Paris is one of these cities that makes an art lover feel like he is in Paradise. Tens of world-class museums, hundreds of exhibitions to chose from at any moment. We tried to select during the nine days that we spent in Paris earlier in June the most interesting art events happening in the city. We decided not to rush and run through the exhibitions, but rather pick one each day and visit it at lease. Here is a rendu-compte of the most beautiful and interesting things that we have seen.


Visiting the exhibition of Manolo Valdes at Galerie Pascal Lansberg was the recommendation of our friend Marica and thanks again for the pointer. It is located not dar from the hotel where we stayed, on Rue de Seine, between boulevard St.Germain des Pres si Sena, a street with tens of art galleries, with many interesting things mixed with high-class expensive but not necessarily valuable art, waiting for the rich buyers to drop by.


Botero como pretexto


Spanish-born and living in New York, Valdes is a successful sculptor and painter with an interesting style. I was mostly impressed by his sculptures which combine monumental with a dose of irony.


We visited a few more galleries on the same street. One name that especially drew our attention was Etienne Hajdu, who had a collection of his sculptures exposed at the Vallois gallery.


Etienne Hajdu - La Parisienne, 1947


Here is another artist I know too little about. Born in Turda in 1907 in a Jewish family he must have considered himself as belonging to the Hungarian culture, as were most of the Jews in Transylvania before the first world war (including my grandparents on my mother side). He emigrated and settled in Paris where he lived for most of his life. He fought in the Resistance during the second world war. His bronze and marble sculpture in the exhibition were the proof of a sophisticated artist, who knew and absorbed the major trends of the 20th century sculpture and created works full of refinement, at the border between figurative and abstract, and with a radiant sense of beauty.


entrance at the Petit Palais


The next morning we went to the Petit Palais to visit the retrospective of Jean-Louis Forrain which was closing that weekend. The two palaces built on what is named today Avenue Winston Churchill on the occasion of the universal exhibition in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century host nowadays many of the major art exhibitions in the capital of France.


Dans les coulisses - source


Jean-Louis Forrain was a contemporary of the great Impressionist artists and he exposed together with them. Influenced by Degas and Honore Daumier he started by borrowing some of the subjects of the first (like the dancers portraits) and the style of the second to become the most prolific and influential caricaturist of the end of the 19th and start of the 20th century. The retrospective at the Petit Palais combined caricatures, drawings and paintings inspired from his sharp observation of the life of the Parisian higher and lower classes, the atmosphere of the opera theaters, cabarets, tribunals and brothels. Forrain was an anti-Dreyfussist in the big case that split the French society in the last decade of the 19th century and a few of his drawings had an anti-Semitic tent. He enrolled his art in the patriotic effort of the French in the First World War and painted religious subjects and nudes in the final years of his life. He was admired and appreciated by big artists among which Toulouse-Lautrec. The exhibition was comprehensive and respectful, well documented with an excellend audi-guide.


The next day we went to visit another exhibition that was closing that day at the Musee d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaisme on rue du Temple in the Marais area, one of the former densely Jewish populated districts of Paris. The building itself Hotel de Saint-Aignant dates from the years 1645-1650 built by Pierre Le Muet, famous architect of the 17th century. It underwent many transformation and renovations in time. In the interior court we were welcome by the statue of Dreyfus.




The exhibition that we came to see was ‘Chagall et la Bible’ – a collection of prints and paintings related to one of the major themes of the creation of the artist. The Web page of the exhibition is available here.




At the core of the exhibition were the 105 illustration of the Bible that Chagall created between 1930 and 1948, and edition originally ordered by the art merchant and editor Ambroise Vollard. The Old Testament stories and characters, the people of Israel and God himself are the heroes of the stories that Chagall approached with respect and love making them the reality of the spiritual origins of the Jewish people and of the whole civilization.




In the mid of the creation of this cycle World War II broke, and Chagall reflected the tragedy of the war and the catastrophe of the fate of the Jewish people caught in the flames of the Holocaust with another cycle of paintings this time, that relate the Bible characters including Jesus to the tragedies of his present. La Christ en jaune is one of the works in this cycle, a version of which I had seen a few years ago at the art museum in Zurich – with a Christ crucified as the eternal suffering Jew in the mid of a pogrom of the kind Chagall witnessed during his childhood in Vitebsk, and was then again a reality in Europe. Chagall later continued his Bible inspiration with works in glass – some of them in churches, other in public buildings, and I have written about these a few times in this blog as well.


The majority of the Parisian museums are closed on Monday. Grand Palais is one of the exceptions, so we chose to visit the exhibitions there on Monday.


(video source AFP)


We started with Anish Kapoor’s Leviathan in the Monumenta cycle, which brings artists that use and report themselves to the huge space in the Grand Palais. Richard Serra was here in 2008, now it’s Kapoor’s turn. I had read and watched on TV a lot about the show, including segments at ARTE and an interview with Kapoor. One of the things I was ignoring is that his mother is Jewish and he spent some time in a kibbutz in Israel in the 70s.



Leviathan crushes the viewer and changes his perception about space and dimensions. You start the tour in the interior which vaguely lets the light and shades penetrate from the outer universe and continue in the contained space which is huge in reality but seems to become insufficient for the creature and creation invented by the artist. Man is reduced to humble proportions relative to art and his own creation.


(video source mangott)


The next exhibition we visited that day brings together the French writer Aimee Cesaire and the painters Wifredo Lam and Pablo Picasso. Cesaire and Lam were good friends having met during the war when Lam who fought on the Republican side in the Civil War in Spain was fleeing Europe. The meeting with the Cuban artist was another discovery for me. The short film above is not from the exhibition but brings up a few of Lam’s works – an artist whose style is close indeed to Picasso, but with Picasso at his best.

(video source RdmnTV)


I owe to Marica again the push to visit the retrospective dedicated to Odilon Redon. I knew the artist mostly from his late works full of color which I wrongly associated (maybe because of the period, maybe because of the palette) to the neo-raphaelites. I was missing a full first part of his career when he created mostly drawings, some inspired by books and mythology – a dark and fantastic word which was waiting for me to explore. Here is a good introduction in Odilon Redon – Prince of Dreams- excellent film presented by Rodolphe Rapetti the curator of the exhibition.



I owe the visit at the Pinacotheque de Paris to another friend of mine – Teddy, so thanks! Located in the heart of Paris, behind the Madeleine church it is one of the newest museums in Paris. The name behind the idea is Marc Restellini and his conception about how a museum with a permanent collection and temporary events is to be organized proves good taste and courage.

(video source elisabethitti)

The clip abut speaks about the Romanov exhibition which together with the Esterhazy collection brought up to the lovers in Paris the history and some of the important works of two of the national collections best known in the East of Europe.


I confess however that I was not enthusiastic about the two exhibitions – I mean they were OK, good information, art that is representative but no exceptional works. I have seen much of the Esterhazy collection at the Fine Arts museum in Budapest, but I have never been in the Hermitage, and I probably need to get there for the real thing. The permanent collection is however fabulous, and I recommend warmly a visit for any art lover in Paris. Restellini renounced the usual chronological or school-based presentation for a grouping of the paintings according to themes and if you add these to the fine selection you get one of the most interesting and strikingly beautiful collections of art I have seen lately.


Découvrez Le voyage imaginaire d’Hugo Pratt à la Pinacothèque de Paris sur Culturebox !



The last exhibition at the Pinacotheque was dedicated to Hugo Pratt – author of drawings of what the French call bandes dessinees. Both Liliana and me were subscribed as kids to Vaillant - the cartoon magazine that developed our imagination and taught us French in the process. Pratt has an interesting biography of himself (with some Jewish ascendance as well) and his best known hero Corto Maltese started in Vaillant. The exhibition catches the creative process of creating the hero, the stories and the drawings and asks the questions about the blurred relations between art and popular entertainment.


We could not miss the Manet exhibition at Musee d’Orsay even if we are not huge fans of Manet.


(video source telegraphtv)


Seeing such a retrospective certainly helps understanding the work of the artist in the context of his time, and discover lesser known parts of his creation. This was the case here and we got exactly what we expected.



The last exhibition I will talk about is not about art but about cinema. The Cinematheque Francaise one of the most venerable institutions of its genre is hosted nowadays in the Bercy area of Paris in a building designed by Frank Gehry. Just browsing through the program of the month makes a cinema lover full on envy for the folks who have the chance of having such an institution at their reach.


(video source bujutom)


We did not come however there to see movies but to visit the Stanley Kubrick exhibition. As the director’s family made available a great number of documents about the creative process of the artist, the exhibition provides a comprehensive and detailed image of each one of his films, from the 50s until the 90s, plus a few projects that he never completed (like a film about Napoleon) or other directors finished (AI made eventually by Spielberg).

We tried to see the best of what Paris could offer in art, museums and exhibitions in this season, but we were far from having seen all. A partial list of things we did not get to see included an exhibition of the Impressionist works about Paris at Hotel de Ville, a retrospective Severini at the Orangerie, a contemporary Indian art exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou peered with an exhibition about Lucknow at Musee Guimet (part of an Indian culture festival) and many other. It’s a city that lives by art and culture.