Fernell Franco Cali Clair-Obscur

Fernell Franco, Série Billares, 1985© Fernell Franco, Courtesy of Fundación Fernell Franco Cali / Toluca Fine Art, Paris

The recent exhibition at the The Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain  sheds well-deserved light on the experimental Colombian photographer Fernell Franco (1942-2006) who lived and worked in Cali, Colombia.

Cali Clair-Obscur (French for chiaroscuro) is an apt title as Franco delves into the seedy side of Cali life in shades of light and dark, images he shot between 1970 and 1996. Gathered into ten different series, Franco created a film noir photo fusion of urban scenes. Read more ›

Sailing into the Bois de Boulogne: Fondation Louis Vuitton

Sailing into the Bois de Boulogne: Fondation Louis Vuitton

June 10 Blogathon

At the northern edge of Bois de Boulogne, Napoléon III’s 2,000-acre construct of public park and former hunting grounds (part of the 16th arrondissement), twelve translucent glass sails billow over the treetops. Commissioned by luxury tycoon Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of VMH Moët Hennessey-Louis Vuitton, this new museum replaced an old bowling alley, and was, as all new architecture is in Paris, controversial from the start. But this contemporary art pavilion is, in fact, a masterpiece of engineering and design by Frank Gehry.

Composed of 3,600 panels, the glass wing-like sails soar and curve and seem to flex with an invisible wind (as only a Gehry building can). They also jut out at irregular angles (hence the moniker, “icebergs”), and wrap around a multilevel, 126,000-square-foot museum composed of 19,000 fiber-reinforced concrete panels supported by an intertwined network of steel and wood members. Inside, there are eleven exhibit galleries, an auditorium, restaurant, and bookstore.

Walk around the multi-level rooftop, at a height of almost 160 feet, and you are rewarded with lovely and surprising vistas: A sliver of space between the building’s sides, gives way to a perfect sight line of the Eiffel Tower, and Parisian rooftops emerge in the distance above the Bois de Boulogne. It’s almost like floating in a transparent cloud.

At the entry level, glass walls reveal the Jardin d’Acclimatation (a children’s park) and a reflecting pool. The small, glass-enclosed restaurant, Le Frank, off the entrance seems insufficient for the clientele, but visitors line up to dine nonetheless. Michelin-starred chef Jean-Louis Nomicos creates the cuisine while Gehry-designed fish swim in the sky above the tables.

The multi- and half-level interior spaces are a bit confusing to navigate; the wayfaring signs are not adequate, but the spacious gallery halls are conducive to viewing art. That said, the changing museum exhibits inside are hardly the reason to visit. It’s the structure itself and the views from the top that give you pause.

To get there by metro:
Line 1 to exit Les Sablons. From there you can walk 15-20 minutes or take a Fondation shuttle for €1. The white electric shuttle near the metro exit (with the Fondation name printed in large white letters on the side) departs every 15 minutes from Place Charles de Gaulle, on the corner of Avenue de Friedland.

General admission is €14, but lower for different ages.

For more on the temporary exhibits, various admission fees, hours, and other information: http://www.fondationlouisvuitton.fr/en.html

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 ›

What to See in La Villette

June 7 Blogathon

Early in the nineteenth century in an effort to emphasize Parisian prosperity, Napoléon I developed Bassin de la Villette and the Canal de l’Ourcq diverting water to the Seine to fill his city fountains—water being the visual symbol of a city’s wealth. The plain of La Villette—incorporated into Paris in 1860–fueled the Industrial Revolution. Factories, tanneries, refineries and smokestacks regularly polluted the air and water. In the late 1800s, La Villette was also the site of the city’s main abattoir. Needless to say, it was not a pleasant area to live. But one hundred years plus later, the transformation of La Villette into parkland and museums makes this neighborhood in the 19th arrondissement an appealing (somewhat affordable) corner of Paris.

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 ›

Magical Mirrors & More

June 5, 2015

This wax museum in Paris is a wonder of waxy figures and magical mirrors, sure to entertain kids of all ages, especially on a rainy day. There, you can trek through history and popular culture and, as most tourists do, snap a photo with your favorite wax-molded personality.


Noel in conversation with BHL at the Musée Grévin (http://www.grevin-paris.com) Read more ›