Paris Museums: Love is in the Air
By Theadora Brack
Oops, I did it again.
I attended an exposition’s “vernissage” (literally, the “varnishing”—what we would call the opening), and became smitten with the show and its fine-looking catalog. Obsession activated! Hit hard, and a post card just wouldn’t do. Let me tell you, during the late summer days in Paris, there is nothing sweeter than curling up with an art book in a park just before l’heure bleue.
But, how to score an affordable art catalogue? Take my hand, here’s how this fool falls in love.
1. Check out that rack of glossies
Most museum shops sell “les albums de l’exposition” (guides, magazines, and portfolios). Published by Beaux Arts Magazine, Connaissance des Arts, Le Figaro, or the museum itself, these slim gems are usually prominently displayed, lightweight and affordable, costing just €2 to €10. Full of visuals with punch, they’ll satisfy your head, pocketbook and suitcase. Translated versions are often available, too.
2. Crack Da Chintzy code
La Boutique du Musée du Louvre not only carries current and back issues of “albums de l’exposition,” but also discounts catalogs from its previous expositions by up to 60% off their original cost.
More Tips Ahoy
Other museums like the Centre Pompidou, Musée Carnavalet, and the Palais de Tokyo also slash art catalogue prices throughout the year.
Always one to boast, while at the Musée national de la Marine, I recently netted their “Le Marins Font La Mode—Sailor Chic in Paris” catalog for just a few euros. The felt “bachi” on the cover wooed me like a siren. By the way, the museum also carries handsome striped shirts by designer Jean Paul Gaultier. Steady yourself, Matey. Even the bags are suited in stripes. Now that’s an outfit!
3. Cha-ching at Fuh-nack
Fnac (pronounced “fuh-nack”) also discounts their inventory of books. This includes the catalogues from this year’s blockbuster shows, like Edward Hopper at the Grand Palais, Keith Haring at the Centquatre and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and Roy Lichtenstein at the Centre Pompidou. Magazines by Beaux Arts are also discounted here. At the moment, I’m coveting the Musée d’Orsay’s Le Romantisme Noir de Goya à Max Ernst. Like the show, it’s a stunner.
Tip: Founded in 1954, Fnac also stocks cameras, camera chips and batteries (not to mention DVDs, CDs, and tons of French comic books Bande dessinée (an art form all their own).
4. Flâneur-tastique. That’s how we stroll.
I’ve been known to spend entire days in the aisles of Mona Lisait Librairies. Although this funky bookstore chain that specializes in new and used art books has shops scattered all over Paris, its Marais location at 17bis rue Pavée is closest to my heart. Its creaky wooden floorboards, uneven brick flooring, tinny classical music, helpful staff, and free gift-wrapping all add up to real atmosphere.
For another take on the arts, go meet the artists or at least their wax replicas at the Musée Grévin (Paris Wax Museum). Then visit the Librairie du Passage just a few feet away at 39 and 48 Passage Jouffroy. Open since 1846, it’s in one of Paris’ classic 19th-century shopping arcades. Even bargain hound Victor Hugo shopped here.
6. Mosey on to Glory
Here I weep. At La librairie de l’Avenue in the middle of Clignancourt Flea Market, the angels sing on high from a little CD player located just below the cashier’s desk. The sweet smell of frankincense tickles the nose. This large but still cozy bookshop is well stocked with new and used art books, vintage prints and antique magazines. Deciding exactly where to start my quest is the only glitch I encounter here as I make my way though the narrow labyrinth of floor to ceiling bookshelves, stocked with discounted books that have been meticulously organized by category, author or genre.
An important note on pronunciation:
You risk raising a few bemused eyebrows if you ask for directions to an “exhibition.” “Exhibitions” (with an “h”) are peep show—which is fine, if that’s the sort of display you’re after. However, if you’re looking for art, give that word a “p”–“exposition.” Oh, la la.
Trekking to Paris in September?
Here are eight expositions I’m looking forward to seeing. Love is swinging in the air. Heads-up: A few of my picks are scheduled to close in September, so plan accordingly.
L’Art Nouveau: La révolution décorative
Tamara de Lempicka: La Reine de l’Art déco
Through September 8 2013
Art Nouveau AND Art Deco. Pinch yourself! Looking for another win-grin? After your visit, trek it on over to the Jardin des Tuileries. The walk should take you about 15 minutes, but with all the architecture whizzing by, it will feel like five.
2. Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits
Titanic, 100 ans après
Closes on September 9th 2013 but our hearts will go on—Near, far, wherever you are. But for now, anchors aweigh!
3. Musée Jacquemart-André
Désirs et volupté à l’époque victorienne, Alma-Tadema, Leighton, Burne-Jones
September 13 2013 to January 13 2014
Downton Abbey fans, don’t leave the building without having tea in the former formal dining room. It’s worth every cent and calorie. Flaunting frescoes by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and chocolate cake, I’ve never failed to make the scene without getting weepy. Afterwards, rendezvous to your heart’s content in the nearby Parc Monceau.
4. Musée de Montmartre
Impressions à Montmartre: Eugène Delâtre and Alfredo Müller
September 14 2013 to January 12 2014
“Come up and see my etchings.” That’s what Eugène Delâtre said.
Inventing color engraving in his rue Lepic studio in Montmartre, his brand-spanking-new technique inspired Picasso, Steinlen, and Toulouse-Lautrec, along with Renoir, Alfredo Müller, and Suzanne Valadon. Featuring works by Delâtre, Müller, and Valadon, the eyes are treated to scenes of daily life in early 20th century Montmartre—night and day, along with portraits of stage starlet Sarah Bernhardt, and dancer Cléopatra de Mérode (the Beyoncé of her day!).
5. Grand Palais
September 18 2013 to January 6 2014
And speaking of Montmartre, it was here at “le Bateau-Lavoir” that Picasso met Georges Braque. “Notre pard,” Picasso took to calling the six-foot former boxer, race car driver and dancer, a phrase he pinched from “Les Histoires de Buffalo Bill.” A tight bond was formed, and Cubism took flight. That was back when you could say, “Be there or be square” and really mean it!
6. Musée national Jean-Jacques Henner
Sensualité et spiritualité: À la recherche de l’absolu
Through September 16 2013
Along with Henner’s dreamy paintings of radiant nudes, the exhibition features his private notebooks, diaries, drawings and sketches. This is one of my favorite ways to get intimate with an artist. It’s all about the process, I say. After your visit, float on over to the Parc Monceau for some more love in the ruins and music lessons.
7. Musée d’Orsay
Masculin / Masculin: L’homme nu dans l’art de 1800 à nos jours
(Masculine / Masculine: The Nude Man in Art from 1800 to the Present Day)
September 24 2013 to January 2 2014
Strike a Pose
I have the Anna Wintour bangs, so where’s my front row seat? Mark your calendar and get set. Glow! Then, afterwards hotfoot it on over to the Jardin des Tuileries (literally, “the tileworks”). Built atop the clay pits of the former city tile factory, here swanky cafés, chairs, and over one hundred statues (including many by Maillol) also seductively tempt.
8. Centre Pompidou
Roy Lichtenstein, ‘Une rétrospective’
Through November 4 2013
WHAAM. Oh, Roy. I do love you. Darling, these paintings are masterpieces even if they are a bit cartoonish! But then again, so am I. Pop goes the easel! After your visit, cool your heels by the Stravinsky fountain. Keep your eyes peeled for Jef Aerosol’s “Shhhh” mural. Created by the great graffiti artist back in June 2011, it measures in at an impressive 350 square meters. The mural’s message? “Stop, look and appreciate the city!” It certainly stopped me in my tracks.
Clipping from Henry Miller YET again
“Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music—the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.”