Paris via NYC: Picabia, Picasso, Montparnasse

Mille fois merci to frequent contributor Betty Guernsey for keeping us au courant in NYC:

A holiday bonanza – three shows that bring Paris to New York in three different ways.

First, the Francis Picabia retrospective at MOMA (continuing to March 19, 2017), an in-depth look at one of the 20th century’s lesser-known avant-garde artists. Picabia (1879-1953), born in Paris of a French mother and Cuban father, flirted, albeit with impressive dexterity, with all the great movements of his era: Impressionism, Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism, and photo-realism, in the end leaving the viewer asking the question “Will the real Francis Picabia please stand up?”

Second, Impasse Ronsin, at the Paul Kasmin Gallery, 515 West 27th Street in Chelsea (to January 14), focuses on the work of artists living and working in the legendary Montparnasse alley from the 1930’s through the 1960’s, including Constantin Brancusi, Max Ernst, Jean Tinguely, Niki de Saint-Phalle, Isamu Noguchi, Larry Rivers, Yves Klein, and the Lalannes – a fascinating show, each piece demanding careful scrutiny.

And third, lest the festive season go by without a nod to Picasso, there is Picasso’s Picassos at Gagosian Madison Avenue, a personal selection of works from the legacy of Maya Ruiz-Picasso, daughter of the artist and Marie-Thérèse Walter, which includes many familiar and childhood portraits, and has been extended until February 18.

Off the Beaten Path in the 14th

What do I love about Paris? The details. I am très contente walking new neighborhoods, looking closely at the particulars and discovering what differentiates them from other parts of the city.

The best way to learn a new neighborhood is to live there – and this trip I’m staying in an apartment in the 14th.

Coming and going gives me a chance to study a few streets in depth. I pass at different times of day, in sun and in rain, when I’m hungry, when I’m tired, on weekends and work days.

I follow new streets, too, to see where they go. Today, a trip to the store for milk lasted 2 hours.

Here are a few of my favorite finds:

• The eastern end of Rue Daguerre is lined with food merchants – bakers, butchers, green grocers – and cafés that are hopping day and night. On Sundays, the street is closed to traffic, and neighbors take to the narrow rue en masse.

• My favorite square, Place Flora Tristan, has benches, trees, a café, and a 6-story white building with a red door and carved Art Deco letters that say “Boulangerie.” Its namesake was a 19th century feminist and woman of letters.

• Rues Gaité, Didot and Raymond Losserand are lively streets, with ethnic restaurants and small shops.

Cimetière du Montparnasse spans 8 city blocks, and is enclosed by 10-foot-tall rough stone walls. Famous performers and politicians are buried here (I stumbled upon singer Serge Gainsbourg, existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, and Aristide Cavaille-Coll, who made the finest organs in Paris.) Containers for the afterlife run from rococo to zen.

Isadora Duncan at Musée Antoine Bourdelle

Emile-Antoine Bourdelle was a student of Rodin, and later became a well known sculptor in his own right. His large-scale works are displayed in the building where he once worked, which was wonderfully renovated by architect Christian de Portzamparc about 10 years ago, near Tour Montparnasse.

Boudelle’s work is at once emotional and graceful – and the museum’s current temporary expo, “A Living Sculpture,” highlights both of these elements, as it explores the artist’s relationship with dancer Isadora Duncan.

Bourdelle first met Duncan in 1903 (Rodin introduced them), but it wasn’t until 1909 that Bourdelle saw Duncan dance on stage. He proclaimed her his muse. Commissioned to decorate the facade for the illustrious Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Bourdelle would watch Duncan’s performances, then return home and sketch for hours.

This five-part expo traces Duncan’s life and career through photographs, artwork, and documents. It examines works by other contemporaries, including Rodin, and examines the relationship between Duncan and Bourdelle through works of art. Until March 14.

Hôtel des Académies et des Arts, new design hotel

hotel_des-academiesDesign hotels are popping up in the strangest places. A year ago it was Philippe Starck’s MaMa Shelter in the 20th. Now it’s Hôtel des Académies et des Arts, in Montparnasse.

Montparnasse has a great artistic heritage – Modigliani, Man Ray, Giacometti, Soutine, Chagall, and Brancusi all spent time here in the early 20th century.

The three star hotel mixes classical design with contemporary paintings, sculpture and fabric. Gorgeous rooms pay tribute to the Parisian spirit, the stage, Man Ray, and Art Deco furniture-maker Emile-Jacques Rhulmann.

The hotel also offers a unique take at contemporary art, with murals by popular Paris pochoiriste (stencil painter) Jérôme Mesnager. (Technical point: Mesnager is not really a pochoiriste , because he paints freehand, but you wouldn’t know it to look at the work.)

Mesnager’s luminous white man adorns fireplaces, and interior and exterior walls. Specials from 169 euros per night.

Have you stayed here? Let us know how you liked it.

If you go…
Hôtel des Académies et des Arts, 15, rue de la Grande Chaumière, 75006, Métro: Montparnasse or Vavin