Friday, June 29, 2007

air orchids

a Zagat survey has named the Georges V Hotel in Paris as number one in the world--a good excuse to throw a party! so they did. i was lucky enough to be invited, and though i arrived too late to savour the savouries, i had lots of time to marvel at the desserts...which included freshly-made green apple & coca cola-flavoured marshmallows. easily the weirdest thing i've ever eaten--stranger even than Tibetan yak tea. trust me on this. amazingly it didn't rain, so we could stand out in the courtyard, surrounded by gorgeous purple air orchids that were suspended in a bondage trellis. if aliens appeared on earth as orchids (and decided to crash a party at the Georges V) this is how they would appear...teleporting down from the sky. difficult to photograph (or maybe we'd consumed too many strawberry champagne cocktails to get the angle right...)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

jazz fleas

after a great brunch with US authors Katy Yocom and Sena Jeter (in town for the Spalding University Creative Writing program), i headed over to the Picolo in the flea market near where i live. because it's in my 'hood, i'm biased in thinking that this is one of the best dives in town. today, David Enhco of Enhco&Co was playing in the back, as part of the Festival Jazz-Musette des Puces.
when the flea market really got going in the 1880s, there were already little dives in the neighborhood that served wine & welcomed musicians like Django Reinhardt. but it was Malik Harullak (for whom this part of the market is named) who bought the Picolo & made it what it is today. i first dropped by the Picolo over a decade ago, on the advice of a gypsy leather-maker who was working in the Malik of the best bits of advice i've ever had, because unless you know about it, you might just pass it by.
though this weekend, the Festival is making the Picolo a little more noticeable. yesterday, violinist Didier Lockwood & guitarist Serge Malik (who met playing 'round here back in the 70s) inaugurated "Place Django Reinhardt" right in the middle of the Puces, not far from the Picolo--a lasting tribute to gypsy jazz at the flea market. As is Serge's 82-year-old mother, who still lives across the street from the Picolo and remembers listening to Django play.

Monday, June 11, 2007


tonight i'm madly rewriting part of a story set in the Klondike, so that i can read it on Wednesday here in Paris. normally i would read something i'm more familiar with, a piece of writing that i was, say, finished writing (!) except that over the weekend, Justin Taylor convinced me that the reading would be an ideal place to try out the new fact, i got the feeling he was daring me come hear how it goes at 7pm the day after tomorrow, at WICE, 20 blvd de Montparnasse, metro Duroc. the evening also features readings from prose writers Justin Taylor (the daredevil who got me into this), Bonny Finberg (who i'm looking forward to meeting), and Jeffrey Greene (a wonderful poet who'll be reading from a new nonfiction book, just out, about a chicken farm. yep, that's what i'm told. a chicken farm. but i could be wrong--come by on wednesday and find out.)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

the window swallow

the Grande Halle of La Villette is a gorgeous example of an iron-structured market building, but it has been under wraps for two years during a re-division of its performing space. though it's an important music & theatre space, the most frequent users of the Grande Halle have always been the swallows...there's a huge colony of 70-odd nests in the iron frets of the building, and i always enjoy watching the swallows swoop out of the eaves. but for the past two years, the swallows have been coping with serious construction, unable to access their usual perches. (this photo is pre-renovation)

fortunately...the "hirondelle de fenetre" is a protected species in Europe. during the Halle redo, the usual nests were carefully fenced off while artificial nests were hung on nearby buildings, to encourage the birds to hang around during the inconvenience. the Centre Ornithologique Ile-de-France thinks the plan has worked, so the swallows should be all set for the summer.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

at the Grand Palais

went to see Anselm Kiefer's exhibition at the Grand Palais--the kick-off show for a new annual series called MONUMENTA which invites a contemporary artist to grapple with the vast space that is the renovated Grand Palais. and Kiefer nearly succeeds. my only quibble is with his seven corrugated metal constructions, which house most of the work inside the palatial greenhouse space.

the metal boxes are intriguing with their tall narrow entrances. but once you get inside, the interior is very much like a room in the Pompidou: a pleasant white box, obliterating our response to the Grand Palais environment. a bit self-defeating, i think. each box contains a different variation of Kiefer's work--and the box-room dedicated to the work of Celine's Voyage au Bout de la Nuit is particularly evocative, with its storm-tossed paintings--but overall the constructions emphasize the literal, weigh down Kiefer's work with interpretation which he himself says is to be avoided.
"People mustn't try to understand what I am saying through my works. People...must see with their own way of thinking..." says Kiefer. "In a way, each viewer 'finishes' the work with their own vision, their own stance in relation to it." EXACTLY my complaint about the architecturally-exciting but otherwise failed corrugated metal spaces: they're interesting on the outside, contrast beautifully with the swirling metalwork and glass of the Grand Palais, but the boxes control the viewer's response to the artwork. i was happier outside in the great palatial space, appreciating the various concrete towers Kiefer has constructed--the photo above gives you an idea of how effective these half-ruined towers are (ok, also it's not a good ad for cellphone cameras)

Monday, June 04, 2007

refreshed Louise Weiss

the contemporary gallery strip of rue Louise Weiss in the 13th is a great idea--invigorate an under-served corner of the city with art--but since it first appeared at the end of the 90s, the art has never really worked for me. maybe i've missed the best shows or maybe i'm too fussy about what kind of video art i want to watch. but i keep going back, because i'm intrigued by how well Paris urban planners have managed to bring new energy into the previously lackluster area near the very large Mitterrand library.

And FINALLY my enthusiasm for the gallery row has been rewarded: this weekend, i dropped by a fantastic party thrown by Sara Guedj to celebrate the opening of her new (self-named) space at 11 rue Louise Weiss...lots of champagne, lots of nibblies, lots of people crammed in the gallery looking at the art & spilling into the street talking about the art. Two very different artists' works generating this energy: Genevieve Gauckler, known for her weirdly cuddly critters, as in the t-shirt above, in this show gets away from graphic design without losing her sense of social commentary. the first room of the gallery shows her new series of manipulated photographs--which i can only describe as digitally-composed piles of stuff that make you think. And in the second room, black & white graffiti-inspired work from Italian artist Stefano Pedrini (who challenges viewers by working not in Italian, or English, but in Latin.)

Friday, June 01, 2007

museum guide

since i started working on the Fodor's Paris Guide a couple of years ago, i've noticed a fair number of travellers wandering the city with the book tucked under their arm. but today, i was on the metro while a tourist actually read my museum reviews aloud to his friend. they were heading over to see Delacroix's studio, before taking a wander through Saint-Germain...good choice.