Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Henri + Jacqueline

Chez Henri et Jacqueline:

It was a cold, damp day that could only call to mind the winter months that sat looming in the all to near future. I usually regard our loft-like space as a positive thing, but when it’s cold and gray outside, it can be just as cold inside. So I sat downstairs trying to write, shivering in a wool sweater and wool scarf because I refused to turn on the heat before November 1st. Lunchtime rolls around and M descends from his much more cozy, upstairs studio, wondering what we should eat. Ignoring my budgetary crunch and the fact that we had just done a huge grocery shopping yesterday, I subtly suggested we go visit Jacqueline and Henri. The thought of spending the next hour or so in that warm, aromatic space, sipping a glass of red wine and no doubt feasting on the heavy, Norman fare sounded ideal and I wondered what the menu might be today. I could see M’s eyes light up and I knew his Mediterranean blood was just has unhappy as my southern California blood in this sudden change of weather. “Yes, he said, lets do it.”

“Chez Henri et Jacqueline”, is an affectionate name that we invented one afternoon for the little restaurant that thankfully sits about 100 feet from our front door. It’s truly the French version of the mom n’ pop diner. Floral curtains adorn the windows, paper tablecloths and tiny fake potted plants and posters of some “tourist destinations” in the Norman countryside decorate the interior. I love every inch of it, but particularly I adore Henri and Jacqueline, whose names are not at all Henri and Jacqueline. She, who by fortuitous timing we learned recently is normally called Nicole, is of a bit more stern façade, suggesting perhaps a slight familial connection to the German neighbor to the north, he of ample build and literally possessing a Santa Claus smile. If he is not cooking in the tiny kitchen (the restaurant boosts just 20 seats), then he is outside chatting with the neighbors. I remember clearly when he finally began to recognize me and would start talking about this and that with me as I passed by on the way home. M would laugh as I walked in and gleefully retold my encounter with Henri, like I had maybe, at last become a local.

We walked quickly over, we are always the last lunchtime diners at 2:30, but they welcomed us with warmth and kindness and I knew that we’d made the right choice. The menu du jour typically consists an appetizer of salad, rillets or foie gras, followed by offerings from the Meat family; filet de bouef for the simple minded (aka me), andouilette or boudin noir. If the Menu is not grabbing me there is always the option of taking the “lighter” fare by selecting one of the many options of galettes, large wheat crepes filled with numerous choices from spinach and ground beef to eggs, cheese and ham. Today, M and I both settled on the menu, with all thoughts of a quick, lighter lunch out the window. We started with the rillets du saumon, which could roughly be described as a gratin of salmon. Sounds weird, tastes great with a piece of fresh baguette and red wine. I tried to pace myself for what was to follow, although of course with the quick French exchange, I was not entirely sure what I was about to eat. What arrived can only be described as potato heaven. Two slices of roast beef sat seductively besides two versions of potato I had never tried before, likely because they would be treated like terrorist suspects at JFK by the ever health conscious/weight wary American public. Well, ‘when in Rome’, I thought and dug in. One version was a half of twice-baked potato cooked with cheese and little nuggets of bacon, and I am pretty sure a kilo of butter, perhaps cream. The other was a gratin which included sautéed potatoes, zucchini and onions, which were then (I am assuming because modesty prohibits me asking), baked together with again, a bit of hard cheese and butter…yum. I had to force myself to stop because I had a flash of me eating the last bite and keeling over sideways like some mafia figure after a feasting on lasagna made by one of his enemies.

Henri soon approached asking with a sly smile whether we’d take the tarte-de-pomme. On our last visit to H+J’s they offered the tart and as I spooned the last bite into my mouth Henri asked if I liked it. Non, I said, c’etait horrible (trying to be funny in French). He laughed, made some joke to M and then brought out another slice! We soon learned that Monsieur had once been a baker (boulanger) and he had a passion for tarts. Me too, I thought, having a sudden vision of becoming the wife of a baker/restaurateur in a small French village. We decided to get two slices of tart to go, god forbid we give a flat no thank you, and as we left, Henri mentioned that if we ever wanted a nice Norman Calvados to sip on, he has some special bottles for sale. Oh, I thought, we’ve made it. Maybe this winter won’t be bad after all.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Back in Paris

After a busy two weeks in New York, which included eating every meal out, I was happily back in Paris and ready to do some major food shopping yesterday. With the damp, grey blanket that covered the city it was the perfect day to do so as well. A bit jet-lagged I had forgotten the Sunday morning madness that ensues in the marché as people clamor to get their things before its early 1pm closing. “Brace yourself,” I told M as we barreled into the crowds and side stepped out way through and waited our turn in the interminable queues. Following the market it was a stop at the boulangerie. M suggested the one closest to our house, which normally I say yes, fine, but, (gasp), I said no, no, let’s go to the one up and over which has the best bread…M looked at me and I semi-panicked…am I becoming un peu française? By insisting we go out of our way with heavy bags in order to get the right baguette, in fact I think that might be the case.

Well, it turned out to be the right choice, because as we ambled over and out of our way, we passed by our favorite Greek market/restaurant and decided that we had to at least go in for olives which we forgot to buy at the store. This little eatery was a regular stop for me when I first arrived but lately I had unintentionally by-passed it , buying the bland, commercial versions of eggplant caviar at the supermarket to save money. Mistake. If not for anything but Dakis’s (not his real name), charm and subtle, dark humor, it’s worth the extra 5 euros to go there.

Dakis is a flirt and unassuming comedian I have decided, but his mumbled, heavily accented French is so hard for me to understand that I end up missing most of what he says, so with M with me this time, I had a good translator. As we entered the store and said “Bonjour,” he looked at M suspiciously and said (fully knowing) “are you two together?” M says (somewhat old-manish), “yes for a long time.” “Oh,” Dakis deadpans, “but weren’t you in here with a brunette last week?” Then, later when he rings us up at the counter, I comment on the flyers for Greek language courses, something I say, I attempted to take in college but it never stuck. “Well,” he grumbles, no trace of smile or irony, “take a few—in 2018 Greek will be the language spoken by all in the European Union.” Well, maybe you have to be there to get it, but even if you don’t, the food he has is amazing.

Some of the items for sale, fresh hummus, tzatziki and taramas (2-3 types), can be bought by the kilo; at least ten different olives are available, fresh, not in cans, (I always get the standard black Greek because he says they are the best), golf ball sized meatballs and eggplant and feta balls (for lack of a good translation), and of course grape leaves. For dessert he has at least five types of homemade Baklava and my new favorite, loukoumathes, the honey, nutty, sticky candies dusted with powdered sugar. Plus, he seems to always throw in a bag of pita bread with any order as well.

Prouduits de la Mediterranee, Traiteur Grec, rue Moines, 17th.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

NYC at night

NYC at Night- view from the not-so-posh, Skyline Hotel. I can't seem to upload these as a page element...just as a post.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Slice of Life

This little park tucked into the triangle intersection of 14th street 9th Avenue essentially sums up what I love and hate about NYC. This totally awkward zone was not only redesigned to help traffic flow but the additional 20 feet leftover was turned into a little space for people to sit in despite the constant traffic around them. This intersection was always a site of mass chaos congestion. It was too big and it was not a straight 90 degree turn which I think threw people off. Cars had to veer left to make the diagonal onto Hudson and/or go left onto 14th street while there was a sliver of the lane that allowed cars to go uptown as well. In brief, I used to navigate this intersection on a daily basis when I rode by bike to work. If I timed it right with lights and cars I sailed on through and if I didn’t, I saw flashes of my life slide by on the back of bus that was narrowing in on me and the truck in front of me, while horns blared.

I have always liked the quirkiness of this intersection that allows for the mini westside flatiron building but I can’t say I liked enough to want to sit inside of it while I sipped my coffee and read the paper. Like the streets and sidewalks in New York aren’t busy enough, but the number of outdoor café’s continues to increase and people wait for a seat which serves massive bus fumes along with their steaks and beer. I am among them at times. Yesterday I sat outdoors for lunch and between the barking west village dog, the thumping trucks and the roar of the subway just below us, my friend and I were shouting at each other half the time. It is funny and it is sad. As New York becomes more and more user friendly, these little pockets of “outdoor space” keep appearing, but the reality of this space tucked in between uptown and downtown traffic is depressing to me as well. How sad that this is what we are left with. Thanks in part to the ridiculous surge of ugly high rise condos there are no more open spaces. Smoking may be illegal in every bar and restaurant but you can still get your carbon monoxide high at your local outdoor cafe. Bon appetit.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


It feels good to be back in NYC. Being here for the 10 days is ideal because it allows me to love what I love about this city and then before it starts to get crazy, I'll be back in Paris. So far, the weather is beautiful and our moderate-flea baggy hotel is working out fine. The energy and frenzy of the city is comforting. It is reassuring to know that this dynamic is always around, always happening. I feel right now like it;s seeing an old boyfriend, I love it, loved being here, but I know my time is over here and I am happy to have moved on.
For the next few days will be commenting on any new and exciting places/people/things that happening.

Friday, October 12, 2007

So Vintage

So Vintage-soooo good
16, rue des Moines
17 arrondisement

Housed inside a tiny, unassuming storefront on the rue des Moines, there is no awning and no sign, is So Vintage, a true mecca of vintage fashion. Paris is full of some of the best vintage stores I have seen with prices that are generally better than New York, but none-the-less, expensive, particularly if you do the euro-dollar exchange. What’s more, typically part of the bargain of scoring a great, one of a kind Pucci dress is the particularly pungent smell of clothes that have been sitting in some dank basement or god knows where and the first week of new ownership the item sits at the dry cleaner, waiting for a slight facelift.

So Vintage is not super vintage in the sense of finding anything pre-1970s, but why it rocks so much is that it has managed to find rarely, if ever been worn Yves St. Laurent, Balenciaga, Lanvin, Thierry Mugler, Rykiel, etc. Always on hand is a huge rack of mostly sweaters and funky tops at 30 Euros each and another with dresses, skirts, sweater dresses, and tops at 50 Euros. I scored a never been worn, Balenciaga, navyblue silk shift dress on this rack last week. I felt like I was on candid camera and was waiting for someone to pop out and say “gotch ya!” Another item that grabbed me was a deep purple, silk YSL tunic with slightly chunky gold buttons on the sleeves. 30 Euros.

For men, well, I haven’t looked that much yet because I had to get out of there before I spent any more money on my part time budget, but someone is getting a 10 Euro Thierry Mugler tie for Christmas…maybe two of them.

So Vintage is just a nice, low-key store filled with some rare, funky finds. What’s more, there is another store at 50 Legendre, also in the 17th and another in the 19th, which is reportedly 3 floors. You’ll have to ask for the location. I was scared to ask.
There is no website.

tasty delights

For the past four weeks along a short stretch of Avenue de Clichy were dozens of little food shops celebrating the month long ritual of Ramadan. Every day they had a large assortment of cakes, breads, candies which are associated with the ritual that involves not eating all day and then feasting at night. In fact one of our favorite little Indian restaurants, non-Muslim I am quite sure, stayed open all night for those that practiced because they are good clientele.

God bless the woman who have been at home baking like mad to keep up with the supply of delicious desserts. Many of them are made with honey, nuts, philo dough to give a salty-sugary combination which I love. Another new favorite is the spongy like circular bread, like a thicker crepe, which is delicious plain or with jam. I just read that Ramadan ended today, I think I am going to miss having my newly discovered treats available at all times of the day.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Quai Branly & Palais de Tokyo

Art Reviews:

The massive Musée de Quai Branly sits across the Seine from the edgy Palais de Tokyo, which is oddly housed in the neo-classical, temple like building that is also home to the Musée d’Art Moderne. A short bridge across the river links these two institutions which can make for a worthwhile, if not convenient, few hours of exhibition viewing.

On view at the Palais de Tokyo is “The Third Mind,” an exhibition conceived by the Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. Lately the expectation for disappointment fills my mind when I walk into most exhibitions these days, but happily “The Third Mind” did not let me down. It’s a smart exhibition that includes work by thirty-one artists. The show is well installed with each room showing 2-4 artists giving a smaller dialogue among a few works as well as with the theme of the exhibition as a whole.

The exhibition takes its inspiration from a quote by Napoleon Hill, who was essentially an early 20th century motivational speaker, “No two minds ever come together without, thereby, creating a third, invisible force which may be likened to a third mind,” which at one time inspired William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin to name one of their collaborations “The Third Mind.” On view is a series of these collages, which as the brochure for the show indicates, was a collaboration that explored the “cut-up,” a method in which they cut up words and images and rearranged them randomly to allow for new connections to emerge. Other highlights in the exhibition are a selection of “Screen Tests” by Andy Warhol, which include Marcel Duchamp, Susan Sontag and Allan Ginsburg among others, the moody, black and white paintings of Jay de Feo and the aluminum screen prints of Cady Noland representing newspaper images and text about the life of William Randolph Hearst as well as the assassination of President Lincoln. My favorite room however is Paul Thek, an artist’s, artist who has been somewhat overlooked until recently, and Emma Kunz, a Swiss woman born in the late 19th century who worked as a spiritual healer and who made incredible colored pencil on graph paper drawings that relate with her research into mysticism and are said to be codes for healing practice. Their work looks great together. This is what helps make “The Third Mind” a success; the mix of styles and artists represented. There is no specific aesthetic agenda being played out and some of the selections surprise at first but then seem to fall into place.

Across the river at the controversial Quai Branly is an exhibition titled “Diaspora,” organized by the French filmmaker Claire Denis. I remember seeing my first Claire Denis film, “Chocolat,” in my high school French class, and I was captivated, so I was curious to see her vision translated into the visual arts. “Diaspora” focuses on the African Diaspora, as the brochure says, “portraying it not as a loss of identity but on the contrary, as a source of enrichment through contact with new identities.” All of the work was made specifically for this exhibition.

Like most of Quai Branly, I walked through the exhibition feeling like I was high and looking for the VIP room in some disco. The dark, moody lighting interspersed with black lights and spotlights makes for a constant eye readjustment, and I felt like I continuously had my hand out towards the wall in case I ran into something. Each installation is essentially housed in a black geodesic like dome that you enter and pass through. Sound and video take center stage. The Egyptian artist Yousry Nasrallah’s film “The bottom of the lake,” with its 5 screens showing the sea, a boy swimming through underwater, rocky like environments was beautiful, poignant and meditative. Contrary to that was Caroline Cartier’s installation titled “Goguma,” in which you walk into one room of cinderblocks, a TV that is showing snowy fuzz and a wall of speakers with voices surrounding you. It gave a sensation of claustrophobia and fear, like either you have walked into some underground hideout or a prison cell. A highlight in the show is John Galliano’s installation of 4 gowns that are said to represent the influences of Africa on western haute couture. They are beautiful and eerie, made with beads, alligator skin, fur and lovely printed textiles.

The exhibition tends to feel a bit lost however. There is a quality of the show feeling like a high production value cultural theme park as you walk into each room for its message to hit you. There is no cohesion to the works and no connection among them but that they were made for this show. It’s unfortunate because it is an important, untouched subject that deserves proper viewing.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Books for Thought

I love reading The Guardian because as a former New Yorker I am pretty New York Times centric and so when I occasionally shell out the 3.80 Euros for the weekend edition of the Guardian it is always a breath of fresh air and new perspective. For instance, two really interesting articles from the Saturday, October 6th edition in the Book Review:

Under ‘Biography and Memoir’: “The Original Bridget Jones,” (a descriptive I can’t stand because I only saw the movie which was a disgrace to anything resembling feminism and courage), is the biography of Katherine Whitehorn, titled “Selective Memory.”

Katherine Whitehorn was a lifelong journalist at a time when many women were shoved in the background and not allowed the real opportunities they are more often allowed now. She was a rebel, leaving school early, and in the 1950s hitchhiking around Europe and road tripping across America with boyfriends, when in the early1960s she began to accumulate several columns for writing, one of the first, for the Observer, where she wrote for many years, was about Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique.”

On the opposite page sits ‘a life in writing,’ an interview with former nun turned writer Karen Armstrong, who, as the header describes, “has dedicated her life to the study of humanity’s search for God.” She entered the convent at 17 full of hope and conviction and left at 24 filled with frustration and disillusionment at which point, thank God, she began writing. Her life of isolation that was to be in the convent is now spent in her home where she basically translates and explains religious texts and history, one of the most important titled “The History of God, A Short History of Islam and The Battle for God,” which since 9/11 has thrown her into the limelight as it provides a reading and understanding of a religion that most in the West fear without knowing and perhaps fear knowing because of the current trend to think of it is as the enemy.
In the Muslim world she is revered for helping to spread understanding of their religion, which is not based in fanaticism and hatred; she was recently given an award from President Mubarak of Egypt. And in the West she is revered because she provides a voice of reason on the subject of Islam, among so many talking heads and so much anger. She will have a post at Harvard this fall. Her newest book is titled “The Bible: the Biography,” in which she explores such themes as the “role of myth in articulating religious and spiritual truth as opposed to factual truth.”

Monday, October 8, 2007

Les Mecs du Marché

Les “Mecs” du Marché*

Housed in a very unassuming, dare I say ugly, 1970s-esqe building is the delightful Marché de Batignolles. The Marché is located about one block (I know that this term is not used in French-speak, but I have yet to find a better descriptive), from our apartment and it is where I met my met my first three friends in Paris: Monsieur vin, Monsieur fromage et Monsieur legumes, aka, “Les Mecs”. The marché is a great addition to the neighborhood. Rather than having to go to several different locations to get food, and/or settling for the Monoprix (well, yes, I love monoprix too, but that is another story), the marché holds a dozen different vendors for cheese, produce, meats, fish as well as Lebanese and Italian food products, all under one roof.

From the beginning, my several-visits a week to the marché were a source of enjoyment and diversion. My boyfriend (who I refer to as M) would offer to come with me, but I almost preferred to go alone. Of course because it is not that big, you have to select your vendors and stick with them. I couldn’t imagine having bought vegetables from one vendor and then the next day going to another. I felt too guilty and like I was cheating on them or something, so since day one, I was committed. I would do my shopping with Monsieurs vin, fromage et legumes and have brief conversations with each of them, not only to practice my French, but because they had suddenly become familiar and friendly faces. Plus, I secretly needed people to talk to besides M.

When I went grocery shopping in New York I would typically have my ipod on as I zoned out down the way-too crowded aisles at the Chelsea Whole Foods Market, but here in France food shopping is an experience in which you can ask opinions and advice about a certain tomato or goat cheese, or ask what is of the season and the answer is not only sincere, but at least five minutes long and containing some reference to origin. I came to love these exchanges and grasped for new vocabulary in order to discuss the ripeness, texture and smell of various food items. Soon Mr. Wine was asking me what I was planning to cook for dinner so he could suggest an appropriate wine. “Spicy Italian” I would say, thinking that the truth, pasta and canned tomato sauce, might be a turn off and sever our new relationship for good. I love talking with the wine guy because in fact one of my objectives while in Paris is to learn about French wines, beyond drinking them. When I first mentioned that I wanted to learn about grape characteristics, le vrai terroire of a certain chateau, etc., he didn’t dismiss me as some silly American with false hopes of understanding the legions of history involved with French wines but rather, he graciously provided relevant and interesting information. And so I slowly began working from one end of the store towards the other (by region), and having a nice little lesson in French to go with it. Granted I only understood about 40% of what was being said at first, either due to my poor French or because I was always trying to think of what I would say at the end of his sentence, but I learned, and I felt for a moment like I was talking with a friend, having a nice, relaxed conversation.

My relationship with Monsieur legumes was typically more formal at first. As he stood holding court behind the large array of fruits and veggies, I would get nervous trying to come up with the proper names of certain produce I didn’t know and which were not within an arms reach. But soon we eased into friendly familiarity too. I would ask about a certain vegetable I had not seen before. “Comment on prepare cette legume?” and he would give a precise description for preparation and other items to go along with it. He would soon indicate that the figs were particularly not-to-be missed right now and probably could leave the peaches to rest. Produce can often be a hard thing to let someone else select. I would not necessarily trust the man at the local Bodega in NYC for instance, but here, if I want an avocado ready in 2 days, he actually selects one that is good to go two days hence.

Monsieur fromage is a tall, thin man with tattoos on his arms. He is utterly professional and courteous, but I have seen him taking breaks around the marché, laughing it up with his friends. Through him we discovered the most amazing cheese that I could literally eat every day. Le Broucarou cheese is a medium hard, white cheese with a nutty, honey-esque flavor and M and I have discussed the idea of moving to Broucarou (if it’s a real place) and becoming cheese makers. His generous tastings, despite the line of people waiting, have allowed my knowledge of cheese to developed exponentially, not only making it a fun process to identify and determine the weeks selection, a good thing, but has also contributed to making my jeans tighter, which is not a good thing.

Thanks to les mecs du marché I was able to establish an immediate sense of place in Paris. There is something comforting for me about food shopping, but when it’s combined with professional, gracious people who give you the best recommendations and think to ask how your trip was to the States, it makes for the feeling of having settled into a bit of familiarity and a sense of home.

Go visit the marché des batignolles, located at 96 bis rue, lemercier, on the corner of rue brochant and rue lemercier. It is open Tuesday-Sunday 8-8, closed between1-4 for lunch.,501.html

** Mecs can be defined in English as “dudes.”

Thursday, October 4, 2007

La tuile à loup

La Tuile à loup, www.latuilealoup is a delightful little ‘boutique unique’ located slightly off the beaten path in the 5th arrondisement. For anyone with even a minor attraction to handmade ceramics, this is a must-stop shop. Many years ago my francophile mom, who is mad for all things handmade and French, discovered La Tuile à loup and for years since our family has listened to the details about her annual pilgrimages to this Mecca of French artisan crafts. Alas, this week I made my first visit.
The main thrust of the store is artisan pottery, in all its French historical glory; Standard items such as plates, cups and bowls are evidently on hand as are spice containers, egg cups, terrines and just fabulous creations that are simply for viewing pleasure. The owner hand selects, with true passion and loving detail I might add, the work that fills the boutique. Some artisans may be working in a traditional style like the classic French countryside look of the Savoy, with its brighter colors and cute floral or animal motifs (see photo), and others are truly contemporary such as the Provencal artisans who make hand built, purposefully imperfectly shaped dishes with simple off-white glazes and black, calligraphic like markings. One my personal favorites is the ‘poterie utlitaire de la Puisaye’ (functional pottery from Puisaye), with its earthy, darker toned glazes that have a rough hewn, utilitarian look. I have a Puisaye pitcher that is used to hold a plant. I love it.

Not to be neglected is the wonderful selection of baskets, textiles and wood items also on display. Who can’t have enough sturdy French linen dishtowels or colorful cotton tablecloths from Provence? Here you can find the real deal on these items, not some bad, tourist knock-off. The boutique only has quality work which is steeped in tradition.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Velib, Je t'aime

The world looks so much better when riding a bicycle.

Today I finally hopped on one of the Velib Bicycles that are everywhere in Paris and I am as happy as a freshly baked pain au chocolat. I don't know what took me so long. I eyed them (the bikes) endlessly and kept thinking of an excursion for which the bike would be perfect to use, and at long last today was the day.

I missed my regular bike adventures in Manhattan which provided an excellent source of stress relief, yelling at clueless pedestrians and sending certain hand gestures to taxi drivers who take pleasure in nearly running over cyclists. But here in Paris, I will try to maintain my decorum and from what I can see the drivers here are slightly more relaxed then in NYC.

The introduction of these magical bikes is really the best policy that the government of Paris has put through in ages and all mayors around the world should get over here to learn more. (in fact I did see that Chicago Mayor, Richard Daley has already done so). Late summer fleets of bikes were stationed in strategic locations around the city, with the simple idea that you can take the bike and return at any other location around Paris for a small fee. You can buy a year pass online which gives you quick access to a bike with a card or you can buy a pass directly, onsite, from the machine, which has instructions in French, English and Spanish (how progressive is that), for one week or one day. 1 Euro per day. The bike comes equipped with a lock, basket, and a bell. Hello. I am in heaven.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Galleries to visit-3rd arr.

Following up from my earlier post---

Recommended Gallery Visits in the 3rd Arrondisement:

Jon Pylypchuk- Ghislaine Hussenot-
Jon Pylypchuk is a Canadian artist and one of the original members of the Royal Art Lodge collective. Quirky, assemblage, creatures made from scraps of carpet, wood and other debris, who assume situations of that are at once, crude, lethargic and yet highly animated. Also on view are several works on paper using the same collage elements of paper, glitter, scraps of wood and cloth onto which he writes brief, poetic phrases that evoke sentiments that range from lonely tristesse to dark morbidity.

Enoc Perez-Galerie Nathalie
An exhibition titled Faraway displays several new paintings and works on paper by the New York City based artist. Beautiful yet distant images suggestive of his native Puerto Rico include modernist hotels by the beach or still life paintings of bottles of rum, lemons and glasses. The artist selects his images through both personal and found postcards and photographs. Through a complex process of drawing and repeated layering of color made through a frottage-like or rubbing method, the paintings take on a faded-nostalgic quality, like traces of a not-to-distant past.

Yto Barrada- Galerie
A series of photos and a film by this Moroccan born photographer based on a body of work begun in the late 1990s. Images of sites near the cost in Tangiers which are in the midst of construction. These soon to be developed areas look out towards the straits of Gibraltar and their Spanish neighbor. Barrada’s point being that, unless the new generation of citizens takes action, Tangier will soon be the new Costa del Sol- a mass of cheap building development for tourist pleasure and the slow destruction of the soul of Tangier.

Gregor Hildebrandt- Galerie Almine
This was my first encounter with this Berlin based artist’s work and I was really into it. He uses old cassette tapes as his central medium and source of inspiration. It may be more literal as in a wall sculpture of stacked cassettes that reflects a minimalist spirit or the work might be more poetic, using the title of the song as the springboard for large paintings that use the tape in thick, black, vinyl like layers.

From the Audible to the Visible, curated by Peter Coffin-
Galerie Frank Elbaz-
A selection of twenty contemporary artists whose selected work for the exhibition uses or makes reference to music in some form or another. Works vary in style and include drawings, photos, sculptures, installation, video and painting.

Sarkozy initiative
I thought this article was both interesting and positive for the art world in France. Certain people will kill me for giving kudos to Sarkozy, but it's a smart move by his government to announce this new plan just a few weeks before the FIAC Art Fair ( that opens on the 18th of this month. A fair amount of tourists flock to Paris each year for their cultural consumption, but they are not going to the contemporary galleries. Some museums are trying to expand their contemporary exhibitions, and the Palais de Tokyo is a great space, but the majority of tourists and I think locals, head to the Louvre, the Musee D'Orsay, the Rodin Museum and the Picasso Museum. They are lovely places and I don't blame them- but it would be a bonus for Paris especially, to have a more developed and exciting contemporary art scene. If there was more of an incentive to buy here, you might see more inspiration on the part of museums and galleries to show artists beyond the normal roster of French “art stars” and/or their secondary market works of artists who have a main gallery elsewhere. Perhaps international art magazines might start to pay more attention to what’s going on here. There is some great talent but without an expansion on some level, the contemporary French art scene will continue to be provincial.
On a side note, I hope that Sarkozy will also be aware that in order for sales to rise, the art has to be good and that most of the interesting and talked about artists right now working in France, were not born here. I hope he remembers that diversity is essential for market expansion and for a smart, critically relevant art.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Vide Grenier

This weekend our neighborhood hosted its annual Vide Grenier, which basically translates as “empty the attic,” otherwise known as “yard sale,” or for the city folks like us, “stoop sale.” Anyone could participate and hundreds did. About 4 blocks along both sides of the street and the perimeter along half of the Parc de Batignolles was filled with people selling their junk, which others of course, love to buy. Dishes, jewelry, jackets and clothes that look like they haven’t been worn in decades, baby toys, lamps, loads of books, records and magazines and the random knick-knacks such as wooden French flag posts that you know you don’t need but somehow decide are essential in the study. Normally I love going to flea markets or the country brocant, but I was a bit tired on Sunday from a long night of red wine and whiskey in the Marais. However, M loves these things so I downed my coffee and we headed out. Once you get into the jostling rhythm of bodies and get your focus, hours seem to fly by like you are at the movies. We went out for about 2 hours, broke for lunch and a run by the atm as M found an outrageous deal on a professional camera, lens and case, and then we went back in for another round. I had to back out after about 1 ½ hours but M continued for more. We came out with some great, non-essential items like my new green, resin ring, a magazine rack, 6 new glasses, a 1970s blue ceramic vase and way too many books, including one titled “So you want to change your life,” which presumably was not helpful since it was being sold for 20 cents but we’ll see what we can make of it.