Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Bouillion de Culture

These are the things to do in Paris: Walk. See Culture. Walk some more. Eat. Walk. See more Culture. In fact, so much culture is starting to give me a sense of satiety the kind of which I can only associate with looking too long at porn (not that I do). Because culture here is on a very grand scale and there is never enough. I’ve been here 2 days and I’ve already been to the Louvre twice. It’s not my fault it is so close by. Also, the only way of not wanting to set this museum on fire is by visiting it in increments. So the first day I decided to see only the paintings. I walked through the French painters, stopping at my faves (Ingres, David), then to the Flemish and Dutch and German for a dose of Vermeer and Rembrandt and Durer and then to the Italians, where all hell breaks loose.
The Mona Lisa is still there, attracting throngs (and boy, are there throngs of tourists in this town). She is now encased behind glass and looks even more bemused than usual. This must be the most overexposed painting in the history of art. To its credit, and my amazement, it does wield a mysterious power when seen in person. What is it about her? Yeah, the smile. But because it is intelligent and mordant and slighty provocative and seductive and sardonic. There are zillions of women depicted in paint, and this seems to be one of the few with more brains than looks. Before you get to her, you go by the Fra Angelicos and the Filippino Lippis and the Boticellis and then there are other Da Vincis and Raphaels and Titians and Tintorettos and by then you are groggy with beauty and art and you want out before you pass out. Today, it was only the Egyptian Antiquities wing, which is fascinating and mindboggling in its scope, from tiny little objets, to huge columnns and sarcophagi. It makes the Met look positively tiny.

At the Grand Palais there is an incredible exhibition called Monumenta, featuring art and installations by German artist Anselm Kiefer, which blew my mind. It is open until midnight, which is so cool because during the day the lines are long but during the night it’s almost empty and there is a free audioguide with so much explanation (in several languages), it’s almost as if you are taking a Ph D in Anselm Kiefer. I’m very happy I saw this, because this guy is a major, major artist.

Tonight there was an organ concert at Notre Dame. The organist played Bach, Rachmaninoff, Cesar Franck and a rocking improvisation by lui meme. Organ music reminds me of Dracula, and so by the way, does Notre Dame. But somehow it’s registers or vibrations have a strange, powerful effect on the body. It’s awe inspiring and relaxing at the same time.

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