Galleries That Aren't

photo: j-m carries painting

Jean-Michel Lefebure carts painting through
gay 'gallery opening' crowd.

'Openings' With Orange Juice

Paris:- Thursday, 20. April 2000:- This morning, intending to do a favor means I have to send a fax. It is the first fax I've had to send since moving here last July. After I think it over, I think of the place to try.

This is the little book and stationary shop over on the next block. I got friendly with its proprietor, Jean-Michel Lefebure, when he still sold newspapers and later learned he has stationary prices that demolish the big chains.

When I get to his shop, Jean-Michel is turning it upsidedown. Claude, my barber is two doors away and every time I go there I get ready for an adventure first. Last week it was the 90-minute comedy hour. I came away with the worst haircut in Paris - but hey! - all haircuts are a mess these days. It was fun.

So my ex-paper guy is ripping his shop apart. It is no big surprise. Jean-Michel having a fax machine too - one-stop shopping - isphoto: poster for exhibition a pleasant surprise. Ding-a-ling, off it goes, and the charge is ten francs; half what I used to pay in the village papershop where I last sent one.

When I ask about the wreckage, Jean-Michel invites me to a vernissage this evening. It was only after last weekend that I found the poster for the arrondissement's 'artists' open doors' last weekend, so if I come to this 'varnishing' I will be getting in a bit of catch-up.

The 'opening's' poster, for the exhibition of works by Jean-Marc Pétillot.

Jean-Michel says the people coming will not be snobs. This implies that all the people who turned out over the weekend for the 'artists' open doors' in the arrondissement are not the same crowd as - but what difference will it make to me anyway?

The last time he invited me to one of these 'openings' I forgot to go; because it was a Café Metropole Club day. So is today, but I don't forget. I do most of the club's photos, and then head over there.

Some snobby-looking types are out of the sidewalk in front of the shop, which has a fresh fish dealer next door. By 'snobby,' I mean one guy is wearing two scarves, and it is not cold or windy. Also, certain types in Paris wear scarves all year round, so it is not unordinary.

Inside I see the buffet - Jean-Michel has promised Sangria - at the back. Paintings are on the two and a half walls, and the books have been artfully rearranged to have maximum display. There is one with 'Kerouac' in the title; it is that kind of bookshop.

I borrow the exhibition's poster and take it outside and tape it to the next-door pharmacy's window to photograph it. Then I pin it back up on the glass door of the bookshop-cum-gallery.

Meanwhile more people are piling in; except for the people smoking on the sidewalk outside. The artist arrives. He looks normal and does not wear any scarves. Everybody knows everybody else; this is why they are not snobby.

The shop is tiny so I go outside. Cars are backed up all the way down here from the traffic light onphoto: interior of paper shop, gallery the avenue. They are coming this way because the Avenue du Maine must be plugged at the infamous Victor Basch intersection. When the light at the avenue changes, about seven cars get through it.

Attendees of the 'vernissage' have to take turns to see the exhibition in Jean-Michel's small shop.

Jean-Michel comes out, carrying one of the bigger paintings. He carries it through the stalled cars, to the Aléa professional film place across the street.

I follow him over and see that this place is also having a vernissage; organized by the photo agent Véronique Roc for about a dozen photographers. I really like a couple of the photos displayed in the show windows.

A sign on the door says some were treated digitally by some lab. The photo prints by George Kavangh and Markkeu do not look exactly like photographs; they are too fine. There is always a touch of the accidental to photos, but these have none. Good to look at though.

This place has its smokers out on the sidewalk too. The two shops are almost directly opposite, about 20 metres apart. The paint crowd over there, now with drinks, and the photo crowd over here; some with Champagne. Very cozy, but distinctly two different groups.

My book guy hauls over more paintings - the film place has a lot more room in its back. When I go in to try and strike up a conversation - not get a drink because I've brought an orange juice from across the street - the photo-film people get nervous.

You see, my camera is hanging from its strap around my neck. Some photo people seem to think people who walk around with cameras are potential robbers. The French photo magazine I don't like much is called 'Chasseur d'Images' - but doing this in today's over-regulated reality is nearly illegal.

A couple of the many people who seem to be in charge ask me what I want. Since it doesn't seem to be obvious that I want to look at the photos inside too, I tell them this. They are not enthusiastic. Who am I to be hitting on two opposing vernissages?

Well, yes. There are too many people around to make explanations; maybe have to spill a bit of Internet jargon. I make a note to myself to come back when it's quieter.

So I go outside, where the sun is shining brightly, and copy downphoto: exhibition at alea the details about the exhibition. This must drive them around the bend even though I don't look like a sanitary inspector. If they didn't think to give me one of the printed cards, what can else can I do about it?

Most of Aléa's exhibition is displayed in its windows, and the weather outside is right for this.

I've had my orange juice and I think this makes perfect my visit to the 'opening' that has turned into two 'openings.' It is ten minutes to TV-newstime, so I pop into the café Flash on the corner and have a double-express jolt.

I get in my apartment's door - where I have two photographic neighbors who are not nervous about my camera - and hit the TV-news right after the headlines.

That's pretty good, I think. Two 'openings' for the price of one, and still on time for the news. While I watch the news and after it, write up today's 'club news,' the vernissages continue in the street until midnight; although at the librarie the talk turns to books after 23:00. I'll plug both places too:

Presse-Librarie Duvernet
Exhibition of painting by Jean-Marc Pétillot; continues until Saturday, 17. May. Opens early; closes late, and is closed on Sundays. 21. Rue Mouton-Duvernet, Paris 14. Métro: Mouton-Duvernet.

Aléa - shop for professional photographic films.
Open on weekdays from 9:00 to 19:00; from 9:00 to 13:00 on Saturdays. The current exhibition continues until the end of June. This shop intends to have about four exhibitions annually. At 20. Rue Mouton-Duvernet, Paris 14. Métro: Mouton-Duvernet.

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