When in Paris, do as the Parisians do! And this December, they flock to three exceptional and unusual exhibitions.
Paris….. love it or loath it, but everyone agrees that the City of Light has a knack for mounting some of the world’s most spectacular and unique exhibitions. That is why Parisians flee to museums when they need a break from the ubiquitous jingling bells and fake-snowy landscapes of the increasingly commercialized Christmas extravaganza that has beset the French capital. Among the multitude and diversity of displays, three are particularly noteworthy. They share a theme of exotic locales, but also issue an urgent and timely reminder of the true values in life…. culture, heritage, nature, and vivacity.
Grand Palais: Sites Éternels
(14 December, 2016 – 9 January 2017)
This much-anticipated expo plunges you straight into the heart of the archaeological splendors of Syria and Iraq: Khorsabad, Palmyra, the Umayyad Mosque of Damascus, and the magnificent Krak des Chevaliers fortress… World Cultural Heritage sites in imminent danger of barbaric destruction due to their location in conflict zones. Never-before-see film material and sensational videography offers a 360° immersion in their history and present state of these invaluable treasures of humanity, down to minute details. Jointly organized by the committee of leading French National Museums and supported by numerous corporate sponsors, including Google Arts and Culture, this expo seeks to also educate on the challenges these and other ancient cultural sites are facing in our troubled times. The visual impact is enhanced by the hauntingly beautiful sound concept, created by Olivier Lafuma, one of the most sought-after French sound editors and engineers. He once again proves his unparalleled talent to acoustically illustrate history in cinematographic productions.
Grand Palais: Mexique, 1900 – 1950
(ongoing, through January 23, 2017)
While you’re at the Grand Palais visiting the Middle East, you might also want to stop over in Mexico. Since its independence won from the Spanish monarchy in 1821, Mexico has never ceased to assert its willingness for change and its spirit of modernity. With painting, sculpture, architecture, urbanism, music, literature, film and the applied arts the country has forged its identity. This flamboyant, colourful retrospective of Mexican artists – among them Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Rufino Tamayo – is the largest event dedicated to the Central American country’s art since 1953, and a testament to its vibrant artistic creativity throughout the twentieth century… and the perfect antidote to a grey, chilly, and wet Parisian winter day
Fondation Cartier: Le Grand Orchestre des Animaux
(ongoing, through 8 January 2017)
Since we talked about brilliant sound and Mexican artists a moment ago…. one of our current favorite exhibits actually unites the two and is as much an aural delight as it is a visual one. Over the course of 40 years, American musician, bioacoustician, and poet, Bernie Krause, whose long career includes illustrious collaborations with some of the greatest names in music and cinema, has taped over 5,000 hours of animal sounds in their natural habitat and compiled them into a symphony.
He takes the visitor on a tour through jungles, forests, and swamps, observing small animals and big predators alike – an aesthetic meditation designed to remind the public that the animal kingdom is increasingly under threat in today’s modern world.
Numerous renowned international artists contributed to this exhibition, a far cry from the hustle and bustle of urban life, and yet so close to it: in the transparent, light-filled spaces of the Fondation Cartier, Mexican architects Mauricio Rocha and Gabriela Carrillo created a scenography in terracotta brick, an architectural arrangement that metaphorically reproduces that of a symphonic orchestra. Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s gunpowder-on-paper drawing of 18 meters in length evokes cave paintings from prehistoric times. Specifically created for the exhibition, it depicts wild animals of different species gathered around a watering hole in a moment of peace and extreme vulnerability. This image is complemented by Japanese artist Manabu Miyazaki’s striking photography, taken with great ingenuity and unparalleled sensitivity. Exhibited for the first time outside of Japan, these images allow the viewer to see wild animals sharing the same environment and pathways as their human counterparts, and reveal the mysterious dreamlike beauty of the night-time flight of birds through the forest.
Lead image © Pedro Lastra