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Varnished in Montparnasse

Varnishing - 'vernissage' - is what painters do when the painting is finished. It means they don't intend to put any more daubs on it. 'Vernissage' in Paris is what a gallery calls the opening of an exhibition of an artist's works.

Therefore, with nothing better to do except write the 'club report' last Thursday evening, I stopped in at the Musée Zadkine in Montparnasse to sample a 'vernissage.' The occasion was the beginning of an exhibition of François Morellet's recent works.

The Musée Zadkine is located in a rural garden which was once Ossip Zadkine's residence. This garden is reached from another backyard, a courtyard parking lot and an alley; which begins at 100 bis, Rue d'Assas. If you miss this alley entry, you miss the whole thing.

The area, between Montparnasse proper and the Luxembourg gardens, is not busy at 18:30 on Thursdays in winter. However, all of the few people I followed, turned into the alley. A man with a Santa Claus beard collected the invitations in the parking lot.

The museum is composed of two or three buildings with a garden in the centre. There were a lot of people holding plastic wine containers in the first gallery; but a lot more were standing around in the garden, in almost total darkness, dressed in winter clothingphoto: musee zadkine but still having a Montparnasse garden party.

Some light was thrown on the scene by François Morellet's neons. A green one climbed a tree and a blue one was over the museum's main entry.

François Morellet's 'PI' neon provides light for exhibition vernissage.

To me, these were just neon squiggles. François Morellet's '2000 project' is to have one of these in each place his has exhibited since about 1952. The first is on the Gare de Tours.

None of this is haphazard. The shapes of the neons and the zigzag connections between their locations is based on the number of decimals in 'PI' translated into degrees, leading to infinity - and the Musée Zadkine has been chosen to be the Paris point on this erratic line.

According to the catalogue's author, Catherine Francblin, 'the number 'PI' is ideal because it obviously joins the precision of a mathematic object to the enigma on an infinite number, which today has several hundreds of billions of known decimals.'

Of course there is an 'in other words' to this, but it is not more clear so I will stick with the first explanation. It is the idea that counts after all. François Morellet himself says he could have picked random numbers out of a phone book instead of using 'PI.'

François Morellet also says that aid from computers saved him several dozen years in doing the calculations, after he'd initially spent a year figuring out the basic numbers, or rather, decimals.

The green neon in the tree is one that François Morellet has done especially for the Musée Zadkine, which he calls 'un néon grimpant vert (!)'

If the garden is to be used for many vernissages on winter evenings, it could certainly use another half dozen of these. He has still got variations of 'PI rococo' for line segments in curves and 'PI piquants' for straight lines made by computers.

If I may, 'in other words,' say that none of François Morellet's work is completely random, I would like to direct you to the fact that he works very hard at this.

When I reach the métro entry at Vavin, I take a good look at La Rotonde's very flashy neons, and wonder where they fit into the scheme of things. Then I go to café Le Bouquet and have a big cup of café to dump the winter chill.

Café Metropole Club 9th Session Rehash The 9th weekly meeting of the 'Café Metropole Club' ran off pretty successfully, with much to eat last Thursday. Read all about it on last week's 'Club 'Report'' page. The coming 'Club' meeting is on an ordinary Thursday, which is nothing unusual in Paris so the meeting will be held as usual.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 3.50 - 14. December 1998 - The Café Metropole column was titled by its over optimistic 'Ed' - 'THere Comes 'E-Biz'' 'Au Bistro' had 'Weather News and Winter Sports.' This issue had only one feature, entitled 'One Louis Liked Marly-le-Roi.' The issue also had 'Metropole's Pre-Christmas Program VI - Xmas '98.' The week's 'Scene' column headline was 'Is Full Up' like the column. Server-lady Linda Thalman'scount down Eiffel Tower email last week about the joys of pre-Christmas 'HyperShopping!' brought emails from readers about the same thing. There were four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Say It Isn't True!'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago:

Issue 2.50 - 15. December 1997 - The Café Metropole column had the endlessly boring subject of the weather on its mind, in 'Really Not the Weatherman.' The 'Au Bistro' column was entitled 'Papon Is Confronted With Facts.' This issue had two features, entitled 'The Odd Shopper' and 'On the Town At Noël.' Guest contributor M-R Erickson wrote 'How the French Do Noël.' Christmas futures continued with 'Noël Program II - More Opera, Ballet, Theatre, Concerts and Events.' Two 'Posters of the Week' doubled to four and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Flyin' Into Paris.'

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 31. December 1999:

Only 19! even shorter and increasingly wintry days and cooler nights to go in Paris and Ile-de-France until the really big year-end party explodes upon us.
signature, regards, ric

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