that they make some incredibly good and beautiful things. Things that have lasted for hundreds of years and defy trends and fashion. Shalimar is one of the oldest scents around and it still worn. Guerlain began creating scents during the time of Napoléon III and still going strong. Hermes has been creating exquisite leather goods since the 19th Century and still creating the most desired objects in the world. The Birkin Bag has become a pop-culture reference since Sex and the City's Samantha claimed to be buying one for Lucy Liu just so she can get ahead of the months long waiting list. Recently I was in New York at the Hermes store and overheard an Asian woman request to see a Birkin Bag. The sales woman, trying to decipher the woman's thick accent explained that they did not have any Birkin bags in the store. "What do you mean you don't have any!" The world has become familiar with the bag made and named for the English actress Jane Birkin. She was wrapped in her huge romance with french musical genius Serge Gainsbourg. She girlishly carried a basket around with her containing all her things. In an attempt to have her carry something more practical, Hermes approached her with a leather sac, big enough to hold all that she wanted, yet was discreet. The Birkin Bag was born and the world has slowly grown to love it. Grace Kelly got her namesake bag after trying to hide her pregnancy from prying eyes in Monaco. The Kelly Bag, small and more demure than the Birkin, became the rage for luxurious ladies who wanted to signify they had good taste without resorting to the logos of Louis Vuitton or Gucci. Known for it deceptively simple designs, exquisite materials and patented sewing technique, Hermes, which began as a saddlery business moved from saddles to carriages and to the horseless carriage. Finally to personal leather goods and clothing. Each item produced is promised to be of the utmost quality and you feel it. There is a tremendous amount of pride in this product. It is less about the fact that it is precious, but more about the idea that this is made by hand, by artisans practicing for years and trained by people producing for decades. Nothing is sent off to China. Nothing is sewn by a 12 year old in Southeast Asia or Latin America. It is stamped Made in France and true. I have been fortunate enough to become close to one of the directors at Hermes. Through her I have grown more and more interested in the brand. Growing up in Dallas, I visited the Hermes store there. A former co-worker got a job there and on a visit to her I discovered the scent Bel Ami. The smell of tobacco and leather affected me as the height of masculinity and I bought a bottle of it. It was without a doubt the most expensive scent I had bought at the time and also without a doubt the only item I could pretend to afford. My interest was peaked and to my surprise, one of the first people I meet in Paris would work for Hermes. In recent years, Hermes has gained in huge popularity and in a way, this makes sense in this economy. If you are going to spend money, you want it to be wisely spent. You want the item to last you. You want your purchase to go beyond the trends and yet, secretly you want it to be the envy of those in the know. Sure people have adopted a snobbish quality with an Hermes bag, but the item itself does not exude such a quality. I see women in New York carefully lock their Birkins and hold them as you would a cherished childhood teddy bear. I prefer the way my friend carries hers, open and irreverently. I am sure she is casual with it because she's confident in it's durability and carries IT, instead of IT carrying her. It is when personal style takes over. Personal style is another form of luxury all together. Just yesterday I visited the original Hermes store here in Paris. Everything under one roof. Dreams manifest. Each person is welcomed at the door. Every question is answered and smell of leather is heady at best. There are customers swirling silk foulards, bags are discussed in many languages and you can swim in the cashmere. At the same time, I did not feel like an outsider. Even if only there for a look, the LOOK is appreciated. So, when in Paris go to Hermes. Before thinking a person crazy for spending huge amounts for a bag, visit Hermes. You will find yourself seduced, believe me. Luxury can come in many forms and for me it is best when it is not easily recognized, but obviously felt.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Thinking Man's Chair-Musée Rodin Continues

This image is of a chair in the Musée Rodin. I assume that it was a personal chair of Auguste Rodin. It is old, worn (evidenced by the dangling cord), discolored, yet quietly moving. I took two photos, both blurred, but one more than the other. I prefer the more blurred one, but decided to show the slightly clearer one because it is less moody and more direct, which I think works best for this blog. As you can tell by the last posts I have placed here, I am still presenting the Musée Rodin. Granted, I did take a lot of photos on my last visit, but mostly I see these as part of a transition, a move to the next stage, both in my work and hopefully, this blog. It is Autumn now and Paris is much cooler with falling leaves and equally falling temperatures. Recently I took my last trip of the Summer, this time to New York. I could not help but notice contrasts and similarities between Paris and New York. In a way, the N.Y. trip was a refreshing shot for me. I fed on the energy there and this allowed me to return to Paris with fresh thoughts and ideas. It also left me with jet-lag which is why I have done very little to the blog this week. Still, just as happy as I was to be away, I am happy to be back. Let Autumn begin.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Rodin and Antiquity

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Musée Rodin: Works III

Musée Rodin: Works II

Musée Rodin: Works

Musée Rodin: Jardin II

Musée Rodin: Jardin

Musée Rodin: Maison

The first museum I ever visited in Paris was the Musée Rodin. Why? I am not really sure...perhaps it was because the location was close to my hotel and at the time I was not really up to tackle the Louvre. I checked my guide book and it said favorable things about the former residence of Auguste Rodin, but aren't all guide books favorable about their subjects? It also mentioned a beautiful garden. I decided to give it a look. Now, I am not a philistine in regards to art. I knew all too well who Rodin was. Growing up he was one of the omnipresent "old-masters", along with Rembrant, Michelangelo and El Greco, who's work was copied and placed in many a bargin bin and home decor department at K-Mart and in the homes of everyday art afficianados. For me Rodin's work was too round and too sensual. It was not to be taken seriously because liking it came too easy. It appealed to the basic instinct. Rodin is all about sex. Taking and having. In Rodin sculptures, women morphed from clouds, earth, even air. They were created and seemingly the gift to a waiting male figure. My feminist upbringing had some qualms with Rodin's work. So, here I was standing in front of this institution of sensuality and embarking on a visit I was unsure about, but willing to follow through. Upon entering I was taken by the light. It's filtered and bounced off dusty mirrors whose silver foils spoke of endless gazing. The collection is not only of the work of Auguste Rodin, but also of his contemporary, former student and lover Camille Claudel, as well as the works of other artists whom Rodin admired. Van Goghs co-exist with Ancient Roman torsos. Chinese dieties and Egyptian busts are displayed amongst Japanese Noh masks and Ancient Greek vases. But in the end, it really is about the master works of Rodin that captured my attention and have held it since. I am a reluctant admirer, I suppose. I never think of Rodin when asked about my favorite artists and even when seeing his work in other collections, it never resonates with me as it does in the Musée Rodin. This place is a part of it's origins and genesis of much of his most famous works. It is the place, just as much, or in my opinion more, as the work. The works acts as ghosts living out a narrative. The desires, the fears, the loves and the power of Auguste Rodin play out in this place of white stone and cracked grandure. After that first visit I was taken by how sensitive Rodin was. Through his imposing persona, he manages to be posseser and possesion at the same time. I could see his thoughts in the work and his willingness to be taken over by them. He is the woman and the man in his work. He is Icarus and Balzac. He is The Thinker and The Kiss.

On that first visit the garden was closed because a huge tent was structured on the lawn. It turned out to be for a Tom Ford era YSL runway show. He showed at the Musée Rodin often and sited it as a favorite place in Paris. On today's visit the garden was in full bloom, perhaps the last of the season. The roses were bright and the hydrangeas were in greens and white. The house was hit with a golden light, a light that only exists in Paris. I walked the garden and took more photos. I thought of other visits in the past, this must have been my 4th and with the exception of a new entrance, some sprucing up in the museum and the removal of some paintings, nothing much has changed. The Musée Rodin is a place locked in time. It is Art Nouveau and Impressionism. It is the time of candle light and hushed words in far off rooms. It is the love and life of beauty for the sake of beauty. It is where desire manifests itself and warms you in it's embrace.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Paris Eye

The Paris Eye-
focusing on the beauty that is a city
future posts:
Rue de Bac
Musée Rodin

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

La Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris

Maison du Brésil