Paris in the spring was a revelation to me – that a city could be filled with such beauty and civility was beyond my imagination. It pays significant homage to the architecture and history of the old and revered, but its still very alive, especially in the surprising ways that the best of what is new finds a place there, enhancing the old and showing it in a new light. For example, one of my favorite memories of Paris was our late afternoon snack and glass of wine at the cafe in the Musee d’Orsay. The cafe is in a grand old room, decorated in the traditional style – the walls iced with gold like a cake decoration, the high ceiling covered in fat blue cupids, and the chandeliers dripping cut glass all over the place, like a glaze on a dessert. But underneath, the chairs are modern – hard plastic molded in startling deep jewel tones. AMAZING.
In another cafe in the same museum, the best of modern design is lit with light streaming through a huge glass clock face. The museum is housed in a vast old train station, and while it must have been breathtaking as such, it is now a stunning place for its current collection of sculpture and art. The idea that a building can show case art in a way that enhances the whole experience, rather than just protects it from the elements, helps me to understand the audacious vision realized in Paris.
And the vision continues. The Foundation Louis Vutton is a new museum in Paris, designed by Frank Gehry, one of my favorite modern architects. After having seen a few of his buildings in Spain, I found this design to be intriguingly different. Its still recognizably Gehry, but with a French twist. It reveals itself slowly, in many layers, as one slowly penetrates to the upper floors, with the stunning peakaboo views of the city framed by the enclosing wings of the building.
And of course, this building was designed to showcase art. I fell head over heels in love with the temporary exhibit on display there, a walk through the works of art that were turning points, touchstones, in the art of the last century or so. I can’t help but think that the way these works were presented may have played some part in the way the works evoked powerful feelings in me as I gazed upon and then fell into them. My favorite, and recurring, reaction to the art I saw in Paris was of delighted recognition – just like finding a line of poetry that described something I’d exactly felt, but in a better way that I could have ever imagined. Its like finding someone who knows your innermost experiences even more than you do. That happy surprise of being recognized made me laugh out loud time and time again. My very favorite works a the Foundation Louis Vutton exhibit were some landscapes by Ferdinand Holder, someone I’d not previously known. His landscapes with their distant lake edges below wild mountain vistas, under clouds of purple and orange called up something in me that recognized those very landscapes in my own soul, although I’d not known of them before that moment. Somehow they seemed very fitting in that airy space.