The Musée de Montmartre: A True Multi-faceted Gem!

The Musée de Montmartre is one of my favourite museums in Paris and is really worth visiting for so many reasons.

First of all the museum is located on top of the Butte in a peaceful cobbled street so typical of Montmartre, the ‘rue Cortot’. And although Montmartre may be the most touristic area of Paris this street and the museum itself remain rather off the beaten track and not too crowdy.

Musee de Montmartre - Rue Cortot - Paris
Musee de Montmartre – Rue Cortot – Paris

Secondly the permanent collections are exhibited in a beautiful house which is the oldest house in Montmartre. It was built in the middle of the 17th century and fully renovated in 1959. It is a four-storey building offering a succession of charming rooms with apparent oak beams and terracotta floor tiles and vista of the gardens from every window. The works exhibited tell the history of Montmartre. One can see paintings of landscapes of the Butte in the 19th century, covered with gardens, vineyard and windmills; or souvenirs of the cabarets whose history cannot be separated from the one of Montmartre: Le Chat Noir, Le Lapin Agile or Le Moulin Rouge.

Thirdly the Musée de Montmartre houses the studio of Suzanne Valadon and her son Maurice Utrillo, which is absolutely amazing. A perfect replica of the artists’ workshop has been built in its genuine exceptional location on top of the second building of the museum. It offers a terrific view on the roof of the old house, on the gardens and on Paris in the background. The studio is bright and peaceful, with a unique and authentic atmosphere thanks to all the period furniture and objets exhibited -including a genuine Almanach des Postes of 1925-. None of them belonged to the artists but the reconstruction is faithful and striking.

And last but not least the garden of the museum is idyllic and charming. I should say ‘the gardens’ as they are multiple, each of them offering a very special and different atmosphere. They are named ‘The Renoir Gardens‘ as the impressionist artist used to live and paint there.

They are romantic, peaceful and clear in front of the Studio of Suzanne Valadon. There one can enjoy a drink in an atmosphere evoking the impressionists’ period: a pond with water lilies; table, chairs and sunshade of the ‘Café Renoir’; and even a swing hanged up in the precise spot where Auguste Renoir painted his masterpiece: La balançoire, in 1876.

At the back of the museum the gardens are much wilder and the atmosphere totally different. One gets lost into the groves walking down a path through flowers and trees; one can sit down on a stump and enjoy dreaming or reading. Further on the right one notices a couple of hives hidden in the old wood of ‘8 rue Cortot’ which is today an ecological reserve of the City of Paris planted with trees and where only cats have access.

The path comes out onto the vineyard of Montmartre: 1762 vines of 27 grape varieties, mainly Gamay, have been planted and allow to produce a light red wine, the ‘Clos Montmartre’. The view onto the vineyard and the small houses below including the cabaret ‘Le Lapin Agile’ is amazing. It reminds the old Montmartre and offers a striking contrast with the recent buildings of northern Paris in the background. One stay there and contemplates past and present, countryside and urbanization.

If need be here are two more reasons to go and visit the Musée de Montmartre this summer. Firstly a superb exhibition dedicated to the Dutch painter Kees Van Dongen is taking place there until 26 August 2018. It is focused on the years that the artist spent in the Bateau-Lavoir in Montmartre from 1905. Beautiful paintings coming from various museums of the world and from private collections are exhibited: A unique opportunity to see them in a very successful presentation. Among my favourites: ‘Fernande Olivier’ (the portrait on the exhibition’s poster); ‘Deux Yeux’; and in the last room, ‘Femme allongée’ and ‘La promeneuse’.

Photographies are not allowed and the only way to admire them is to go there…

Musee de Montmartre - Paris - Exhibition Van Dongen
Musee de Montmartre – Paris – Exhibition Van Dongen

Finally the Musée de Montmartre offers late-night opening until 10pm every Thursday in July and August. One can then enjoy an even more romantic atmosphere and especially admire the beautiful light of sunset in the gardens and on the vineyard, the surroundings streets and houses and the northern part of Paris. And one can choose between the usual visit at usual price (12€) or buy a special entrance ticket including the degustation of a glass of champagne in the gardens (extra cost of 4€). Nothing could be more romantic!

I went to the Musée de Montmartre during the day last week and although Paris is busy with tourists at that time of the year it was a heaven of tranquillity. I spent two hours there, visiting the museum, the apartment and studio of Suzanne Valadon and Maurice Utrillo, the beautiful exhibition Van Dongen and also strolling in the multiple nooks of the gardens. In such a magical atmosphere I lost track of time: A true delight!

Practical information : Musée de Montmartre – 12 rue Cortot 75018 – 10am-6pm (5pm from October till March) – Late-night opening on Thursday until 10pm in July and August – Exhibition ‘Van Dongen et le Bateau-lavoir’ until 26 August 2018

Christine Bokobza – Good Morning Paris The Blog –

L’Institut Giacometti in Paris: New and So Intimate!

A new spot dedicated to the famous Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) has just opened in Paris. It is called: L’institut Giacometti and it is not one more museum but a completely different place which enables to be admitted into the artist’s private life. One thought one knew everything about the sculptor whose works are so familiar. By visiting l’Institut Giacometti one realizes that one still has a lot to learn: a true delight!

an Art Deco Private mansion in Montparnasse

The building chosen to welcome the Institute used to be the house of the French decorator Paul Follot (1877-1941) and is a superb listed monument. It has been beautifully renovated, the interior design and the Art Deco period decorations are outstanding: panelling, furniture, fireplaces, stained-glass windows, tiled floors…

The private mansion is located in the area of Montparnasse, where so many artists used to live in the beginning of 20th century and where many artists’ studios can be seen or visited today. It is standing in a quiet street along the Montparnasse Cemetery whose trees can be seen from inside the house. Alberto Giacometti had his studio nearby, on 46 rue Hippolyte Maindron, from 1926 until his death.

The reconstruction of Giacometti’s studio

As soon as one enters the building, one is immersed in the life and works of the sculptor thanks to the reconstruction of his studio. One has a seat on one of the steps in front of it and admires the tiny studio where Giacometti used to work. Everything has been faithfully reconstucted: From the bed where the artist used to rest to his last sculptures and to the walls covered with drawings; and on the table, from the paintbrushes and pencils to his glasses and ashtray.

Giacometti’s studio had been immortalised by famous photographers such as Doisneau or Brassaï. It is part of the myth of the artist and a key to better understand him and imagine him live and work.

Such a close and intimate relationship with the artist is really unique and is part of what makes the Institute a must-visit!

The exhibition of never seen sculptures

The seventy artworks exhibited in the reconstruction of Giacometti’s studio had never been shown before. Some other masterpieces are exhibited for the first time by the Institute in the various rooms of the house. My favourite is the group of the Women of Venice (painted plaster 1956), remarkably exhibited in the library on the first floor: so moving!

Institut Giacometti-Paris-Women of Venice 1956
Institut Giacometti-Paris-Women of Venice 1956

I also like the Cage, which evokes the space of a room with a man and a woman whose spread arms suggest the opening of a curtain giving access to a world of pleasure. Not easy to photograph… I let you discover it during your visit!

Here are some other works:

Several temporary exhibitions will take place there all along the year. All of them will aim to come close to the life and work of Giacometti through another eye. The first one: ‘Giacometti’s studio as seen by Jean Genet’ makes the sculptor and the writer converse together. The interaction between both artists is beautifully depicted through their respective works. One can sit next to the fireplace and listen to Jean Genet reading his text, the Giacometti’s studio. And one can admire the beautiful Portrait of Jean Genet painted by the sculptor. Some photographs and videos show the friendship between the two men.

Institut Giacometti-Paris-View from outside
Institut Giacometti-Paris-View from outside

I highly recommend you the visit of this elegant and cozy place. As told before it is not a museum and one cannot buy tickets on the premises. One has to book in advance on the website of the Institute and choose a time of visit. Only 40 visitors are allowed per time slot, which reinforces the feeling of privacy and closeness to the artist. I love it!

Practical information : Institut Giacometti – 5 rue Victor-Schoelcher 75014 – Exhibition ‘L’atelier d’Alberto Giacometti vu par Jean Genet’ – Until 16 September 2018 – 10am-5pm – Advanced booking only

Christine Bokobza – Good Morning Paris The Blog –

Metro Station of the Month: Mirabeau (line 10)

The Metro station Mirabeau on line 10 is a unique and surprising station in Paris. As two other Parisian stations it has a single platform. But the reason why is not the same: it is due to the fact that only the trains towards Gare d’Austerlitz stop at this station. In the opposite direction -Boulogne- there is no stop at Mirabeau… but at Eglise d’Auteuil, 200 meters further.

When one is waiting for a train on the platform towards Gare d’Austerlitz, one has the surprise to see the trains going by in the opposite direction without stopping as if they were about to fly! Indeed the track is greatly inclined as the railway tunnel eastwards is much deeper because it goes under the Seine.

One can also have a ride in a train towards Boulogne and sit in the first carriage. The crossing of the station Mirabeau without stopping is really impressive, especially when the train enters the tunnel at the end of the slope: Do not miss it! The metro line 10 is the less crowded in Paris – except during Roland-Garros tournament- and one can travel to Boulogne and back being seated.

Back to earth : The Pont Mirabeau of course, made famous by Guillaume Apollinaire; but also the beautiful Eglise d’Auteuil built in a Roman-Byzantine style. And above all I recommend you to have a walk through the streets and alleys of the former Village of Auteuil: its private houses and Art Deco buildings are really worth the visit! Enjoy!

Christine Bokobza – Good Morning Paris The Blog –

Practical information : Website of the RATP