Free Meat for Paris' Art Fans

photo: art crowd, burning cow

Art show begins the Fêtes de Seine with an orgy
of food and drink.

Opening Night for L'Art Dans le Monde 2000

Paris:- Friday, 8. September 2000:- I can't say I'm really excited by the mass-public art scene; by these hypermarché affairs like the Louvre or Orsay or Pompidou, where you stand in long lines for a ticket. Then you need a periscope to see anything.

The cinema's advantage - once you are installed in a more or less comfortable seat, with or without popcorn - is that there is usually only one screen; only one image source to attract your gaze.

Getting around the hypermarché-art part is easy. As you walk around Paris, you can pass many, many galleries, and you can either look in their windows or go inside them and pretty much have the places to yourself.

But now, look; it is back-to-school time and after the holidays, and even if gas for your car is a bit short in France today, this is no reason not to start the second half of 2000's 'Art Season' in Paris.

As early as it is in September, this lead-off show, modestly titled 'L'Art Dans le Monde 2000,' is a major event. It is so major that it is being given its launch on a Friday. Admittedly, this is early Friday evening, so it is not going to hinder anybody from having their habitual Friday evening 'art' and 'intello' dinner later on.

In the world scheme of 'art' affairs, Paris is determined to become 'major' again. If this can't be achieved by being the residence of the world's 100 leading artists - because they either don't exist or don't live here - then Paris is going to do it with exhibitions.

'Major' also requires that this kick-off exhibition to the season must have an extraordinary location. Since there are so many of these in Paris, finding a major 'new' one is not the easy task you might think it would be.

We've had popular exhibitions parked outside on the Champs-Elysées and on bridges, like the Pont des Arts. Now, for the first time, here is this exhibition - under a bridge.

This is not just any old bridge. The Pont Alexandre III is a fancy bridge. At least on top, it is fancy. It was opened in 1900 as a 'symbol of reconciliation' between France and Russia, withphoto: el muerto, sebastian gordin its first stone being laid by Czar Nicolas II, the son of Czar Alexandre III - in person! - in 1896.

Sebastian Gordin's 'El Muerto' is presented by Argentina's art magazine, 'Vox.'

Its four 17-metre high end-towers are topped with golden Pegasus - in French, they are plural; in Greek, I don't know - and it is adorned with an overabundance of other decoration, like a Czar's wedding cake. Originally it was a footbridge, between the Champs-Elysées and the invalides.

But in 1925, for the 'Universal' exposition, it was given elaborate lighting, dressed up even more, and wired for sound. It got another treatment in 1937 and was later the star in the animated film by Don Bluth, 'Anastasia.'

The whole thing was restored in 1991, with new paint and new gilding. Somewhere along the line of time; somebody 'discovered' 1500 square metres of free space underneath the bridge's north end, where it abuts on the Seine's bank.

There is a passage along the quay beneath the bridge's nifty iron structure, and the exhibition space is in a stone-walled space like a cave, beneath the right bank's Cours la Reine, which is part of Paris' east-bound Seine-side speedway.

So, today at 19:00, while crossing I have the elaborate bridge all to myself to admire. Although overcast, its lights are not yet lit, but Concorde's big wheel is a pulsating pin-cushion of light to the right. Slightly closer, below on the quay, there are the beginnings of a big crowd.

My invitation card gets me through the official filter at the top of the stairs down to the quay and through the second filter at the bottom. Cocktail tables are set up right beside the river and there is a big 'U'-shaped table for food. Behind it a smallish but whole cow is roasting on a revolving spit.

The entry to the exhibition is a small arch set into the quay's stone wall; and its polite filter lets in the chosen few only in small lots.

In a small foyer press releases are handed out and copies of the exhibition's summary by 'Beaux Arts' magazine are exchanged for invitation cards. Another young lady wearing a red jacketphoto: shoes, johannes wohnseifer hands out small shopping bags full of Paris' newer brochures. I already have all of these; where to dump them?

Germany's 'Artist - Das Kunst Magazin' presents Johannes Wohnseifer's installation of shoes.

This is followed by a sort of maze with random video projections, and it finally opens out to where there is a bar and a reading area that features the 36 other art magazines that are involved with the 100 artists from 50 countries, on exhibit here.

This is all underground, under stone, under iron. Some spaces are created with fabric, to make tunnels; but other spaces are fairly open.

There are 'installations' - don't step on the art in the dark! - and there are some nearly invisible wires - lightweight nylon fishing line actually - holding other items in place. Lights are haphazard, different colors and intensities and some are in motion - and there are video things happening too.

Modern art video usually looks like something made in a kitchen from 1936-era 8mm black and white film, but it is probably fun to do if you like lowball 'production values.'

I've luckily gotten in before there are too many other viewers - in fact I guess this is why so few are let in at a time. I go through the whole maze and it ends with a white fabric tent, lit by one bulb. This exit is to the downstream quay.

There is another exit opened near the reading area and this leads to the passage under the bridge's iron frame - which is worth a look too even if it is not, technically, 'modern art.' Technically, it is good and stout iron with lots of big rivets.

This is where the techno sonarisation, by, I guess - 'Line Up,' 'Zimpala' and the 'Grand Popo Football Club' - are cranking out their iron-rattling decibels. The Seine gurgles just beneath, giving a rising and falling sensation.

If I get too near the monster speakers, I can feel them sucking air out of my lungs. Upriver, on the quay, several thousand more first-nighters have ignored the exhibition in favor of the drinks tables and the burning cow area. It is packed solid.

Occasional lights are provided by passing bateaux mouches. The non-invited look down on the people eating and drinking and the smoke, from the bridge and the stone walls. I hope they are not annoyed taxpayers.

This is it. While France is getting used to walking around in search of filling stations with gas, some of the chosen are having a lot of free food and drink, in the name of 'L'Art Dans le Monde.'

We can't live on baguettes alone. While I can't be sure if there is any orange juice because of all the whisky and pastis bottles on a riverside drinks table, when I ask for some I get a clear plastic dixie-cup full of it. Ice cubes that have melted into un-cubed blocks, are tossed into the river by the waiters.

The crowd looks like it is 20-deep to get a bit of burnt cow, which is still giving off regular amounts of roasted smoke. From up on the bridge the scene looks surreal. The 100 artists - if they are here - are vastly outnumbered by their 'art' fans.

The Pont Alexandre III is just as deserted as before when I cross it to go back to catch the métro at Invalides. The grass on its Esplanade has been prepared for Paris' 2nd Golf Open tomorrow, and there is a scruffy little green set up near the river side.

Nobody has removed the 'keep off the grass' signs. The biggest advantage Paris has over Disneyland is its 'art life' and the free food and booze, and its free city-wide sports circuses.

Normally in France, this would be called unfair competition. But since this one involves 'art,' nobody dares.

Besides, the public has to pay to get in to see it. For 30 francs it is not only a good deal, but it's cheap too.

Art 'appreciation' time - modern art, when it is dispersed, doesn't necessarily look like 'art.' A lot of the time it looks like the rejects from a fleamarket, and it can be amusing if nothing else.

However, at this show the world's leading art mavens have selected the best of the best. Moscow Art Magazine's 'Heroines From the East 1' by Elena Kovilina and Ania Abazievaphoto: under pont alexandre III is a photo collage showing two virgins perched on a tank's cannon barrel, is certainly something to think about - especially when the Journal du Dimanche runs it backwards.

First nighters, under the bridge, heading towards the cow, pass the techno.

If anything, there is too much to see; the pieces are too close together and the lighting is not always optimal. For this reason, I suggest you allow yourself plenty of time to take in this show - or better yet - pay it several visits.

If you do, you will be well rewarded - especially if you have a sense of humor. For example, Holland's Cees Krijnen's 'My Next Project Will Be - Financing My Own Future' is based on the style of his 'Financing My Parent's Divorce,' which took 15 years in real life.

Gijs Müller hands out his personal visiting card, while saying, "It is simple to get interested in my work; all you need to do is get to know me.&quot: The artist is the art work. Getting to know him is your 'work of art.'

L'Art Dans le Monde 2000 - the entry is at the north end of the Pont Alexandre III, Paris 8. Until Wednesday, 8. November; open daily except Monday, from 11:00 to 19:00. Entry: 30 francs; reduced, 20 francs; children, 15 francs. Métro: Champs-Elysées-Clemenceau or Invalides.

In Metropole Paris
Latest Issue
2008 Issues
2007 | 2006 | 2005
2004 | 2003 | 2002
2001 | 2000 | 1999
1998 | 1997 | 1996
In Metropole Paris
About Metropole
About the Café Club
Links | Search Site
The Lodging Page
Paris Museums List
Metropole's 1996 Tours
Metropole's 2003 Tours
Support Metropole
Metropole's Books
Shop with Metropole
Metropole's Wine
metropole paris goodblogweek button
Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
Metropole Midi © 2014
– unless stated otherwise.
logo, metropole sml midi logo No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
Waldo Bini