Sunday, 11 August 2013

Art forms in Paris

From the sublime to the incomprehensible, to the raw street talents of Paris I salute an interesting and diverting day. I bought a ticket to visit the Musee d'Orsay back in December last year. The queues were so off-putting I gave up but eventually I got around to making another attempt, in high-season of all times and yet, this day, the queues were manageable. Recommendation: Buy a ticket online and print it. It's valid for one year and you get to join a much shorter queue that way.

The history of the museum, of it's building, is quite unusual. In the centre of Paris on the banks of the Seine, opposite the Tuilleries Gardens, the museum was installed in the former Orsay railway station, built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. So the building itself could be seen as the first "work of art" in the Musee d'Orsay, which displays collections of art from the period 1848 to 1914.

The original old clock is wonderful and still seems to keep time. Inside the building is a cavernous space which takes hours to work your way around. Allow at least two hours. JC and I started with a hot drink in the restaurant, itself a splendid place with it's rich ornamentation and painted ceilings. You can look out over the Seine and it gives you a bit of breathing space from all the artistic concentration you need to expend to appreciate the original artworks contained in this museum. There are other spots you can look out over the Seine and the right bank of Paris but you'll need to look through grubby glass to do so. here's a view of Montmartre in the distance and another of the Louvre and the Tuilleries gardens.
The most popullar rooms were those on level 5 focussing on the Impressionists although there are other impressionist paintings scattered throughout. It was an interesting moment standing in front of my favourite Cezanne and there we minimal protection for it. I COULD have touched it if I'd dared, but I was too respectful to do that. You CAN'T take photos of the art works. One person tried and caused a bit of a fuss. Some folks with smart phones and tables gave it a shot and got away with it but a real camera-don't bother trying.
 Of course Monet, Manet, Toulouse l'Autrec, Seurat, Pissaro, Sisely, Gaugin are all represented along with others. I saw a lot of paintings and painters' names I didn't recognise. There are drawings, sculptures, even furniture, carved interiors, a model of the Paris Opera all inside this museum. The old ballroom/salle is well worth a look too. Guided tours tend to be in French.
Outside the museum there are statues that don't seem particularly remarkable - probably I'm missing a story there.

There was, however, something a lot more diverting happening in the street, by the steps. 

A very good violinist was busking. He had his little digital accompaniment but he played without music and he played recognisable classics extremely well. I thought it was a shame that he kept his head bent down all the time and didn't make contact with the audience. It can't have been easy for him though. 

There was an oldish sort of guy, very scruffy, who had worked out all he had to do was behave like an idiot and he'd get money. He had no talent at all, simply brazenness, cheek and a love of being the centre of attention. His speciality was to embarrass and accost passers by while the violinist who had real talent was trying to drum up support. 

Goddam, it worked. People generously gave him money all the time. Well they gave his little teddy bear who was cutely holding the begging bowl the money.

After admiring the talented violinist JC gave me a euro to give to him. I went over at the end of a peice and told him he was great but that I thought he'd earn more money if he could look up more often and play FOR his audience rather than TO them, to make a connection. "It's really difficult for me." he replied, but he took the advice on board and made an effort. I caught his eye and gave him the thumbs up to say- well done, that feels more like a perfomance. He had another distraction to deal with.

And that was a super talented roller skater. This young father could do anything, at high speed. He slalomed, skated backwards with a young child on this shoulders, jumped over barriers. JC was a self-confessed nutter for roller-skating when young (probably why his knees are completely stuffed now) and he was extremely impressed with the skater who naturally received tips at the end of his exhibition sets.

There was also a man holding lots of drawings and scribbling over them as if he was amending them. Sorry but it looked fake to me. It looked like he had obtained work from someone else and put drops of paint and spilt tea on them to make them look authentic. He didn't actually draw anything the whole time he was there, just shuffled the drawings and scribbled around the outlines. I wasn't convinced.

So, plenty of free entertainment on the streets of Paris from enterprising talented and talentless people. Artists are everywhere and I enjoyed the violinist and skater on the street outside the art gallery/museum. 

For more information on the museum collections visit the official website: d'Orsay


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