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‘Art Hiding In Paris’ A Perfect Companion For Exploring The City Of Light

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No city has more artwork than Paris and no city is more artwork than Paris. Ornamental building façades enliven every surface in every direction. Uncountable statues and memorials and fountains creating the world’s largest outdoor sculpture park. Eiffel’s dramatic, soaring, Modernist spire.

There’s so much art in Paris–much of it right out in the open–many visitors don’t even realize the masterpieces they bypass on their way to the museum or café.

Following the success of 2020’s “Art Hiding in New York,” Lori Zimmer returns with “Art Hiding in Paris” (November 29, 2022; Running Press), another insightful, bouncy tour of parks, cafés, side streets, churches, cemeteries, train stations, hotel lobbies and, in this case, cabarets, calling attention to compelling artworks typically overlooked across Paris.

Like a pair of massive spheres–each 20-feet across–commissioned by Louis the XIV.

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A mural renovated in 2020 revealing, for the first time since Nazi occupation, Charlie Chaplin.

A sundial from Salvador Dalí.

Zimmer, a New Yorker, began spending large portions of each summer in Paris in 2017, a ritual she has continued through this year, 2020 being an exception. As soon as France began allowing U.S. tourists to return in June 2021, she was on one of the first flights back, her final push of researching and writing for this book.

Through all those previous summers and trips in between, however, Zimmer had been subtly preparing for “Art Hiding in Paris.”

“I would go to all this stuff anyway, that’s how I vacation, so it just made sense, if I’m (in Paris) and reading up on it anyway, I might as well start keeping tabs and writing about it just in case,” she told Forbes.com.

Tidy, easily fit into a backpack or large purse, “Art Hiding in Paris” serves as a travel companion for exploring the city, each entry including which arrondissement–neighborhood–artworks can be found in along with their addresses. A map and index help visitors stack multiple sites into single excursions. Zimmer has also put together a series of self-guided walking itineraries–“Left Bank Lunch,” “Montmartre Morning”–for travelers to make the most of their limited time.

Also returning from “Art Hiding in New York” for “Art Hiding in Paris” is Zimmer’s childhood friend, Maria Krasinski, whose watercolor illustrations of featured locales again add spirited whimsey and personality to the book, making it an artwork of its own.

Picasso Sat Here

In Woody Allen’s delightful homage to the city, “Midnight in Paris,” a time-traveling Owen Wilson finds himself in 1920s Paris partying with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, discussing literature with Ernest Hemingway, competing for a lover with Pablo Picasso and having his novel reviewed by Gertrude Stein. Paris is about art, true, but there is no art without artists.

In addition to pointing out artworks around the city, “Art Hiding in Paris” shares with readers places where they can commune with cultural icons from the past.

The art supply shop frequented by Monet, Renoir, Cézanne and Van Gogh still furnishing brushes and paint. The cabaret where Loie Fuller and Josephine Baker danced. The historic square where Yoko Ono spread a handful of Keith Haring’s ashes. The studio where Picasso painted Guernica. The flat Theo van Gogh shared with his brother.

“Art Hiding in Paris” and the yearning it creates to visit the city hit high gear when detailing Paris’ numerous cafés, bars, restaurants and their legendary former patrons. An entire chapter is devoted to “Dining with the Masters.”

The bistro Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec invited Vincent van Gogh to join him in sipping absinthe. The brasserie where Diego Rivera, Hemingway and Amadeo Modigliani were regulars. Picasso’s studio was just nearby. The dance hall and open-air restaurant immortalized in one of Renoir’s greatest paintings.

Picasso, Modigliani, Hemingway, Man Ray, Max Ernest and their contemporaries frequented multiple establishments around town, “Art Hiding in Paris” points them out.

“I was inspired going to even the crappiest little café; I love that the ‘historic’ ones are still open, and they love their traditions,” Zimmer said. “They want (visitors) to connect to the past, and you’re also eating your meal, so it’s not just like going to the museum, it’s functional, but with the bonus of learning something and being able to transport to another time.”

“Midnight in Paris” for the rest of us.

Birthplace of the Flâneur

A flâneur is a dandy. A fancy gentleman who walks–saunters–the city streets, typically alone, observing its people and rituals. An urban explorer. Parisian Édouard Manet was a classic Flâneur.

Modern-day flâneurs will cherish “Art Hiding in Paris” for how it privileges pedestrians, Zimmer, after all, is one.

“I love to walk around and just be by myself sometimes,” she says. “More than New York even, for some reason, when I’m in Paris, I rarely take the train and I’ll look at the directions and think, ‘Oh, it’s only an hour and a half walk.’ In my head I think that’s totally fine where anywhere else (that’s crazy).”

Hemingway’s “A Movable Feast” was written about Paris and the adage remains true today. A never-ending feast for the eyes and ears and nose and mouth when experienced at street level, the sights and sounds and smells and tastes rich and intimate as only they can be on foot.

“Art Hiding in Paris” doesn’t work from the window of a tour bus–not at full capacity, anyway–this is a book for the pavement pounder, the curious, the slow traveler, the sidewalk savant, the look-arounder the flaneur.

City of Light

“Most of the streetlights cast that kind of yellowish glow and it was the perfect lighting to write to,” Zimmer recalls of the book’s production. “I would walk like 10 miles in the morning checking everything and then write all night to that light–it was cinematic.”

Zimmer’s writing is concise and unpretentious, with a dash of humor. Take her description of the Paris opera house as, “dripping with sculpture, gilding, crystals and ornate sumptuousness… a temple of antiquated opulence.”

With art everywhere, her greatest challenge was editing.

“It was so hard to decide what to not include, that was the hardest part,” Zimmer said. “I tried to make it a mix of some recognizable (landmarks) and some that no one would know anything about.”

Marc Chagall’s resplendent and familiar fresco on the ceiling of the before-mentioned opera house is admired and photographed by tens of thousands annually; in “Art Hiding in Paris” it is preceded by a doorway carving sharing a medieval love story few ever notice.

“Paris has such a range,” Zimmer said of the city’s public artworks. “For the historical aspects of ‘(Art Hiding in) New York,’ that all happened basically after or during World War II, whereas Paris had a bunch of different periods like the Belle Époque and in between the two wars was when the Bohemian dream happened. The Paris book is more well-rounded.”

As for the most difficult question: New York or Paris?

“Because I’ve been in New York for 17 years, I’m ready for Paris because I feel like I’ve mastered New York and I haven’t mastered Paris and I love unfamiliarity,” Zimmer said. “There’s no place like New York, but Paris is a wonderful place to be alone, to research and work, and that’s the cycle I’m in in my life right now.”

New Yorkers, don’t despair, if you can’t get enough of Zimmer’s commentary on the Big Apple, she has written short essays about an empty NYC during the pandemic for a different book, this one from her significant other, Logan Hicks–himself an artist–and his new book, “Still New York.” It features over 100 photos of Hicks’ observations of an eerily empty New York during the lockdown.

For an “Art Hiding in Paris” Easter Egg from Krasinski, you’ll find an illustration of Zimmer, Hicks and a beloved pet cat on page 230.

Zimmer always intended for Paris to follow “Art Hiding in New York,” and while she’ll take a break from the series to work next on a completely unrelated title, she does hope to return to “Art Hiding” in the future. Where to next?

London.

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