Friday, November 30, 2007


Margo Milin: Margo Milin is a designer of women’s clothes whose tiny boutique is located at 1, rue Charles Francois Dupuis in the 3rd arrondissement. Her designs spin off of classic blouses, sweaters and tops, giving them a more stylish cut, very feminine, but not overly designed. The clothes are well structured and can be worn dressed up for a dinner party, job interview or made casual for Saturday shopping depending on how you pair them. Cotton, wool and silk are dominant fabrics with solid colors in gray, blue, black, white. There are also tunics, jackets and larger wool coats that fit like a robe, wrapping around the body with a belt to close. The scooped, backless shirt is super sexy for those not needing to wear a bras and the thin, silk semi-wrap dress looks ideal for summertime or a warm, winter getaway. An online boutique opens soon.

Plagg: Plagg, a slang term in Swedish for clothes, is a gem of a boutique at 41, rue Charlot in the Marais. The store specializes in Scandinavian clothing designers, which for me was a new discovery. Mostly I am familiar with Scandinavian design for objects and home décor, or the cutesy Marrikmekko, but here there are some fantastic, unique, affordable and flattering things to be had by designers such as Ivana Helsinki and Best Behavior. For the autumn/winter 2007 they have sexy and funky sweaters and knit-based items, voluminous, deconstructed jackets and a great pair of purple ankle boots to brighten up the winter.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Marché des Enfants Rouge

The Marché des Enfants Rouge is a fantastic covered market off of rue de Bretagne in the 3rd Arrondissement. Apparently this is one of the oldest covered markets in the city, established in the 1770s. Prior to that it served as an orphanage for young children, which is kind of strange, but that is where the name comes from. In any case, I love this market because beyond the typical fish, flowers wine and vegetables, are small vendors serving authentic, delicious Japanese, Moroccan, West African and Greek food, as well as crepes and sandwiches a la Bretagne, in Northern France. Tables and chairs line the hallways making for a perfect stop in between all that shopping and gallery hopping in the Marais. In the winter the tables are kept warm through heaters and sheets of plastic protecting them from the chilly air, however the plate of warm couscous with lamb or merguez or the steaming bowls of Japanese noodles will also keep you toasty. Also onsite is an indoor restaurant that serves organic dishes. Have yet to try this one, but can’t wait.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cracked Kettle

Calling out all beer lovers! The Cracked Kettle was a pure find in Amsterdam. A dark, wood shelved store which is located in the middle of a tiny street near Spuistraat and Singel is an amazing source of beer goodness. Stacked shelves hold bottles of all shapes and sizes and are arranged by country, with the main emphasis on Europe: Dutch, Belgian, German, Scottish, UK, Scandinavian, Trappist, and then a small selection of elsewhere including the US, African and Eastern Europe. All the beers are from Microbreweries,
and all styles and methods (ales, brown beers, lagers, stouts, wheat, blondes, etc.)

Sorry for the bad pictures, I was in a hurry. But check out the website, for fun tidbits of information, suggestions, ratings and what's best, they ship anywhere! Perfect holiday gift perhpas...

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Dammer

I love Amsterdam. It is a city tucked into a big village. There is something accessible about they city as well, except that language of course, and it is just a totally different vibe from Paris. Even in the boutiques and restaurants there is something functional but funky.. very much their design approach I think. I could spend all day going from cafe to cafe ( not coffeeshops people), sipping tea, which always comes with a little cookie, reading and people watching. The weather is ideal for that.
I have a ridiculous theory for comparing Paris and Amsterdam and it is summed up in its pastries:
In Paris we have the exquisite boulangeries filled with delicate; flaky Napoleoans, the charmed macaroons in a variety of soft pastel colors, or the layered cream filled objects that you feel almost guilty destroying with a fork (is this why french women stay so thin?), whereas in Amsterdam the pastries are dense, cakey, treats one of which you could subsist on for a week, or the stroopwaffel with its waffle biscuts filled with caramel, which are, appropriately the ultimate munchy treat. Well, it is not the most profound of theories, but it came to me as i cruised along the canals checking out all the great shops and funky design objects.
Here a few great places to look at, with more to follow

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

(Not So) Lucky Strike

Well I didn’t want to whine about la greve, the huge, country-wide metro and rail strike that has paralyzed most of Paris this past week. It seemed too easy, too typical and since I do work from home I didn’t have to be anywhere particular, until yesterday, for my first job interview in France. Walking an hour and half to check out the big photography fair, Paris Photo last week was fun. I just popped on the ipod and set out. But when you need to wear heels and look fresh at the end of that 1½ hours, then the novelty has worn off. I managed pretty well, leaving 2 hours before the appointment and broke up the walk, doing 25 minutes to St. Lazare and taking the only metro, number 14, that is working semi-normally, to Chatalet, and then hoofed it another 30+ minutes to the rendevous. I felt a little like Melanie Griffiths in “Working Girl,” with my walking boots on, heels in the bag. I did a quick change in the café around the corner, slipping on the Prada heels and some lipstick and made my way for an on time arrival.
It wasn’t too dramatic really. Tomorrow however, the real test will be made when I get to lug baggage to Gare du Nord and just hope that my Thalys train to Amsterdam will even be leaving to take me out of this stalemate city. Hope the next post is about bicycles and canals as opposed to French politics!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Martha Rosler's Library

The Martha Rosler Library has arrived in Paris at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art in the 2nd arrondissement. This fantastic exhibition/installation of the artist Martha Rosler’s personal library, was conceived with the help of e-flux the online network for disseminating information about contemporary art. Most prominently e-flux is known for its email mailings wherein at least 3-5 emails a day arrive in your inbox bearing news/openings/prizes from around the globe.

I had read about this project when it opened in New York in late 2005. Somehow I missed it and totally regretted it. I read about its movement to Germany and then alas, a surprise e-flux came in a couple of weeks ago announcing its arrival in Paris. The library consists of nearly 7800 volumes all from Rosler’s collection, mostly in English, and includes catalogues, essays, documentation in subjects ranging from art, theory, women’s studies, science, politics, revolution, poetry and fiction. When I arrived yesterday NPR was playing on a radio and there were a few people sifting through the stacks or sitting at a table in one of the many chairs provided, and that, essentially is the point of the installation. It’s a chance to hang out, browse an incredible diversity of books, listen to the radio and read. It also serves as a reminder to those who are more used to reading/studying/researching etc., on the Internet, to recall a time of discourse, physical research and the power of printed text. The installation has a comfortable, local library feel as well housed within the beautiful stone building, which also holds classes and research facilities for University students.

Martha Rosler is an artist who lives and worked in Brooklyn, New York. She emerged onto the contemporary art scene in the 1970s, as a pioneering feminist artist, for the most part, but not entirely. Some early, well-known works were photo collages that mixed scenes of the Vietnam War in modern settings of domestic bliss. Picture an image form Life Magazine, of soldiers in full combat with guns in shooting position superimposed into a perfectly suburban living room; or a perfectly manicured woman pulling back the drapes in her home only to reveal a black and white image of the Vietnamese jungle and bloody scenes of war. They were haunting. Rosler has always maintained a body of work that deals with text and image, pop culture and the underbelly of war, poverty, and struggle.

For Americans and Anglo’s in Paris who love to read I recommend checking out Martha Rosler’s Library. It is a unique opportunity to explore not only the mind of this great artist, but scan through numerous books, many of which you may not have heard of before and which could open up new areas of interest.

Martha Rosler’s Library, November 14-January 20, 2008
INHA, 2, rue Vivienne, 75002

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Gustave Courbet

“Since I must always be an exception to the general rule in everything and everywhere, I am going to pursue my destiny.” Gustave Courbet, November 30, 1837.

Realizing that this imminent grève, (strike), by all metro and rail workers scheduled to hit France late Tuesday night might cause some transportation conflicts (understatement of the year), I decided to take a late afternoon trip to Grand Palais visit the much discussed Gustave Courbet exhibition.

It was a bit chilly and nearing dusk when I made my way over. After a gruff encounter with the guard who decided to interrogate me like I just robbed a candy store rather than mistakenly walking up the stairs to enter the museum (having missed the queue which was tucked back behind a temporary trailer), I waited in a ten-minute line and headed, finally, indoors.

The exhibition is nicely installed with a suite of several rooms on the ground and second floors of the museum. Self-portraits, portraits, countryside and landscapes dominate the exhibition. Courbet was a realist painter who occasionally painted provocatively and often, he did not. He is beloved for his grand ego, radical polictics, and his bold nod to history painting such as “In the Artists Studio,” or “The Burial at Ornans,” a painting that was in fact rejected from the Salon of 1855. Courbet, notably offended by this dismissal, decided to rent a space nearby the salon, hang the gigantic painting and charge admission. The text says that this gesture liberated artists from tradition…I’d like to see this as a first gesture towards the development of the alternative art space.

Not surprisingly the most trafficked room seem to be the ‘Nude Room,’ a likely reason for Courbet’s lasting fame. (Just a hunch that is was not the series of waves crashing on the shore works in the previous room). Lushly painted, voluptuous nudes in quite suggestive poses are accompanied by a suite of 1850s-60s photographs of similar scenes. The highlight of course, is “The Origin of the World,” and it was funny to watch the general response to people looking at it. Most didn’t move in for a closer inspection of paint application as they may have done say with the earlier landscape paintings. Instead I was jostled by several gentlemen as they maneuvered their way in to view the peek-a-boo boxes on the wall, behind which held small pornographic photographs taken in the late 1800s. Maybe that was a more comfortable viewing method for people.

In any event, after that the rest of the show seemed less exciting. Maybe Courbet was less excited too. Large scenes of hunting chases set in a winter landscape with animals that looked a little cartoony, in my opinion, and a bit disappointing. In his last years he spent time in prison for his support of the Paris Commune and an order he made to destroy the Vendome column for its representation of the former Napoleon regime. Courbet’s last works, many done from prison, were appropriately nature-morte with large apples, pears and the like in degrees of decomposition. In general though, Courbet took risks that clearly helped pave the way for Cezanne, Manet and the Impressionist painters who followed closely on his heels and he died a hero and as a symbol of French pride and history.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Ceramics Class

Today was the first day of ceramics class. Last month over some wine, a good friend, W, and I decided we needed a course in which to channel some unused creative energy, or something, and molding clay seemed just the thing. Aside from a semester in ceramics in graduate school and early childhood attempts with play-doh, my knowledge was limited. After a search on google we came up with a few options. Just like goldilocks, the first was too small and filled with too much earthenware, the second was just way too far out the city, and the third, the Association des Arts et Techniques Ceramiques, seemed just the place. Led by two, young aspiring ceramic artists, Christophe and Gregoire, the studio has space for about ten people at a time and offers morning/afternoon and evening classes in wheel, hand building and glazes. We decided on the wheel and literally dug right in, preparing our balls of clay to turn into fabulous bowls or maybe a six-piece saki set.
Well, in reality, I spent about 2 hours just trying to center the clay and kept muttering this must be a metaphor for my life right now. We kept up with joking encouragments such as, "find the zen," "keep the zen," and hopefully, after our three-month course, we'll find some!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Le Laboratoire

On October 19th a new contemporary cultural space opened in Paris, seemingly without much notice. The brainchild of an American scientist and novelist, David Edwards, Le Laboratoire,, is a meeting point for artists and scientists to share thoughts, ideas, visions, and see what happens as a result. Two leading figures in these respective fields, who in all likelihood have never met and may not know each other’s work, come together to explore concepts and “push the limits of understanding,” as the mission statement declares. The production is (more or less) spontaneous, unknown and attempts to lay new groundwork. It’s a tricky concept to pull off, which why the name of the space, le laboratoire, is a good one, because in actuality the work developed is truly experimental.

The space itself is still partly under construction, which may explain the lack of crowds and publicity thus far. It is located in the 1st arrondisement, near the Louvre,, and the Ministry of Culture, on the ground floor of a larger, more traditional looking building. The façade is all glass with shades of gray and black paint and white neon signage. Set into part of the façade is a ‘theatre optique,’ or optical theater in which a niche has been carved between the glass façade and the interior to display video work. On view now is a video by the artist Patrick Sorin as well as a video that presents David Edwards describing his vision for the space and how the project developed.

The interior of the museum is still somewhat raw but it will be slick and industrial-like, with metal, cement and glass as the dominant materials. You enter into the main exhibition area down a short staircase. The space has essentially been gutted out leaving a wide-open, column-filled area for the artist to manipulate. For the current exhibition the floors have been painted in different colors and sheetrocked, movable walls have been propped up, onto which the paintings are hung and which also form a corridor that leads to other work. At the back of the exhibition space, through large glass walls you can get a glimpse into what will eventually be office space, a gift shop and perhaps a café.

The inaugural exhibitions have been in the making for over a year. The main space presents the work created from a collaboration by the French artist Fabrice Hyber and Robert Langer, a leading scientist at MIT for stem cell research. The two met for only one week, at MIT last January, although they remained in contact throughout the whole experiment. From their meetings it was decided that they would focus their project on the experience of a stem cell transforming into a neuron. Hyber took all of the scientific data and information gleaned from their encounter, continued his own research and from this developed a series of paintings, sculptures and installation work. Hyber subtitled the project “food for thought,” and several of the works, such as a figure constructed out of fruits and vegetables or the two vats of champagne with fruits in the process of fermentation, deal explicitly with this theme of transformation, decomposition and bodily function. There are several large paintings that look like studies form a notebook with words, formulas, numbers and charts, and an inflatable sculpture that resembles an esophagus. The whole experience is part funhouse for science and part artist’s studio. Disordered/ordered chaos runs through the whole of it, and it works under the pretext of being a laboratory, a reflection of thought and spontaneity.

In a smaller space set right next to the entrance, (which I think is temporary), is an exhibition titled Bel-Air, and it is the result of a collaboration between David Edwards, and the French designer Matthew Lehanneur. Using research and observations of NASA scientists, the two artists created a type of air filter that is part design object, part environmental gadget. The artists learned that early on many astronauts had returned from space flights with high levels of toxic chemicals in their systems due to the synthetic materials of the spacecraft. NASA scientists soon began studying certain types of plants that were said to act as natural filters, absorbing and metabolizing the gases to help combat this effect. Edwards and Lehanneur take this concept into the contemporary home of today, a space that is also filled with synthetic objects and materials and they have created a small, pod-like structure that houses a small plant. The pod is white with a clear top and it rests on the floor. The filter supposedly passes dirty air past the surfaces of the plants, thereby strengthening the capacity of the plants to absorb the toxins and rendering the plant “more intelligent,” i.e. able to ward off a higher amount of the gases. If all this is true, which it seems to be, Bel-Air is a truly innovative concept housed in a chic design object. The exhibition seems to succeed a bit more than the other in part because the two were coming from a shared interest and a more collaborative working process.

It will be interesting to see how Le Laboratoire develops in the coming months. Being privately funded allows for flexibility and real experimentation. The program has an ambitious agenda that should make for an exciting addition to the Paris art scene.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Salon des Livres

A Salon des Livres took place this weekend in a nightclub along the Quai Valmy in the 10th Arr. It was a small gathering (not a fair), of about 20-30 small press publishers coming primarily from France, England, German or United States.The setting was perfect-intimate, sort of grungy and totally independent.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Musee D'Orsay

It had been a long while since I lasted visited this museum, but I immediately remember why I consider it one of my favorites. I love the interior layout of the place- the rooms gliding into one another on various levels and the center sculpture court. The museum doesn’t have any ‘blockbuster’ show right now and so mid-day on a Wednesday I breezed right in.

I made my way first to the drawings of Odilon Redon, an artist I always liked but never focused much attention on. It’s a small show of about 30-40 works, tucked into a back gallery in the museum, so for the first 5 minutes I was literally alone in the space, an experience I don’t recall ever having at a major museum. Redon is a curious artist, totally steeped in Romantic, surrealist, dreamy, nightmare world, much like Edgar Allen Poe, for whom he did a few book covers. Some of these images from the 1870s were as bizarre and out there as anything today. I kept thinking about that weird 1980s English film “Time Bandits,” which forever gives me the creeps for some reason, but in a good way.

Next, onto viewing some of the collection, particularly the Manet’s which I recall from my semester abroad here as being excellent. No let down there. Manet is absolutely amazing. To look at “Olympia,”, granted one of the most reproduced images, still inspires something. I mean she is sexy and totally arousing, even today when you open any fashion magazine and see any number of nude bodies. An article in the New York Times Magazine recently deemed her to be the first contemporary fashion model. There she is, looking out at us, totally nude save for the subtle highlights of the necklace or her shoes, objects we focus on and which become fetishistic for the viewer, a perfect vision for current fashion advertising.

Finally, the museum’s attempt to throw in contemporary art in a project titled “Correspondences,” is a good effort, but not all that exciting. A contemporary artist is invited to select a work in the collection that they relate to/are inspired by, etc. Janis Kounellis selected a painting by Millet, i.e Arte Povera meets somber realism. On the other side is Odile Redon and Emmanuelle Saulnier, a French artist whose sculpture of stones atop water glasses is nice and moody and makes for a nice installation, but not really much else.