Massena Museum in Nice, France


Massena MuseumMassena Museum, Nice, France 

Housed in a stately, 19th century villa on the promenade des Anglais overlooking the Mediterranean, the Massena Museum —the façades and roofs of which are classified by French Historic Monument Association—offers visitors a viewing of Empire Age salons and furnishings, tranquil English-style Gardens, and temporary exhibits, such as its current photography exhibit, Jean Gilletta et la Cote d’Azur, paysages et reportages, 1870-1930.


As the primary and inexhaustible landscape photographer of the Riveria, Gilletta documented its art and culture, commercialism, and tourism. According to Gilletta’s great nephew, “…nothing escaped his lens,” as he captured a time in flux, casting that lens on the modest and humble as well as the privileged. On construction sites, railways, and bridges. On market vendors, washerwomen, presidents and princes. He recorded rural life and the high life of Nice and Monaco among other sites. From fashionable spa towns, olive groves, and snow-covered mountain peaks to the 1887 earthquake, he was an exemplary reporter and witness for his times.

A 19th century Cartier-Bresson, Gillette preserved those times–forever gone or transformed–through at least 10,000 photos as he tooled around the Cote d’Azur on his three-wheeled, motorized bike—an example of which is on exhibit. In addition to snapping photos, he was also a prolific publisher of postcards and books.

Massena Museum Cut out photo 2The delightful exhibit opens with head cutouts of peasants of the day. Go ahead, stick your head though the opening slot and journey back in time. (I did; Noel was less enthusiastic.) The guards will take your photos. The balance of the exhibit holds numerous original photo prints of people at play and work along the seaside and in the country. The photographs are small and require time and close-up inspection, but to get a sense of the larger exhibit, the designers have created life-size impressions projected on the walls in each room recreating the ambience in which Gilletta worked. In addition to the photos, there’s a three-wheeled, motorized bike that Gilletta tooled around the Cote d’Azur setting his sights on images to snap. A large box camera he used is also on view.

The show recalls an insouciant time along the Cote d’Azur through five principle themes: Nice the resort capital of France, Nissa la Bella (Nice the Beautiful–the city’s unofficial anthem. Listen on YouTube:, By the Mountains and the Valleys, Under the Azure along the Coast, and The News in Pictures.

The exhibit closes March 5, 2018.

The Museum’s permanent collection displays the history of Nice from the 19th century up to the end of 1930s. Highlights include Napoléon’s death mask and Josephine’s tiara with its glittery gemstones, gold, and pearls.

Massena Museum view from window

Practical Info

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 11-6, winter; 10-6, summer.

Closed Tuesdays and certain holidays

Tickets: 6 Euros or buy a 7-day pass for 20 Euros (Access to all 12 municipal museums and galleries for 7 days in Nice)

Location: 65, rue de France (ticket entrance)

Noah Purifoy Exhibit at LACMA

Jazzy and fun as well as thought provoking, Noah Purifoy’s junk assemblages at LACMA in LA give new meaning to recycled art and design.


The Last Supper(1988) above

Purifoy (1917-2004), an African-American artist born in Alabama, is best known for his outdoor sculptural installations in Joshua Tree, California, using found objects such as bicycles, beer barrels, and bowling balls among other throwaways. His fabulous, fantastical junkyard is in the Mohave Desert, but you can see some of his re-purposed creations from there as well as smaller pieces in LA at LACMA now until January 3, 2016.

Taking a page from Marcel Duchamp, Purifoy’s Dada influenced assemblages convey an urban sensibility and social perspective. His 66 Signs of Neon was an idea born from the Watts race riots of 1965 using burnt debris from the streets. His Strange Fruit references Billy Holliday’s song about lynching and social injustice. Perhaps in light of the recent racial conflicts with the police, these constructions have even more resonance today. But simply making art seems to have been as important as being a social activist. Like the jazz he embraced, his works flow with humor and commentary with abstract elements that form a whole, as evidenced in Rags and Old Iron I (After Nina Simone).

When his creations are meant to convey a social message, there’s movement and thought behind each work. From a distance Purifoy’s sense of color and design is exquisite; then upon close inspection there’s humor in his creative use of found objects. To see the clever make up of each assemblage is to appreciate old junk anew—as part of the human experience.


#art #Visit LA #Found objects

Walking in the Rain in LA and Other Exhibits at LACMA

Walking in the Rain in LA and other exhibits at LACMA

Sold out for several weeks forward, the Rain Room—an art/technology installation at LACMA—is the hottest
ticket in LA. I scored two tickets for a timed entry Monday afternoon last
minute by using a special museum card I have. The card also gave me a discount
so I paid only $15 per ticket. Normal
entry is the astronomical price of $25/head. Visitors, this is a rip-off.

Never mind the irony of using 528 gallons of water
(recycled, of course) during the California draught, the exhibit is meant to
have you contemplate the affect of technology on mankind. One might ask, “Is it

The idea is to walk through a downpour
that stops as you take baby steps—VERY slowly as the guards constantly remind
you—through the Rain Room. Eh voila, mirabile-dictu, the rain stops pouring
directly on you though it continues to rain all around you. Anyone who has ever
walked with an umbrella has pretty much experienced the same thing. The Rain
Room Sensors actually detect your presence and stop the rain.

Warning: The sensors detect light-colored
clothes better than dark. Warning #2: Occasionally, the technology
fails–surprise!–i.e., the rain pours down on you,  doesn’t stop, and has to be reset. This
happened to us and we waited about 15 minutes for the reset so we could walk
five minutes through the Rain Room. Sorry to bum out anyone who thought it
ingenious or disappoint anyone planning to go.

My take: Save your money and time and
go to the exhibit at LACMA called Noah
Purifoy Junk Dada
. This one is excellent and fun.  There’s also an extensive Frank Gehry exhibit
with his workroom models for major projects around the world. More on both of
these another day

#visit LA #art

China Through the Looking Glass Online

China Through the Looking Glass may have just closed at the Met in NYC, but you can
still view it online:

Like Alice on her wondrous journey, the Met once again leads us to new places in its inventive and imaginative multimedia extravaganza. Clearly, the exhibit designers had fun with this one from the mood lighting to the clever headgear especially those fashioned of Chinese porcelain shards. The exhibit juxtaposes dresses from designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Ralph Lauren, Jean Paul Gaultier, Paul Poiret, Coco Chanel, and Alexander McQueen among many with Chinese artistry in porcelain, fabric, painting, costume, and other imagery including film to highlight their inspired creations through the centuries.

The exhibit featured haute couture alongside ready-to-wear, both elegantly flowing folding numbers to the avant-garde. If you missed the opportunity to fall for this enchanting pageant, tumble through the web pages and don’t miss the pièce de résistance from the exhibit finale: Chinese designer Guo Pei’s Buddhist-inspired lotus flower gown (above and Gallery 208 online).

My favorites: the Blue and white porcelain gallery (blue backlit Gallery 213), and the Ming Furniture (red backlit Gallery 218). Check out the headdresses and other gallery highlights:





Manageable Museums: Little-known Art Treasures in Paris Part 3


Blogathon June 16

Musée Marmottan Monet

Hidden by the Jardins du Ranelagh in the residential 16th arrondissement, Musée Marmottan Monet is, as the name implies, the largest repository in the world of Claude Monet’s creative output, but it also displays more than 300 artworks by other masterful Impressionists and Post Impressionists such as Édouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Berthe Morisot, Paul Gauguin, Edgar Degas, and Alfred Sisley to name drop a few.

The current exhibition, “La toilette, naissance de l’intime” (The Toilet and the Birth of Intimacy–sounds so much better in French, n’est pas?), reveals the intimate moments of feminine grooming, painted in exquisite loveliness by artists from the fifteenth century to today. The earlier paintings are worth gazing at, of course, but the paintings by Pierre Bonnard, Manet, Morisot, Degas, and Lautrec are especially appealing. The show closes July 5, 2015, but the catalog is available through their website, and the museum itself is a neighborhood delight (though a bit difficult to find at first). Certainly, if you are a Monet fan, this one is for you. And even if you’re not, there are surprising pieces to linger over.

For more on the exhibit:

Jardins du Ranelagh

Before embarking on more Parisian museum adventures, you may want to rest awhile in the Ranelagh gardens in front of the museum. If children have tagged along, so much the better. This fashionable triangular park, originally built by Baron Haussmann, in 1860, has grassy play areas, swings, a carousel, pony rides, and a marionette theater as well as plenty of park benches.

More in Montmartre

If music has the power to move you, find your way to Montmartre in the 18th arrondissement to what was the tiniest museum in all of Paris: The Musée-Placard d’Erik Satie translated as the Cupboard Museum of Erik Satie. And a cupboard is about all it is or ever was. Satie lived here from 1890 to 1898 in a room so petit he called it a closet. It was here that the obsessed composer conducted a short-lived love affair with his neighbor, the model and painter Suzanne Valadon. Unfortunately, she left him after six months. Equally unfortunate was the closure of the museum in 2008, but you can read the plaque on the outside of the building, at 6 rue Cortot, and just imagine what it was like to be rejected living in this hovel.

Just a few steps away, at 12 rue Cortot, is a museum you can actually enter: Musée de Montmartre (  This mid-seventeenth century house is supposedly the oldest building in Montmartre. The museum has a long history dating back to the 1680s when the actor known as Rose de Rosimond lived here. He also performed with Molière’s troupe and died on stage while acting in Le Malade Imaginaire. Celebrated Impressionist art dealer Père Tanguy also lived here. The City of Paris renovated the house in 1922.

Various artists such as Renoir, Émile Bernard, and Raoul Dufy used the space for both their residences and studios including Suzanne Valadon, who moved here in 1898 (perhaps to escape Satie, but I digress with speculation).

Restored and reopened in Oct 2014, the site now includes expanded exhibition space in Hôtel Demarne and the Bel Aire House, the studio-apartment of the artists Suzanne Valadon and her son Maurice Utrillo, and the three Renoir Gardens so named to honor the artist who painted many of his celebrated works here including “Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette.” Hôtel Demarne features temporary exhibits.

Established as a museum in 1960, Musée de Montmartre features work of Toulouse-Lautrec, Modigliani among other artists and their creations including posters, paintings, and photos that give life to Montmartre’s early history, from images of rousing cabaret nights to depictions of the frolicking Can-Can dancers and the origins of Modern Art.

It’s current inaugural exhibit, “The Spirit of Montmartre and Modern Art, 1875 – 1910,” displayed in the Hôtel Demarne until September 15, 2015, immerses you in the era of the avant-garde artists living, working, and shaking up the traditional art world at the turn of the 20th century.

Americans in Paris, Part 2

June 9, Blogathon

Back in the day when beauty and wealth reigned (when has it not?), American socialite Mona Bismarck (née Mona Travis Strader, 1897-1983, from Kentucky) was in demand in Paris and elsewhere.  In 1943, Salvador Dali dubbed his portrait of her “The Kentucky Countess,”(above).  Photographers such as Cecil Beaton (see photo above) and Edward Steichen photographed her numerous times. She was muse to writers, artists, and fashion designers.

Named “Best Dressed Woman in the World” in 1933, she was considered a fashion icon in her day. Cole Porter captured her elegance and beauty in song: “What do I care if Mrs. Harrison Williams is the best dressed woman in town?” –sung in 1936 by Ethel Merman in “Ridin’ High.” Harrison Williams, by the way, was the third of Bismarck’s five exceedingly wealthy husbands. She always found a way to marry older gentlemen and divorce them, or outlive them in the case of Williams, 24 years her senior. Read more ›

The Grand and the Petit

June 6 Blog

Summertime in Paris and the viewing is easy, but the museum lines are long. If you want to jump the queue, or at least wait the shortest time, try to register online. It’s not a guarantee for all museums, but most will have a separate entrance for those holding reserved tickets. Often, especially for popular exhibits, there’s a timed entry so try to arrive at the designated hour. Even planning ahead, be prepared for crowded halls once you are inside (not ideal for the claustrophobic).

Read more ›

Back In Paris

Settling into our apartment in the 16th for the month of May is like being home. Noel and I are in the So West corner of Paris called Auteuil, a village incorporated into Paris in 1860. We are far from the tourists and the center of Paris, in a quiet residential section near Pont Mirabeau, a metro ride away from big city bustle and a half block from the Seine and scenic views of the Eiffel Tower, which include a replica of the Statue of Liberty at Pont Grenelle. Residents and Shopkeepers here actually converse with us in French when we butcher their language and compliment us on speaking so well. Ha!

If you visit, here are a few tidbits to consider:

This Statue of Liberty is a one-fourth scale replica facing west toward NYC. Inaugurated 4 July 1889, it was a gift to Paris from the American community in Paris to commemorate the French Revolution. It originally faced east but was turned around to face west in 1937. Its commemorative plaque honors both the Fourth of July and Bastille Day. It is one of four replicas in Paris. The others are at Luxembourg Gardens, Musee d’Orsay, and Musee des Arts et Metiers. This one is located at the tip of Ile aux Cygnes (Swan Island).

Ile aux Cygnes is an artificial island in the middle of the Seine between  Grenelle and Bir-Hakeim bridges. Created in 1827 to protect the Port of Grenelle, this sliver of an island measures only 36 feet wide. Stretching down its nearly 2800 feet length is the lovely, leafy l’Allée des Cygnes”—a perfect tree-lined path for strolling, jogging, dog walking, or bench sitting and staring out at the Seine without noise pollution.  To get here take the 6 Metro to the elevated Bir-Hakeim station or walk just minutes from the Eiffel Tower (RER C line, Champ de Mars/Tour Eiffel stop).

Pont Grenelle is a girder bridge constructed of steel and connects the 15th and 16th arrondissments.

Pont de Bir-Hakim, connecting the Passy neighborhood in the 16th to the 15th, opened in 1906 and was classified as an historic monument. The bridge was initially called Quai de Grenelle but was renamed in 1949 to commemorate a WWII resistance battle fought here. The horse and rider Statue erected here also recognizes the proximity to the Winter Velodrome (Vélodrome d’Hiver), where Jews were first rounded up 1942 for deportation. The Bir-Hakeim Metro Station was originally the site of a tax collection gate in 1784-88. According to Wikipedia the station was also featured in The Last Tango in Paris.


Paris Art Scene


Detail Camouflage, III – Eric Fischl as a gardener II, 2013, Oil/canvas, 100x60cm

TRAVERSES, Isabelle Bonzom’s Paintings

Paintings at a Crossing. Many of the images of contemporary artist Isabelle Bonzom, Parisian painter and muralist, are as rife with meaning as they are with color. Isabelle Bonzom’s most recent work on exhibit at Galerie Marie-Claude Duchosal suggests a duality of meaning and place. Hers are images that cross over into a different realm.

She infuses her canvases with dabs of color, creating reflective images where one is lost in time and space but simultaneously grounded in place. A New York City street scene, a Parisian park, a statue of a WWI soldier in contemporary landscape–all invite contemplation. Whether the figures are walking, jogging or resting, Bonzom says, “…they cross the picture plane and the space…And we are all traversing, crossing this world.” Atoms rotating and bouncing around. In her words Bonzom depicts a “symbiosis, osmosis between human being and nature.” The foliage, for instance, seems to shade yet penetrate the body.

Relationships between our interior life and the exterior crossover, as seen in the hazy portraits (one of which I own) of artist Eric Fischl gazing down at the pond in front of him. Everything is open. What is he pondering as he seems to see beneath the surface ripples of water? And, as the viewer, are we witness to our own traverses through life? Decide for yourself: Don’t miss Bonzom’s exquisite portraits and landscapes bursting with color, light, and energy yet simultaneously with calm.

Read Eric Fischl’s poetic essay—an imaginary conversation—on Isabelle Bonzom’s painting, “Entre nous”, published in the catalog “Traverses”

TRAVERSES, Isabelle Bonzom’s paintings
Exhibition from October 3 through 30, 2014
Galerie Marie-Claude Duchosal, 1 rue Ferdinand Duval, Paris, 4th, France – metro station Saint-Paul Tuesday through Saturday, 2 – 7pm and by appointment

For more contemporary art, visit the Grand Palais for the annual FIAC (International Contemporary Art Fair) on from Oct 23-26, 2014.


Camouflage, XII – Portrait of Eric Fischl as a gardener, V” March 7, 2014 – oil/wood – 50x40cm

image image

Contemporary Art, more or less –Images from FIAC (Foire Internationale d’Art contemporain) at the Grand Palais

Perhaps I’m still stuck in the early 20th c, but for my money, that was a far more exciting time than any current trends in art shown at the 40th year of the recent international art fair at the Grand Palais, and dotting the Tuileries Garden.

Where are the iconoclasts today? Almost everything at the recent fair looked trite or derivative or ugly or simply boring. With a few exceptions—one piece in the Tuilleries below—installation art leaves me cold. And big brown blobs of slapped on paint look well, you know. Gross would be the word most fitting.

With180 galleries from 25 countries, showing modern art, contemporary art and emerging trends, one would think a star would emerge during. Well, perhaps one did—Anish Kapur. But the galleries with the few pieces of Modern artists like Picasso, Matisse, Picabia, Debuffet, Albers, Robert Indiana and the like, were overshadowed by contemporary artists working on grand scale, showing gimmicky tech pieces, and proffering trendy messages. Though some pieces were amusing, most had the “so what” effect on me. Themes of big and bigger, reflection, texture, and repetition were clearly at play as my friend Adrian kept repeating as we walked through the aisles.

Frankly, the best part is really that the Fair was held in the Grand Palais, which is truly a grand and brilliant Beaux Arts design—originally built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900—and timeless, something very little of the “art” at the Fair can claim. The Palais’ glass vaulted dome is worth the price of admission. T13,500 m2  of floor space in the Nave, and the largest glass roof in Europe. The Grand Palais website claims the roof has 6000 tons of steel, more than the Eiffel Tower—a structure criticized when built as “truly awful.” So who’s to say what art is and isn’t?

I’ve culled the best of the best or at least some amusing pieces and spared you the awful. Well, okay, I’ve also thrown in a couple of quirky and weird. Still, it’s a wonder to see and contemplate.