What’s New at the Louvre

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The Louvre is in the news this week, but it’s more about what’s happening outside the museum than what’s inside.

First, the water. Following weeks of rain, the Seine peaked at 20 feet above normal Saturday morning, the highest level since 1982, and museums took emergency measures to keep their artwork safe. Both the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay closed, and employees moved works from lower to upper floors. No damage was done, the river has since receded, and museums are making arrangements to reopen. Scary, nonetheless. Here’s a good NYT article.

Second, the optical illusion. International street artist JR, who has been covering public walls with photographs for 10 years, and most recently transformed the outside of the Paris Pantheon during its renovation, has changed the appearance of the Louvre Pyramid. Normally, JR uses giant photographs of people, but this time, by plastering the Pyramid with a gigantic B&W photograph of the museum, he has created an optical illusion. Stand at just the right angle, and the controversial glass pyramid seems to disappear. “JR at The Louvre” runs outside Musée du Louvre from May 25 – June 28

JR at Galerie Perrotin in the Marais

When I worry about the state of the world these days, viewing the work of French activist, photographer, and film director JR gives me hope. A solo show of JR’s recent works is at Galerie Perrotin in the Marais until October 17.

JR is known throughout Europe for displaying large portraits, many of which people took themselves with equipment he provided, on city walls, rooftops, and most recently, the floor and ceiling of the Panthéon in Paris.

JR has been recognized by numerous human rights organizations, and in 2011 he received a TED award, which allowed him to expand his photography projects.

The exhibit at Galerie Perrotin consists of work from the artist’s last ten years, featuring a selection of videos, ink on wood pieces, and recent photographs. The video “Les Bosquets” (with English subtitles) is pure poetry in motion.

Using footage from the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, the seat of important riots in 2005, JR captures the injustice of the ghetto-like environment, and the humanity of its inhabitants.

With interviews of disaffected young men from the projects interspersed with stunning re-enactments of the riots by the Paris Opéra and New York City Ballet companies, the 17 minute film is more than moving; it’s a tour de force.