dimanche, novembre 27, 2005

Melancholy at the Grand Palais

I've been taking advantage recently of the cultural things Paris has to offer. (Eastern European rock installations not included).

I have been to two different exhibits at the Grand Palais, attended an artist's expo in a chic but rundown apartment not far away in the exclusive 8th arrondissement, and went to a party at an artist's loft in the outskirts of the city, where this weekend they are having an open house with an artists' collective.

The first expo at the Grand Palais, entitled "Melancolie", was, well, how can I put it? Interesting, very extensive, and a little exhausting. The idea was to show how important of a theme "melancholia" has historically been in the arts, be it painting, music, philosophy, theology, sculpture, etc. The exhibit was huge, and spanned the ages. How much time they must have put into deciding what pieces to include, I can only imagine. But I sort of liked trying to picture the board of people involved, sitting around a conference room table, discussing what works to use.

"I absolutely cannot understand why you refuse to see my point about the Dührer, Charlotte!"

"Jean-Charles, please don't slam your fist like that. I think you'll find the Otto Dix supports the exact same idea, plus it's available on loan for the time we need it!"

Yes, these are the things that swirl around in my head at 7:30 at night at an art expo. Consider yourself warned.

The first thing I saw upon entering was a Grecian urn depicting Penelope at her loom, appropriately melancholic, waiting for Ulysses' return with her son Telemachus at her side.

Off to a nice start, I thought.

I found it interesting how the stance of melancholy one takes, the head tilted to the side and resting on the hand, hasn't changed at all since ancient times. But then again, why would it have? In any case, it was fascinating to see the pose repeated so consistently throughout.

I was impressed with the variety of the works chosen. There were the predictable Dührers and Goyas and Van Goghs, but I thought Edward Hopper was a nice addition. And I was a little surprised not to see a whole bunch of Schiele. But then again, he was being displayed next door, at the "1900's in Vienna" exhibit, alongside Kokoschka, Moser and Klimt.

There were of course an enormous amount of things that went completely over my head. Each part was organized into sections, and there were long cerebral explanations of the view of such and such aspect of melancholia seen through the spectrum of such and such an age, or such and such philosophy. There was a huge panel that discussed the theological ruminations of "black bile", as melancholy was sometimes translated, and how during the Middle Ages is was considered a sin. Yawn.

The absolute best part, though, was how many people were jotting things down into little notebooks or handheld computers, even into their fancy cell phones. I can assure you not all of them were art students, either. You gotta love a country that is so much into culture, philosophy and knowledge in general that they not only line up in the cold for hours to see an art exhibit after work, but that they actually take notes.

It's just so cute.

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