New and Unique in Paris: The Atelier des Lumières

The Atelier des Lumières opened its doors on 13 April in the trendy 11th arrondissement of Paris in a huge renovated industrial building. The place used to be a foundry covering an area of more than 3000 m2 during almost 100 years from 1835. Due to the international crisis the Plichon Brothers foundry closed in 1929 and the site was sold to a company specialized in tool manufacturing. The company closed in 2000 and the building was unused when it was discovered by Cuturespaces in 2013. This cultural business is well-known in France for its innovative and high-quality running of remarkable natural sites or historical buildings. Among the most famous: the Musée Jacquemart André in Paris or the Carrières de Lumière in the Baux de Provence.

The Atelier des Lumières in Paris is based on the same purpose as the Carrières de Lumière in the Baux de Provence and aims to offer to the public an impressive Art and Music Immersive Experience in a unique decor. There one does not look at an art work, one does not read about a picture or an artist but one is immerged into his time, life and works. Hundreds of cameras project thousands of images on the walls as well as on the floor.

Atelier des lumieres-Paris-Hundertwasser
Atelier des lumieres-Paris-Hundertwasser

One gets acquainted with the artist and his art works through the immersion into the images and the music. One lives the works and walks in the middle of them. The show is different on each section of wall, there is one image after the other in a riot of colours and sounds. One can either walk through the various spaces of the former foundry; stand or sit on a concrete seat, a stair or directly on the floor. And the show will depend on the place from which one looks at it, there is an infinity of combinations and one can see the same programme several times without having the same experience.

For its opening the Atelier des Lumières presents three successive exhibitions: a major immersive exhibition on Gustave Klimt; a short programme on Hundertwasser, a Viennese artist contemporary of Klimt; and an even shorter modern creation. The shows starts with Gustav Klimt…

The three programmes are shown continuously and one can stay as long as one wish. I looked at them twice with much pleasure… and I wish I had more time to stay and watch Hundertwasser a third time: so beautiful!

Such an unusual exhibition place is easier to describe with pictures rather than words… and even pictures only give a slight idea of what it is in reality. If you have never been to the Carrières de Lumière in the Baux de Provence, no doubt that you will be even more dazzled and surprised than me! As the first time is really amazing. And one more piece of advice: better avoid the weekends or the school holidays as the experience is more impressive when the site is not too crowded. I hope you will enjoy your visit!

Atelier des lumieres-Paris-Poetic AI
Atelier des lumieres-Paris-Poetic AI

Practical information : Atelier des Lumières – 38 rue Saint Maur 75011 – Exhibition Gustav Klimt – Until 31 December 2018 – 10am-6pm (10pm on fridays and saturdays)

Christine Bokobza – Good Morning Paris The Blog – www.goodmorningparis.fr

Enjoy the Night Opening at The Musée du Louvre

Twice a week the Musée du Louvre is opened at night until 9.45pm. Whether you are a tourist in Paris or a Parisian, this is really the opportunity to make the most of your visit and see the masterpieces of the Louvre with very few other visitors!

I went there last Friday around 7.30pm: No queue at all at the Pyramid entrance and, even more surprising, absolutely nobody in front of the admission desk in the main hall.

But before getting down through the Pyramid one could spend hours outside admiring the architecture of the Palace of the Louvre, the elegance of the Pyramid and the views on the Tuileries and beyond at night. The picture below was taken a couple of years ago… however the view is timeless!

Musée du Louvre - The main entrance with the Pyramid at night
Musée du Louvre – The main entrance with the Pyramid at night

Two minutes later I got my entrance ticket and could start visiting. I had chosen to make the Da Vinci Code trail. This is one of the 28 thematic visitor trails which are offered on the museum website and can be viewed online or printed out prior to a visit, what I highly recommend! The museum is so wide that this is a perfect way to prepare one’s visit so as to avoid getting lost and see what one really wants to see.

The Da Vinci Code trail offers an amusing way to see or see again some of the main rooms of the museum and look at some masterpieces with a fresh eye, providing both a historical and literary perspective. And if one has read the novel or seen the movie, one really gets the impression to follow in Robert Langdon or Sophie Neveu’s footsteps.

The trail is really very well done to better understand the part of reality and the part of fiction included in the Da Vinci Code. I have chosen to illustrate the visit with one picture of each masterpiece proposed as a stop in the trail and a short story about it. Each story is related to the Da Vinci Code and highlights some of the exaggerations of the novel.

Let’s start the visit: Close your eyes and imagine that you are alone in the museum, as Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu, in dark and empty rooms…

Step 1: The Pyramid
Musée du Louvre - The Pyramid
Musée du Louvre – The Pyramid

It is made of 673 diamond-shaped and triangular panes of glass, excluding the doors and not 666 as mentioned. The number of 666 was a rumor spread by the opponents to the construction of the Pyramid in the middle of the eighties, as 666 is the number of the Beast in the Book of Revelation.

Step 2: Hera of Samos
Musée du Louvre - Hera of Samos
Musée du Louvre – Hera of Samos

Hera -sister and wife of Zeus- sets an example of the concept of the sacred feminine, which, as this statue demonstrates, was worshipped by the ancient religions.

The sacred feminine and its erasure in the early years of Christianity by undermining the memory of Mary Magdalene is part of the Da Vinci Code.

In the novel the author makes Mary Magdalene the secret companion of Jesus.

Stop 3: The Arago medallion
Musée du Louvre - Arago medallion - Staircase of the Wing vVctory of Samothrace
Musée du Louvre – Arago medallion – Staircase of the Wing vVctory of Samothrace

There are 135 Arago medallions in Paris which form a North/South line crossing the capital on the exact path of the old universal meridian of Paris that they commemorate. About fifteen of them are inside or around the Louvre. In the Da Vinci Code the geographical marker of the meridian of Paris is tranformed into an esoteric symbol, the Rose Line.

Stop 4: The Salon Carré
Musée du Louvre - The Salon Carré
Musée du Louvre – The Salon Carré

In the novel and in the movie, the curator Jacques Saunière dies in the Grande Galerie and the parquet around his body shows black star-shaped motifs… which are only present in the Louvre in the Salon Carré.

The real topography has been transformed for narrative purposes. There is not such a floor in the Grande Galerie which is the next room.

Step 5: The Virgin of the Rocks
Musée du Louvre - Leonardo Da Vinci - The Virgin of the Rocks
Musée du Louvre – Leonardo Da Vinci – The Virgin of the Rocks

The magnificent Grande Galerie of the Louvre plays a significant role in the Da Vinci Code and is the place where everything starts. It is remarkable for its collection of Italian paintings, including Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpieces. First of them: The Virgin of the Rocks. In the novel a far-fetched interpretation of it is given, transforming the gesture of protection of Mary into a metaphorical representation of murder, suggesting that Mary holds in her left hand the invisible head of Mary Magdalene.

Step 6: Virgin and Child with Saint Anne
Musée du Louvre - Leonardo Da Vinci - Virgin and Child with Saint Anne
Musée du Louvre – Leonardo Da Vinci – Virgin and Child with Saint Anne

This painting by Leonardo Da Vinci was made famous by the interpretation of Sigmund Freud discerning a vulture in the Virgin Mary’s garment.

It is also mentioned in the Da Vinci Code for its perfect composition based on the use of ‘Phi’, the ‘golden number’. The golden number is said to be a divine proportion and creates in painting or architecture an unparalleled effect of balance and harmony.

Step 7: Noli me Tangere
Musée du Louvre - Noli Me Tangere
Musée du Louvre – Noli Me Tangere

This painting shows that the scandalous impact of the Da Vinci Code, whose plot is based on the idea of a secret union between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, might have had precedents in the artists’ imagination!

As one can see the positions of both Jesus and Mary Magdalene are rather ambiguous and can be interpreted in an erotic way.

Step 8: The Death of the Virgin

This painting by Caravage is said to contain a scotoma, which is a detail that one doesn’t notice first but becomes obvious when one knows the story of the work. The large red drape on top of the painting whose colour is the same as the one of the dead Virgin’s dress could symbolize the body of Mary rising to her Son during the Assumption.

Before reaching the Death of the Virgin one will admire (even if not in the Da Vinci Code trail!) another work of Caravage which is in my opinion one of the most amazing paintings in the Grande Galerie: the Fortune Teller. So beautiful!

Musée du Louvre - Caravage - The Fortune Teller
Musée du Louvre – Caravage – The Fortune Teller
Step 9: The Wedding Feast at Cana
Musée du Louvre - Véronèse - The Wedding Feast at Cana
Musée du Louvre – Véronèse – The Wedding Feast at Cana

The masterpiece by Véronèse is the largest painting in the Louvre and a work with some surprising details that have raised many questions giving rise to various interpretations. For instance why does the Virgin Mary seem to be holding an invisible glass in her left hand?…

Step 10: Mona Lisa

During the day it is almost impossible to reach the first line of visitors admiring the famous Mona Lisa. One of the great moments of my visit during the night opening was to be able to stand as close as possible to Mona Lisa that the safety device allows and to stay there as long as I wanted to. The painting has always aroused fantasies; many of them are of course taken up by the Da Vinci Code.

Step 11: The Red Rooms
Musée du Louvre - The Red Rooms - French Paintings
Musée du Louvre – The Red Rooms – French Paintings

The opening of the movie sets in the red rooms, showing the curator Jacques Saunière running through them. The decor of those three rooms, where the masterpieces from French painters such as David or Delacroix are exhibited, offers a magnificent and spectacular explosion of colour.

Step 12: The Inverted Pyramid
Musée du Louvre - The Inverted Pyramid
Musée du Louvre – The Inverted Pyramid

The trail suggests to leave the museum through the gallery leading to the shops of the Carrousel du Louvre. Not to shop -especially at 9.30pm as they are closed!- but to see the Inverted Pyramid, which is the place where the Da Vinci Code ends. Remember: Richard Langdon understands there that the pyramidion of stone placed under the Inverted Pyramid houses the grave of Mary Magdalene. This purely fictional revelation has made the Inverted Pyramid famous!

I hope that you have enjoyed this original trail through the Louvre. Whether you choose this one or any other among the 28 thematic trails proposed by the museum, depending on your taste and mood, I really recommend you to plan your visit during one of the two night openings, either on Wednesday or on Fridays, starting it around 7.30pm. The visiting conditions for the largest and most visited museum in the world are then simply exceptional!

Christine Bokobza – Good Morning Paris The Blog

Practical information: Musée du Louvre – Métro Palais Royal Musée du Louvre (lines 1, 7) – Open every day except Tuesday: 9am-6pm – Night Opening on Wednesday and Friday until 9.45pm

La Monnaie de Paris: More than a Museum!

La Monnaie de Paris reopened last autumn after six years of conversion work. The renovation plan led by the French architect Philippe Prost had to take up four challenges: open up the place onto the city and the world; perpetuate its original purpose, striking coins; make its traditional know-how and treasures known; let the public admire the beautiful architecture of an historic building. It is a great success!

Thanks to the magnificent restoration of the premises one cannot visit the Monnaie de Paris today without immersing oneself in the French history, traditions and know-how. And the temporary exhibitions of modern art which are taking place there create the link with the present and give the whole a timeless nature. One leaves the Monnaie de Paris amazed by the French ‘art de vivre’: Not to be missed, whether you are a Parisian or a tourist in Paris!

Firstly the surroundings and the architecture…

Monnaie de Paris - The renovation by Philippe Prost
Monnaie de Paris – The renovation by Philippe Prost

The Palace of the 11 Conti was built in 18th century and has been housing since that time the manufacture or the making of coins and medals. It is a huge and very elegant building with two main entrances. The most majestic is located on 11 Quai de Conti between the Pont-Neuf and the Pont des Arts. It allows to enter the ‘Cour d’Honneur’ with in the end of it the historic heart of the place: the workshop of ‘Grand Monnayage’. The second entrance is on the Rue de Guénégaud next to the new bright souvenir shop -located in former workshops- and to the tea-room Bloom… whose terrace in the lovely ‘Cour de la Méridienne’ is for sure a very pleasant place where to have a drink by fine weather.

Monnaie de Paris-Cour des fonderies
Monnaie de Paris – Cour des fonderies

Inside one discovers several buildings and wanders through several inner yards, each one more charming than the last and with suggestive names: Cour de la Méridienne, Cour des Fonderies, Cour des Remises, Cour de l’Or. When the renovation is completely over, one will also be able to take advantage of an inner garden at the back!

Monnaie de Paris - 11 Conti - The main room
Monnaie de Paris – 11 Conti – The main exhibition room

As far as visits are concerned the Monnaie de Paris offers two different spaces. The first one is permanent: the 11 Conti. It recounts one thousand years of history of the making of coins and emphasizes the fifteen art craft works still taking place there. The exhibition design is very beautiful and educational. The collections are integrated into the workshops themselves, which makes the visit more lively, even if one cannot see the craftmen at work as the working hours are not the same as the opening hours of the museum. But one can imagine…

In the largest exhibition room, which is also the main one, one can experiment in a very educational manner different ways of striking, engraving or reducing coins. I have also appreciated the numerous videos in which each craftman tells his specific work: so lively and informative! One can see Didier the reducer, Stéphane who works in specialized coining…

The following rooms show successively: the creations of the Monnaie de Paris -trophies, medals, rare coins, jewels-; some treasures whose exhibition is set as if one were in the strongroom of a bank; different types of collections; and finally the uses of currency through ages. In any room the explanations are great and translated in English and most of the time also in Spanish.

Women House - Louise Bourgeois - Femme Maison 1994
Women House – Louise Bourgeois – Femme Maison 1994

The second space of the Monnaie de Paris shows temporary exhibitions and is intended to exhibit only modern art. The exhibition taking place at the moment, Women House, is really worth the visit. It tells how the domestic space has been for a long time a prison for women, a space of domination of the female body; but also how it has been turned into a space of creation by female artists in the 20th and 21st centuries. All the works exhibited are from female artists, including the famous Niki de Saint Phalle or Louise Bourgeois. I have also noticed that most of the visitors are women…

The exhibition starts with a striking video of Johanna Demetrakas which is a tribute to the original exhibition ‘Womanhouse’ that took place in Los Angeles in 1972 and launched the movement of women’s emancipation in art. Do not miss it!

Then 17 rooms illustrate 8 themes, from ‘Desperate housewives’ to ‘Woman-House’ through ‘Une chambre à soi’ referring to Virginia Woolf’s essay ‘A Room of One’s Own’, or ‘Une maison de poupée’ in reference to Henrik Ibsen’s play ‘Doll’s house’.

The works, a mix of photographies, videos, paintings, sculptures or wider installations are all exhibited with much care. The colour of the walls varies from one room to the next, from yellow to dark grey. The exhibition lies on two floors. The rooms downstairs are small and without windows: they illustrate perfectly the domestic space as a prison. While the rooms upstairs are much wider and brighter and emphasize more and more the emancipation of women through artistic creation.

Women House - Room 5 - Empreintes
Women House – Room 5 – Empreintes

One can admire the beautiful decoration of some rooms upstairs, their wooden or black and white tiled floors, their period architectural features… without forgetting the amazing views on the Seine from the large windows.

The highlight of the exhibition is the Spider, by Louise Bourgeois, which stands in the middle of the ‘Grand Salon’ of the palace…

… As far as inside is concerned. Indeed the exhibition goes on outside with some other major artworks such as Nana Maison II, by Niki de Saint Phalle, that everybody can admire in the ‘Cour d’honneur’ while entering the museum. But my favourite is The Teapot, by Joana Vasconcelos, in the ‘Cour de la Méridienne’… So amazing at night when the shadow of the sculpture gets drawn on the enlightened ground!

Monnaie de Paris - Cour de la Meridienne - The Teapot - Joana Vasconcelos
Monnaie de Paris – Cour de la Meridienne – The Teapot – Joana Vasconcelos
Monnaie de Paris - Cour de la Meridienne
Monnaie de Paris – Cour de la Meridienne

Women House ends on 28 January 2018. The next modern art exhibition will be a retrospective of Subodh Gupta, a major contemporary Indian artist, and will start on 13 April 2018.

Before ending I must tell for the wealthiest that the Monnaie de Paris is also the place where to find the three-star Parisian Retaurant of the Chef Guy Savoy. Its entrance is located on the opposite side of the ‘Grand Salon’ on top of the ‘Grand Escalier’. You will be welcomed by the motto of the Chef: ‘La cuisine est l’art de transformer instantanément en joie des produits chargés d’histoire’ (Cooking is the art to turn instantaneously into joy produce with a lot of history). An absolutely unique and unforgettable experience… for those who can afford it.

Christine Bokobza – Good Morning Paris The Blog

Practical information: Monnaie de Paris – 11 Quai de Conti ou 2 rue de Guénégaud 75006 Paris – Tuesday till Sunday: 11am-7pm (9pm on Thursdays-and Wednesdays from 31 January 2018) – Exhibition Women House: Until 28 January 2018