I’ll start with a traditional French coffeehouse and the story of a Mexican surrealist artist.
A young English debutant who fled her nouveux riche family to pursue art and a love affair with Max Ernst in Paris, then Mexico, Leonora Carrington became a famed artist in the Surrealist circle; the art movement that steers away from rationality and unflinchingly explores human dreams and subconscious. Frequently described as a muse of the Surrealist movement a lot of Leonora’s own talent and work has previously been overcast by her relationship with Ernst but She’s my newly discovered muse, a reminder of the exciting stories that follow an imaginative and headstrong mind.
I warn you, I refuse to be an object.
In March, I went to the beautiful Café de Flore, where Leonora was once shoulder to shoulder with Ernst, Duchamp, Picasso and Breton. The crowd included “Man Ray, Paul Eluard, Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miró, and was led by André Breton… [Carrington] remembers: “There weren’t many parties, but we used to meet at cafés and discuss everything.”
This love letter to Carrington’s rebellion introduces my adventure in Paris’ decadent art scene. Starting with a romantic coffee date at Café de Flore and a stroll around the Musée d’Orsay, then switching spectrums to explore Palais de Tokyo and Space Invader.
You’re desperate to be rational. And you’ll never understand the world that way.
Leonora Carrington to her cousin, Joanna Moorhead, Sunday Times Magazine,
With the advice of my French housemate, Constance, Giles and I chose to spent hours and hours in the Musée d’Orsay.
I love taking a naive circuit of a gallery room, taking note of my immediate preferences and then re-assessing these once I’ve read about the artist and their story. The two paintings above are both Henri Rousseau. I was really drawn to his style and only retrospectively did I realise that both of these favourites are his work.
This ginormous orb is another one of my favourites from the museum’s collection of Van Gough portraits. Eugène Boch looks like an eerie haloed moon man and I’m addicted to this colour palette. I referenced this ochre colour in a freelance SS/17 trend forecast, back in January, and I’ve been longing after wardrobe updates like these Van Gogh Sunflower yellow heels, and the amazing warm yellow climes that blogger Lucy Williams has been exploring.
I should like to paint the portrait of an artist friend, a man who dreams great dreams… Behind his head, instead of painting the ordinary wall of this shabby apartment, I will paint infinity, I will do a simple background of the richest blue, the most intense blue that I can create, and through this simple combination of the bright head against this rich, blue background, I will obtain a mysterious effect, like a star in the depths of an azure sky.”
Vincent van Gogh, about Eugène Boch
Quite the contrast from the paintings and sculptures in the Musée d’Orsay, the Palais de Tokyo was theatrical, satirical and puzzling.
The headline act for the gallery was Abraham Poincheval, the performance artist causing headlines such as, “French artist living inside a rock surrounded by excrement: ‘I feel completely at ease'”. The artist’s story seems to be one of extreme introspection, a sort of phenomenological experiment.
We are already locked into our own bodies”
Taro Izumi is an installation artist, parodying our adoration for celebrities and toying with our ideas of ordinary and absurd, perhaps a comment on contemporary art itself.
Giles and I snapped sightings of Space Invader all over Paris, as well as inside the walls of Palais de Tokyo. In Banksy’s ‘Exit through the gift shop’ documentary, there’s a really interesting story about the forerunners in graffiti art, with Space Invader as a key influencer. It’s a typically idiosyncratic and anarchist commentary from Banksy on ‘being an artist’ and it’s a seriously good watch.
Paired with CityMapper, an essential, Sift Guide is a great website for navigating the best independent eateries in Paris (and across Europe), run by a friend in Bristol. I followed their recommendation to Chez Prune on Canal St Martin, an area filled with street art and artsy book shops. It was the perfect bar to drink and people watch before catching the Eurostar home.
Off all the galleries in Paris, I started with Café de Flore and ended with Space Invader. Let me know what I missed!