Usually in Paris, July is a month of summer, sun, light-dresses and vacations. The town is getting really pleasant to live in and that is the best time to go for a stroll in the city. Unfortunately, the weather is terrible this year and you really have to be motivated to go outside… but anyway, I have decided to boycott my television, so…
As I was still stunned by the two main art exhibitions of the summer in France (“la beaute” in Avignon and the “biennale of Lyon”), I wanted to prove myself (as a natural born Parisian) that the capital was the place for artistic creation. So I took the metro in a quest of something that could be original…
Step One: with two friends of mine, Emilie and Eric, we are going to search some artists. In the south-east of Paris, near the new National Library, a district that is being renovated, stand the frigos, some kind of big industrial buildings which were used in the past as refrigerated warehouses.
They are now squatted by artists and musicians. The place is said to be a hot spot for graffiti and wall paintings. So we enter in one of the buildings and meet the concierge. Unfortunately, he announces that most of the occupants are on vacation. We decide to explore the place anyway.
It is so crowded with paintings that it is almost impossible to find a virgin corner. We can really feel a lot of energy and creativity in that place. Several rooms are converted into studios by artists, photographs or dance companies. There are also five recording studios for musicians and one floor, decorated in a kitsch Greco-Roman style. It is totally dedicated to welcome some of the trendiest parties of Paris. So we can say that this place is really underground and interesting. Anyway, it deserves another visit:www.lesfrigos.fr (if you speak French)
Another day, same district, with my friend Lisa, we decide to go to Louise Weiss street , just behind the Library. On that street, built a few years ago, there are some ventures and cafes that make their business but there are also five contemporary art galleries, that have settled down and program their exhibitions at the same time, in order to be more efficient in the art market.
Yvan Salomone, at Gallery Praz-Delavallade, shows some of his 351 watercoloured paintings: landscape of deserted docks, harbors abandoned… At Gallery Jennifer Flay, “Body Beautiffull” is an exhibition that presents works of several artists (John Coplans, Michel Francois, Seydou Kelta…) who have worked about the body, its expression and its posture.
At Gallery Almine Rech , we see photography about the act of taking pictures from three young Japanese artists: Sakiko Nomura, Momoyo Torimitsu and Shizuka Yokomizo. These works are interesting but a little bit classical in form. Nevertheless, they are the mark of the presence of Japanese art in not just France, but also in Europe, with artists as famous as Mariko Mori, Miwa Yanagi or Dumb Type.
Representative of this yearning for Nippon culture, we find in Gallery “Air de Paris” a 3D animation movie, presenting a manga character, Annlee, whose the French artist Phillipe Parreno, has bought the copyright. In several short movies, the artist plays to create his virtual character a history, a psychology, a personality and a discourse.
The two last galleries present less interesting things. I decide to go to the National Center for Contemporary Arts, near the Chatelet, in the deep center of Paris. On the way, I stop at the Gallery Agnes b., belonging to the fashion designer of the same name. This is a very pleasant gallery, large and calm, and the program is usually of good quality. Martin Parr, the British artist, exposes two different works. The first one is a serial of funny self-portraits made on some vacation spots (more than 100). The second one, aesthetically beautiful, is a serial of flower pictures, whose frame is focused not only on the flower but also on its background a very sunny work to forget the weather.
The last act of the visit take place in Beaubourg, the National Center for Contemporary Arts.
Inside, the Purple Institute, an independent label for the arts (see for example the “Purple Magazine”), has thought to unite some artists in order to build an exhibition based on abstraction and sensory, Elysian Fields.
More than fifty works cooperate, photos, videos, music and installations. Some of them are very original, as the paintings of the Japanese director Takeshi Kitano, full of poetry, or the attractive pictures of Masafumi Sanai. A lot of artists show remarkable works too. We noticed over all the very mysterious drawings of Maria Finn, the metaphysical video of Jeremy Blake, the carpet installation of Dike Blair or the moss rocks of Andrea Zittel.
It is finally a very special exhibition that don’t stay in common form, and with artists that take their responsibilities lightly, so far from the norm in that kind of institution.
So this is the end for now. In spite of the huge provincial exhibitions of the summer, whose aim his to reach a large public, Paris is still the reference, at least for arts and contemporary creation. So let’s just enjoy it, while waiting for the sun.
Text and Photo: Julien Villaret