Sunday, July 3, 2011


I struggle with contemporary art.  I have a certain sympathy for folks who roll their eyes and ask what the hell it all means, because despite being a couple hundred of pages away from a dissertation in art history, I sometimes find myself wondering the same thing.  I've taken classes, I've read the books, and sure, I more or less get it, but when it comes down to it, it just doesn't quite do it for me.  I'm sorry Contemporary Art--it's not you, it's me.

I often go to contemporary art museums with this expression.
The most infamous example of my distaste occurred a couple of years ago when Jackie, Becca, Brady and I went to New York to visit my college friend Josephine, and hang out in the city.  On the day of the even more infamous puking incident, Bec and I decided to go to the Guggenheim while Brady stayed at my friend's apartment to empty his stomach of all its contents.  To my surprise, Matthew Barney's Cremaster cycle had completely overtaken the museum.  Becca says that she has never seen me fly through a museum with such rapidity and distaste.  I vaguely remember a river of warm vaseline, and the rest, thankfully has been more or less stricken from my memory.  I still don't know who had the most appalling day:  me or Brady.

Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Le Chat.
This is all back story for today's museum trip to the Centre Pompidou, home to the largest modern art collection in Europe.  Many Parisian museums are free the first Sunday of the month, so I chose the Pompidou, as it is on the art historical to do list, and I did not think the crowds would enrage me as they would if I went to the d'Orsay.  While I did not wander the Pompidou with distaste, I admit I walked through it with a certain disinterest and subsequent speed.  Picasso?  Seen it!  Moving on.  My favorite piece of the day was probably a charming little relief by Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Marcel Duchamp's less famous brother, whom I have a lot of fondness for.  His early death, of typhoid fever in WWI, precluded him from having a large body of work, so I'm always pleased to come across his stuff.
Brancusi Atelier.
I very much enjoyed the recreation of Constantin Brancusi's atelier (studio), which is located in a small structure outside the Pompidou itself.  The early 20th-century sculptor had a certain mania for how his works should be displayed, so he bequeathed the works in his studio to France, on the condition that they redisplay them in the manner in which he left them.

The famous escalator runs up the side of the building in a zigzagging glass tube.
Easily the best part of today's visit, however, was riding the escalator up the side of the building.  As you ascend upwards, your vision is occluded by the height of the surrounding buildings, until you move past the fifth floor and the Parisian cityscape emerges.  This proved so fun actually, that I spent the majority of my visit not looking at art, but rather riding the elevator up and down.

Rare photo of me courtesy of fellow tourist.

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