Anyone could be forgiven for being confused about what is going on with Le Grand Paris, Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential ambition to reinvent Greater Paris for the future. This week, Sarkozy gave a speech at the Cité de l’Architecture marking four years since his initial speech, in the same venue, announcing Le Grand Paris. A perfect opportunity for a summary of where we stand. Continue reading →
The hôtel particulier is an urban private mansion, standing most often away from the street, between a courtyard and a garden. There are fewer than 500 of these houses in Paris today, but there were as many as 2,000 in the seventeenth century. An exhibition that opened this week at the Cité de l’Architecture retraces the history of this fascinating building type, so important to Paris’s history and character. This exhibition and the splendid book that accompanies it are a real delight for anyone with interest in the subject. Continue reading →
Of all the museums and exhibition spaces in Paris, there is one that is exemplary but whose existence most visitors to Paris will never suspect.
Located between the Place de la Bastille and the Île Saint-Louis, the Pavillon de l’Arsenal occupies a small building built in 1879 that used to serve to store artwork and then functioned as a warehouse. Since 1988, this space has been used by the city to show the results of architecture and urban design competitions, to present thematic exhibitions on Paris, to hold conferences and participative events, and a number of other things. Its official name is the Center for Architecture and Urbanism Information, Documentation and Exhibition of the City and Metropolis of Paris. Continue reading →
Thomas Couture is one of those artists who were at the center of the artistic activity of their time, whose work was avidly commented at each year’s Salon, but who is largely forgotten today. He is now remembered primarily for his influence as a teacher of other artists, such as Edouard Manet and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, and his great influence on American painting through a number of American artists who studied with him in Paris, most notably William Morris Hunt.
In the early 1980s, the newly-arrived Socialist government, under the impetus of its Minister of Culture, Jack Lang, launched two events for mass access to culture. The first, in 1982, was the Fête de la Musique – since then, every year on June 21st, all sorts of people of various musical ability hit the streets and do their thing. The second, in 1984, was the Open House Days in France’s historical monuments. This has gone on to be an extraordinarily successful event, now expanded to all of Europe and called the European Heritage Days, or Journées Européennes du Patrimoine.
Last year there was a run-away success in French publishing that didn’t fit into any of the usual categories. It was a history book organized around the Paris metro system called Metronome. The most improbable part was its author.
Edmund de Waal, a British potter, describes the collection of netsuke, Japanese miniature sculptures, belonging to his uncle that he will one day inherit. Thus begins a journey through history, following the collection, that takes us from 1870s Paris to early twentieth-century Vienna and finally back to Tokyo.
Many people, especially those who knew the old market pavilions designed by Victor Baltard in the 1850s, have affection for the site of Les Halles. For thirty years, the site has been occupied by a hideous shopping center of reflective glass. Now, that page is being turned.