Sculpture Garden on the Champs-Elysées

No Closing, No Lines, No Entry Charge

Calders 'Les 5 Ailes' (14k)
'La Tour aux Figures, Maître Modèle'
by Jean Dubuffet is framed
by Alexander Calder's 'Les Cinq Ailes.'
Paris:- Wednesday, 10. April 1996:- Come one, come all; to the free open-air sculpture show on the Champs-Elysees - but no hurry, it's on until 9. June. The 'official opening ceremony' is to be tomorrow, but it was on the front page of Le Parisien on Tuesday, and Metropole's Webmaster, Tony Grant, saw it on TV on Monday night. [France 2 television channel seems to be co-sponsor... TG]

Former Paris mayor Jacques Chirac brought a lot of modernization to Paris' street decor, and was, if not the instigator, at least the man who said 'Let's do it!' - which unleashed a non-stop series of civic street 'events' in Paris. His successor, Jean Tiberi, seems to be following the same formula, if not expanding it a bit.

My guess is that buried somewhere in the depths of the Paris city administration, there is a department - several probably - whose purpose is to put on 'a show.' Paris is agreeable enough when absolutely nothing is happening - say on a rainy Monday in November or February, when museums and a lot of shops are closed - and there are no demonstrations, strikes, and visiting foreign delegations; the people in the city and state administrations, the personal of international organizations, the employees in very large companies, are all sipping morning cafés and reading the papers and thinking about lunch. This is, of course, a fantasy of mine. In Paris it does not happen.

This city is an entertainment machine. If such a rare day did exist when it seemed as if nothing was happening - somewhere, behind the scenes, the next events would be in the planning stages.

Nana Jaune (16k)
'Nana Jaune' by Niki de Saint-Phalle;
six-metre high and wide, yellow lady.
The planning for the current exposition, 'Les Champs de la Sculpture' must have been long and complex. Lining the Champs-Elysées, from the Rond-Point to the Place de la Concorde, are 48 pieces of sculpture; plus the illumination in blue light of the 3,300 year-old 23 metre-high obelisk itself - an idea conceived of by Yves Klein in 1958 - first realized in 1983 - and re-created for this occasion.

These pieces, on view 24 hours a day; pieces of stone, metal, other materials - some huge, most heavy - have been assembled from many sources; and have never been grouped all together before. Each is on its own base, protected by no more than an ordinary crowd-control fence - and discreetly watched by watchers - and worried over by insurance companies standing behind other insurance companies.

Otherwise, the sculptures are open to the weather and can be viewed from all sides by the public; day and night, for they are illuminated after dark. It is quite agreeable, as they are located on the green stretch of the Champs-Elysées, which seems have no particular name, unlike the Jardins des Tuleries. The sidewalks are not fully paved and in taking a good look all around at the sculptures, you will get dusty shoes - just another reminder that the heart of Paris is not far from the country.

The pieces on view are modern: Auguste Rodin, born in Paris in 1840, is represented by his 'Balzac,' placed in the centre of the Rond-Point. His contemporaries Antoine Bourdelle and Aristide Maillol also have places on the avenue. And that leaves 45 other 'names' to see - it is the pieces on view that are the attraction - but still, if I add a few more 'names' here, you are more likely to make a detour to see their work.

The authors include Pablo Picasso, whose 'La Femme Debout' is a bit back from the avenue, between the Grand and Petit Palais; Fernand Léger, Max Ernst, Joan Miro, Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, Cesar, Jean Dubuffet, Albert Giacometti, Jean Tinguely, Takis, Louise Bourgeois and Roberto Matta.

Kiosk (19k)
Besides the souvenir kiosks,
there are a few and snack
and drink vendors as well.
Audio guides available in French, English, German and Japanese, for a rental of 30 francs. There are the usual posters, post-cards, trinkets, T-shirts, inexpensive and exhaustive guides, available at five green cast-iron kiosks located along the avenue.

There is also a photo exposition organized by the magazine Paris-Match, located in the Theatre du Rond-Point. The photos are from the magazine's archives, and for this street show, their photographers made visits to the ateliers of some of the sculptors represented in this show.

Besides the singularity of this show - all these works on view in one - big - place, there are other advantages: no line-ups, no entry fee. Like Paris itself.

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