Open Doors On a Freezing Day

photo: monts 14 info centre

The artist's 'open doors' info centre is in this
slum in transit.

All the Art I Can Find In 90 Minutes

Paris:- Sunday, 21. November 1999:- After Thursday's Beaujolais Nouveau day and the 'Café Metropole Club' session, my recollection of Friday is like a message on beach sand - wiped out.

Sometime in the early evening I remembered to go to the café Le Bouquet for a café, for a double-express as usual. I also remembered to take the comic books from Gilbert, for Dimitri - which I had already failed to do a couple of times.

Dimitri was there, and pleased to get the comics, which he had forgotten about. The café was good and strong and hot. Other clients were trying to finish the barrel of Beaujolais Nouveau, so there was a general state of fête in the air.

Now, the café Le Bouquet does have a bouquet, and it is placed on the right-angle bend of the bar. It isphoto: lucile's bouquet usually a big bouquet and if you stand at the bar's angle, it is the only thing you can see. Customers tend to stand along the bar's either wing, and the last-one-in gets the behind-the-jungle bouquet spot.

I was so out of it - from Thursday; from getting warm - that it was no less than ten minutes after my arrival that I realized that the 'bouquet' was strange.

Lucile's salt-and-pepper 'bush' is cozy with the peanut machine.

Instead of being in a tall glass vase, it was in a short, fat, tin can. Instead of having a vast spray of flowers, the tin can had - it had goofy things, vaguely similar to flowers. I thought I had spots in my eyes.

Eventually, slowly, I looked around the café. There was a sunburst of a banana thing under the clock. There was a plastic salt-and-pepper shaker bush beside the peanut machine. Beside the Beaujolais barrel, there was a plant with false-teeth roses and tooth-brushes.

There were a lot of these things all over the café. It had become the mad plant shop. Just as if Beaujolais Nouveau had powers I never dreamed of.

Then there's this young lady, about two metres tall, glass of Beaujolais Nouveau in hand, being introduced by Dimitri as Lucile. She has done these 'Plastiflores et Florifères' and they are all over Le Bouquet because it is the weekend of the of the artists and artisans of the 'Monts 14' association.

It is the winter weekend when they open their ateliers to the public. Some have ateliers a bit further away, like Lucile, so she has her stuff in the café Le Bouquet - the name of which just happens to match her 'flower' theme.

This becomes my 'feature' of the week. I discard the idea of trying to make a lot of something out of the next-to-nothing of Christmas shopping on the Boulevard Haussmann on Saturday.

See what I mean about Paris? Zonked on Friday, I go to the closest bar and pick up a feature idea just like that! Is my job getting easy, or what? But how am I to 'cover' this event at the same time as I do Monday's issue?

Although this '4th Open Doors' affair is all within, it is also all over the 14th arrondissement - there are 30 locations and an extra one for its 'info' centre. Plus on Sunday there will be a 'solidarity' cocktail party at 18:00, at the jazz bar Le Belière - which is the music café threatened with demolition.

Today's programmed 'Happening' in the Rue Daguerre is obviously scratched because of the zero state of the thermometre.

Yesterday, I met Lucile again in Le Bouquetphoto: window graffiti to get some photos for this piece, and she introduced me to Claude Arz, an author willing to be philosophic - ah no, he said. Something else, but not philosophic. Lucile says she will take me to the 'booksigning' of his new 'La France Insolite' in a couple of weeks.

Then I went to the 'info' place - which is an abandoned slum - also about to be demolished, but lent to 'Monts 14' by the Hotel Télémaque, the eventual demolisher.

On the outside: graffiti; on the inside: graffiti.

I was there too late; the light had gone - so I return today. A correction has been made to the open ateliers' list; four have dropped out and two new ones have signed up.

In the ruins, where I now find Lucile's 'plants' - the café Le Bouquet is closed today - and some etchings and some paintings - and a lot of cold, with the place being a condemned no-heat slum. Maybe it was a starving artist's garret, because it has garret-like windows upstairs. Broken, of course.

Lucile has made a one-page, six-column brochure. Her object-flowers and flower-objects are highly imaginative; and they have poetic names too.

You don't need to water these, but you have to be able to clean dust off them. One column of her brochure explains what tools to use and how to do it. It is the first time I have ever seen cleaning instructions to go with artworks. Some of the dust can be simply blown off, and this instruction is included as well.

Agnès Gobillot has her paintings in this slum. She has been at it since the age of four. There is a fine example of Paris 'ugly' dirt on the floor, but it is here to cover up the slum carpet underneath. I shoot the graffiti on the outside of the window, because it is an art of a sort, destined for disappearance.

At the other end - the 'info' slum has ends as well as low-rise garrets - Nicolas Sochos has his etchings. I met him at Le Bouquet on Saturday.

'Come up and see my etchings' may be a stale joke, but doing etching is so complicated that it turns off artists - thephoto: borrowed atelier ones who do it are like the musicians who play the bassoon.

Nicolas has done a fine service by putting up a series of photographs depicting the processes involved in doing an etching. The display is eight or ten photos, so it is really a complicated business - and one viewer says, "Aha! So that's how its done!"

Inside a 'borrowed' atelier.

Out on the Rue Daguerre, it is only a few metres to the next temporary gallery, which is spread around an architect's office and around some fruit juice and crackers, and an ever-ready bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau.

Here I find Justyna Erguy. She will be having another show at Chez Melie, otherwise known as the Bistro 48, at 84. Rue Daguerre, starting Friday, 3. December. By now, the recently deserted street has groups of art fanciers going almost from door to door, and a gaggle of them crowd in.

Along a bit further an inscription over a doorway says something like 'Villa des Artisans,' and it has a 'Monts 14' brochure stuck to it.

Inside, it is an old cour - an alley flanked on both sides by one-time ateliers; all in tip-top shape. I follow signs down it to the one that says, 'second floor, on the right.' This leads to a balcony over the alley, and to a door on the right.

It is another 'borrowed' temporary gallery; one that is astonishingly well-heated - so it is obviously not a garret. Of the group having lunch around a low table, two of the ladies are artists.

Both are painters. Here I find Broska, or Monika Brzozowska; the other is Anne Bral, who does paintings that 'refect her true self,' which, in person, does not seem to be quite so cool and foggy or wintry as depicted.

'Monsieur Réceptacle' owns the ultra-warm atelier-loft, but is not himself an artist. He may be a basketball player, because there is a hoop over the doorway.

The 'Monts 14' brochure has a list of artists and artisans and their addresses, but since it was printed, a lot of them seem to have changed locations.

Anne Bral and Justyna Erguy were both supposed to be at the architect's office and Monika Brzozowskaphoto: the wine & cheese was supposed to be in the Café d'Enfer; so if my deductions about who is who is faulty, it is my fault. It is too cold to think.

Yet I go looking for number six on the map, which is in the Rue Daguerre. I do not find it; the brochure says it is the Café d'Enfer - and we all know it is closed, because Monika Brzozowska is not there.

Wine, cheese-things, crackers and orange juice.

My general impression is that it is impossible to visit 30 ateliers and temporary galleries scattered across a whole arrondissement in 90 minutes. Equally impossible, is meeting all the artists in them. Totally impossible, to see all the artworks.

The good news is 'Monts 14' has two editions planned annually and the next one should be in the spring. Equally valuable, the brochure does have phone numbers for just about everybody in the art creation business - except photographers - in the 14th arrondissement.

I expect to get a lot of cheese and crackers out of this, not to mention booksignings and vernissages. I may as well throw away my TV.

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