Letter from France: December 2012

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Whether you’re a novice or seasoned traveller, France will steal your heart. Each month, Frederic – our French correspondent – gives us the low-down on what to see and do across the channel

On 12/12/12, opening of the Louvre-Lens Museum, the new extension of the Louvre Museum in Lens
From December 12, the Louvre Museum opens a new museum in the North of France in the city of Lens. In this spectacular glass building, a regular turnover of masterpieces from the Louvre collections will be presented in a non-traditional way, mixing artworks from different departments of the Louvre Museum. The ‘Galerie du Temps’ with its 3000 m2 shows more than 200 masterpieces from Antiquity to the ‘Temps Modernes’ in a panoramic and chronological vision of art through ages. Even the underground storerooms and preservation studios will be open to visitors. Nestled in fifty-acres of green park and closed to the railway station where TGV easily linked Lens to Belgium, Germany and UK, the Louvre-Lens expects to become a main euro-museum.
Lens, Pas de Calais-62

Until January 7: Tea at Guimet (Le Thé à Guimet)

Asian Art Guimet Museum presents the story of tea through the ages. Tea was obviously born in China and developed into one of the most expensive beverages you could buy. It has changed in the way it is prepared and drunk and after conquering Asia it has taken over the world! Now with the exception of water, tea is the first beverage of man.
Paris, Musée Guimet

Until January 13: Lille ‘Fantastic’
Every three years, Lille in the North of France creates a huge cultural and social winter season. This year, through the theme ‘Fantastic’ dozens of events are presented including various contemporary artists’ exhibitions. Among all, Nick Cave and Ryota Kuwakubo at the Tripostal, ‘Science and Fiction’ at the Maison Folies Wazemmes, ‘Marc Chagall, the Thickness of dreams’ at La Piscine Roubaix, the ‘Magical Town’ at the LAM Villeneuve d’Ascq and many more all over the town.
Lille, North-59

Until January 14: Canaletto-Guardi, the two masters of Venice
A large presentation of works of two 18th century painters Canaletto and Guardi. They were masters of the Veduta artistic movement, displaying the reality of charming and elegant Venice and giving life to an imaginary Venice, the so-called “capprici”. From the largest Canaletto ollection in the world – the Queen’s – the Jacquemart-André Museum has been loaned eight masterpieces by Canaletto,which are in the Crown’s collections at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.
Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André

Until January 14: Raphael’s late years
Raphael, a master of the Italian Renaissance, had to work with highly qualified and capable disciples in order to fulfil the many commissions he received. Two of them, Giulio Romano and Gianfrancesco Penni also worked independently in their master’s studio on their own works. The aim of this exhibition is to throw light on the genius of Raphael and on the additional contributions of his two main assistants.
Paris, Musée du Louvre

Until January 20: the birth of aboriginal painting
This first major exhibition of Aboriginal artworks, around 200 paintings and 70 objects, is focused on the birth of this art movement called Papunya Tula in the very early seventies. This pictorial revolution merging in the desert zone around Alice Springs (AUS) grew very quickly and in less than 40 years reached quite all other Aborigine communities.
Paris, Musée du Quai Branly

Until January 20: Impressionism and Fashion
The vision of the impressionists was not only focused on nature and landscapes. Their works testify to a way of life and behaviour at their time. Their representation of costume and dress, gives us a more authentic and overall view of their contemporaries rather than any artificially posed portrait. About sixty paintings mainly by Renoir, Manet, Monet and Degas are displayed alongside 70 costumes and dresses belonging to the period all of which has a proven provenance.
Paris, Musée d’Orsay

Until January 20: Centre Pompidou Mobile, Libourne
The Centre Pompidou Mobile, born just one year ago, is the first nomadic contemporary and modern art museum in the world. It’s a light dismountable and moveable structure that travels three times in a year from town to town to present selections of major artworks from the collections of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The public is not going to the museum: the museum is going to the public. This year theme is ‘Circle and Square’ in remembrance of the birth in 1930 of the first abstract movement led by Mondrian, Arp, Kandinsky… This free exhibition presents artworks by 15 artists including Vasarely, Kandinsky, Duchamp, Léger, Soto, Buren.
A plus to encourage a visit to the Pompidou Mobile, Libourne is a pretty town just settled between two of the greatest Bordeaux wines territories Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. In parallel to the exhibition, four Châteaux “Saint Emilion Grand Cru” joined the project and open their doors to public to visit the contemporary pieces of art they shelter for the same period. Château Canon La Gaffelière, Château Dassault, Château de Ferrand and Château Quilnault L’Enclos are all situated in the short vicinity of Libourne.
Libourne, Gironde-33

Until January 21: Chaïm Soutine, ‘L’ordre du chaos’
The Musée de l’Orangerie presents works of Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943) a major Parisian Expressionist painter born in Russia. Although having an important influence among painters and collectors of his time, he remains largely unknown by non-specialists but his works will handsomely repay a visit.
Paris, Musée de l’Orangerie

Until January 27: Nigeria, Arts from Benoue Valley
The Quai Branly Museum hosts the first exhaustive exhibition of African artworks selected on a local geographical basis, the Benoue Valley in Nigeria, a valley sheltering various tribes. About 150 pieces are exposed in their local context and this presentation shows the differences and in the same time highlights all the interconnections about art vision between tribes.
Paris, Musée du Quai Branly

Until January 27: From Red River to Mekong, Visions of Vietnam
After 1850 Vietnam with its luxuriant natural resources, its monuments and its various populations attracted many French artists and soon saw the creation of arts schools where Vietnamese artists came to learn European art techniques. This exhibition is a testimony to the fusion between two civilisations, with the Vietnamese vision of French artists, and the interpretation of their own culture by Vietnamese painters.
Paris, Musée Cernuschi

Until January 28: Edward Hopper at the Grand Palais
Gathering more than half of Edward Hopper’s paintings, the Grand Palais presents the hugest exhibition ever done of this American artist known to be the archetype of figurative painter, but who meanwhile was using a sort of abstraction in his more realistic works of art. His work is a strict description of the new American way of life, but includes also a part of criticism of the inhumanity of modern times.
Paris, Musée du Grand Palais

Until February 10: Canaletto in Venice
Another major exhibition of the Venice famous painter, Canaletto with 50 paintings and also with his famous sketchbook from about 1731. (All pages can now be seen on computers) There is also a Venetian copy of the optical chamber used by Canaletto to make his drawings.
Paris, Musée Maillol

Until March 3: Rodin, the Flesh and the Marble
Although the museum is being renovated, the Rodin museum is exhibiting 50 marble sculptures by Rodin which highlight quality of the sculptor’s work, especially his ability to give life to marble bodies.
Paris, Musée Rodin

Until March 17: Van Gogh and Hiroshige
A double exhibition to celebrate the world most famous painter, Vincent Van Gogh, and the well-known Japanese artist Hiroshige. It was Hiroshige who inspired the first of the impressionists. A parallel can be seen between two opposite minds, the sense of general composition of Hiroshige who filled up his landscape paintings with an immense serenity, which was then copied and used by Van Gogh. He then expressed with his tortured mind his feelings that the landscapes of Southern France were sort of an imaginary Japan.
Paris, Pinacothèque 1 and 2

Until March 25: Dali
33 years after the 1979 fabulous Dali’s retrospective that remains the most successful exhibition ever set in this museum, the Centre Pompidou offers a new vision of the work and the life of Salvador Dali, probably one of the main masters in modern art but surely the most eccentric. He was greed, grotesque and genial in the same time. Provocations and controversies were part of his creative mind. Over two hundred works are presented in a string of chronological themed sections.
Paris, Centre Pompidou

Until July 27: ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Crossed Beauty in Contemporary Art
Referring to the Jean Cocteau’s eponymous film of 1946, Bernard Magrez, owner of four well-known Bordeaux vineyards and founder of the Bernard Magrez Cultural Institute, has organised a confrontation between 30 artworks by various contemporary artists to reflect the duality of Beauty, particularly in the connection that links the artist and his model.
Bordeaux, Gironde – 33, Institut Culturel Bernard Magrez

Until 2 November 2013: Roulez Carosses!
A loan from the Palace of Versailles, to the museum of St Vaast Abbey in Arras, shows for the first time the best pieces of French royal and imperial horse-drawn carriages along with numerous artefacts belonging to their use. There are also a few paintings of important events during which these vehicles were used.
Arras, Pas-de-Calais – 59, Musée-Abbaye St Vaast

Louvre Museum, New Islamic Arts Department
From September 22, the Louvre Museum opens its new area dedicated to art in Islam. The former Visconti courtyard is now covered by a huge sail shaped glass roof allowing the museum to present in one place 3,000 major Islam art works. This permanent space includes the discovery of an important number of Islamic pieces of art coming from the collections of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
Paris, Musée du Louvre, Département des Art de l’Islam.

Museum Jean Cocteau-Collection Severin Wunderman, in Menton, Alpes Maritimes
The largest in the world and a must see collection of the works of Jean Cocteau. The pieces of work were given to the town of Menton by a private collector Severin Wunderman.
Menton, Alpes Maritimes-06, Musée Jean Cocteau

Alésia MuseoParc, Alise-Sainte-Reine, Côte d’Or
Right in the centre of the battlefield of Alesia that saw the final battle of the Gallic Wars with Julius Caesar’s victory against Vercingetorix, stands the new circular building of the Alesia MuseoParc. Inside, you’ll find lots of interactive explanations, a realistic and astonishing movie of the battle on a seven metres screen, and outside, an amazing life-size reconstruction of the Caesar double fortifications to help visitors to understand one of the biggest battles of Roman times.
Alise-Sainte-Reine, Côte-d’Or-21, MuséoParc d’Alésia

Museum d’Ennery, Paris
Mrs Clemence d’Ennery donated to France in 1894 her fabulous collection of more than 7,000 Chinese and Japanese artworks under strict conditions, one of which was that all of the collection should be exhibited inside her own house which she had designed as a personal orientalist museum. Closed for years for security reasons, the museum recently reopened and provides a look back into a time when the eruption of Far East Asian Art influenced European collectors and artists. (Note: booking in advance is mandatory)
Paris, Musée d’Ennery

Museum Lalique, Wingen-sur-Moser, Alsace
In the small village where over a period of 90 years René Lalique produced a large part of his work, this art nouveau and art deco artist, hundreds of his works are displayed. They highlight his incredible genius not only as probably one of the best glass artists of all time but his work as a jeweller. This very modern museum, hidden on the flank of a small green valley, is a perfect showcase for Lalique’s jewels, perfume bottles, tableware, vases, lights, crystal and drawings.
Wingen-sur Moser, Bas Rhin-67, Alsace, Musée Lalique

Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi, Tarn
Inside the fabulous Palais de la Berbie, the former palace of Bishops of Albi, a UNESCO World Heritage site is the largest collection of pieces of art by Toulouse-Lautrec. It is now being displayed in a new scenography offering a new reading of each facet of the artist’s work, including his works as a youth as well as portraits of Montmartre people and scenes from the world of brothel.
Albi, Tarn-81, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec
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