The Busy 'Mai des Montparnos'

photo: sculpture horse, pl vendome

And on the right bank, amazing sculpture in
the Place Vendôme.

A Picnic Not to be Missed

Paris:- Sunday, 14. May 2000:- This is like a May that starts on the 15th. It really started with Lucile calling me up to tell me I should take in the vernissage of the 'Nudes' at the Chemin du Montparnasse. How could I refuse? But I got no information about the whole-Montparnasse show. I didn't see Lucile there either.

She had said I should contact Roger Pic, a photographer. Since Lucile hadn't been at the 'Nudes' to introduce me to him, I got on the phone and rousted him out of bed last Wednesday. This resulted in my mixing up '16' with '6' and having a free tour of the Mairie of the 16th arrondissement, where nothing was happening.

At the Mairie of the 6th, I found the 'missing' vernissage - of the 'Salon des Créateurs at Artisans' - which continues until Wednesday, 24. May. Here I also met Georges Viaud, the president of 'Montparnasse 2000.' He said the program for this May event would be available next Monday.

I also met Roger Pic and he turned out to be a gent I've seen around - and well-known to my ex-newsagent, Jean-Michel Lefebure who has the part-time gallery and full-time stationary shop. "Everybody knows Roger," he said.

Then, yesterday, I am minding my own business having a café in my own café, when without warning Lucile's face is looking down at me. Did I say Lucile was tall? She hasphoto: vernissage, mairie 6th the program - before it is 'officially' printed, and she's throwing up posters for her own part in the 'Mai des Montparnos,' which is called 'Au-Dessous des Volcans.' Its vernissage is this coming Thursday - which is not a club day - in a café.

The 'lost' and 'found!' vernissage - in the city hall of Paris' 6th arrondissement.

There are hundreds of galleries in Paris - see the upcoming '100' galleries of Saint-Germain-des-Prés thing - which will be after the club's meeting on Thursday, 25. May. Maybe they have galleries in Saint-Germain and elsewhere in Paris, and we only have cafés in Montparnasse.

All the same, the Montparnasse effort reaches down to the Mairie of the 6th, where I also met Claude Schwartz, whose photographs can be seen in La Coupole until Wednesday, 31. May, every day from 7:00 to 01:00. This is, of course, Montparnasse's biggest café of all. Before I go on all night like this, here are the highlights:

'Open doors' of all artists, Saturday and Sunday, 20 and 21. May; and 27 and 28. May

Claude Schwartz' photos at La Coupole, until Wednesday, 31. May

Salon des Créateurs et Artisans, Mairie of the 6th, until Wednesday, 24. May

Galerie des Artistes, 55. Rue du Montparnasse

At the Mairie of the 15th, 'Montparnasse d'Hier,' aka 'Quelques Montparnos,' features old photos of our hometown, until Wednesday, 31. May

Hélène Tilmanposter: mai des montparnos and Gérard Fromanger, 'Nude' at the Chemin du Montparnasse, until Tuesday, 20. June

The Marché de la Création, on the marché Edgar Quinet, on Sunday, 28. May

La Feria Montsouris, Avenue Reille, on Saturday, 20. May

Starting at the Closerie des Lilas, a 'promenade' of Montparnos at 15:00 on Saturday, 27. May

Rue Didot, sculptures in the street

Musée-Atelier Adzak, 3. Rue Jonquoy, Paris 14 - from Saturday, 20. May until Thursday, 1. June - daily exhibition from 15:00 to 20:00, on weekends from 11:00 to 19:00

Kiosques en Fanfare - free bandstand concerts on Sunday, 28. May - in the Luxembourg, Parc Montsouris, Parc George Brassens, Square du Commerce, Square Dupleix, and Square Neckar

Plus exhibitions in 18 of the cafés, shops, hotels and galleries - including Paris Accordéon! - in the Rues Boulard, Daguerre, Gassendi and Avenue du Maine - not one of them more than 300 metres from where I am writing this.

No wonder it's taken a while to get the program together. Lucile said part of it was missing too. If you want to meet some working artists in person, then Montparnasse is the place to do it this May.

L'Incroyable Pique-Nique

Metropole has been promoting France's planned picnic, scheduled for Bastille Day 2000, Friday, 14. July and it has been doing this without having anything much in the way of solid details, so I went and got what there is on Friday.

The picnic is planned to take place over 1000 kilometres lying on the 'Méridienne Verte' between the channel port Dunkirk and Prats de Mollo on the Spanish frontier. This old 'Paris' meridian line passes through eight regions, 20 departments and 337 communities, including Paris itself.

While many picnickers will do it on their own initiative, the overall organization is being done by the 'Mission 2000 In France' and WM Evénements. Between them, they have arranged five major actions:

ï A 700-kilometre long tablecloth is being made. Somehow, it will be distributed to each of the participating communities - possibly in two-kilometre pieces. This is known as the 'Incroyable Nappe.'

ï With the help of Radio France and TDF, the 'Incroyable Radio' will broadcast events happening along the 'green line' during the day of the picnic.

ï The French Olympic Committee will help to organize the 'Incroyable Relais Sportif,' whichlogo: l'incroyable pique nique will be a relay-race running through the 337 communities during the 24 hours of the 14. July.

ï Plans are being drawn up for the incredible overflight - 'L'Incroyable Survol' - for which both civilian and military pilots are probably now in training. Flying over Paris will be a rare sight for picnickers with their heads up

ï For those who don't come prepared, the 'Incroyable Marché' is supposed to be set up at a wide variety of the places along the line, to offer regional specialties to famished picnickers.

This may be the first time a picnic has been designated as a 'cultural' affair; as well as being described as 'without equal' and 'extraordinary.' If this 'incroyable' takes off with good weather, the three or four million participants may well make it turn out to be true.

Mark your calendars. Meet on Friday, 14. July, on the Méridienne Verte, for 2000's 'Incroyable Pique-Nique' to make it perfectly 'croyable' - plus visible - even to residents of Mars.

Exhibition: Varian Fry à Marseille

In August of 1940 after the German invasion of France, a 32-year old American editor, Varian Fry, was sent to Marseille as the representative of a private American relief organization, the 'Emergency Rescue Committee.'

His mission was to offer aid and advice to about 200 'artistic' refugees who were threatened with extradition to Nazi Germany under an article of the Franco-German Armistice - the 'Surrender on Demand' clause.

He set up the 'American Relief Center' and from behind this cover he used every means - from black-market funds, forged papers, secret mountain and sea routes - to smuggle about 2,000 endangered people out of France, exceeding his original mission by 1800 souls.

These were far more than the initial 200 he was sent to fetch and some of them have not forgotten it. Some of the original 'artists' were not able to leave, and others like Picasso and Matisse chose not to go.

Varian Fry managed to extend his limited initial stay into a 13-month séjour. Incredible confusion reigned in Marseille, with agents from all sides and police all over everything.

During his stay, Fry had to change addresses several times, finally ending up at the suburban villa, Air-Bel. Manyphoto: fry at bismarck fondation of the artists spent a lot of time here, and to pass it they designed a new set of playing cards which they called 'Jeu de Marseille.' This exhibition features a number of these works.

Mona Bismarck's 'hôtel' on the Avenue de New York houses the foundation named after her.

As if happened, many of these artists were surrealists - Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, André Masson, André Breton - to name a few - and their departure from Europe introduced their form of art to America.

Fry ignored repeated orders to get out by the American government. He was finally kicked out by the Vichy regime, as an 'undesirable alien' in September of 1941. If he had stayed until December, he would have become an 'enemy alien' and would probably have ended up in the camps himself.

The US reward for this activity was a FBI file, as another 'too-soon' anti-Nazi. The only official recognition he received before his death in 1967 was the 'Croix de Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur, awarded by the French government. Since then, Varian Fry has received several posthumous awards.

The current exhibition at the Mona Bismarck Foundation is mainly of art works done at Air-Bel at this time, and also features letters, and photographs of the artists. Open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 10:30 to 18:30; until Saturday, 3. June. At 34. Avenue de New York, Paris 16. Métro: Alma-Marceau or Iéna. Info. Tel.: 01 47 45 75 04.

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