Saturday, February 9, 2013

Paranoia at The National Museum of Modern Art

Infinity 2012 (DJ Antoine Vs. Med Mark Remix) by Va - on Grooveshark

Can you guess from this photo which artist is currently being featured at the Musee National d'Art Moderne at the Pompidou Center?

A Salvador Dali painting starring me!  I'm in the Rita Mae West room featuring the Mae West Lips Sofa by Dali where guests can sit and have someone take a photo from the image that's created by a projector.  I debated doing a weird, interpretive pose a la Dali, but there was a huge line of people just waiting and watching. 
I'm not going to pretend to be knowledgeable or a huge fan of modern art - I don't know it, I've never studied it or have been particularly inspired to delve into it, I've never had friends or boyfriends who were into it and wanted to take me into that world (now that I think about it, none of my boyfriends were into art at all...wait!  Sports were their art!).  To me, modern art is just a huge, messy blur of colors, people staring thoughtfully at a spoon and its commentary on corporatism, angst-ridden & narcissistic personalities and everyone trying so hard to be controversial.  But I'm aware that's just my ignorance talking.  I'm sure if I were better educated in this area, the world of modern art would come alive.

But everyone knows Salvador Dali, he's an historical icon of the 21st century, not just confined to the annals of art history.  He was an integral part of cubism, dadaism, surrealism, cannot know Garcia Lorca, Luis Bunuel, Picasso, Miro and even Andy Warhol and not know Dali.

Hello there! Throughout his entire life, Dali maintained his circus-master moustache that was inspired by his love for the 17th-century master painter Diego Velasquez.  I think he must have had a great sense of humor (also seen in his works) which to me is a sign of first-rate intelligence especially in someone as erudite as he was. 
So I was excited to see that the world-famous National Modern Art Museum of France is currently holding a 200+ piece, multi-media retrospective of Dali's work, borrowing works from all over the world, particularly the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid.  The Pompidou Center, where the museum is housed, is pretty amazing in and of itself and is a Must See for Paris.  It's located near Marais in the 4th arrondissement, a college-type area replete with the usual hipsters and street musicians and cool stores, it's a great place to walk around.  The building won the Pritzker Prize in 2007 and is famous for being inside-out/its "exoskeleton"- the architects externalized and colorized its mechanical systems such as the plumbing, electrical wiring, heating/cooling systems.

Take a look:

The front courtyard.  In the summer, it's filled with students hanging out, street performers, picnicking couples.
There was only one performer today, a courageous & talented lady playing the DIDGERIDOO, a tribal instrument played by Australian Aborigines...I grew up in Australia and haven't seen one of these for so many years!  She was really good and even had CDs she was selling.  I gave her some Euros for having being so brave and unique, got to respect that!  
The museum today was unfortunately jam-packed with school groups.  I say unfortunately because nobody likes huge groups of children visiting a museum, not other patrons, and not even the kids themselves...remember seeing the paintings at museums when we were in grade school?  Thaaaat's right, you don't remember just like I don't and none of the kids will in the future...all you'll remember is the incredible hassle.  The only people who like grade-school field trips to museums are the non-accompanying parents.  True story!
On the escalators heading up to the top level where the Dali exhibition is located - the panoramic views of Paris are incredible and considered some of the best in town.  There is a nice restaurant at the very top.  

Beautiful views of the Eiffel Tower and La Defense, I have got to get out there! I'm so interested in the architecture of office buildings.  
Dali is primarily known in pop culture for his hallucinogenic dreamscapes like the melting clocks but I was surprised to discover that those works occurred mid-career and were only a small subset of his substantial oeuvre (over 1,500 paintings!).

Dali's front-page illustration of Macbeth (1946)...completely embodies the paranoia and darkness of the story, perfect for Dali.  

"Partial Hallucinations:  Six Apparitions of Lenin on a Piano"
I really enjoyed this Pointillist painting.  It's called "Dawn, Noon, Sunset and Twilight" (1979).  For some reason, the symmetry, colors and technique gave me a sense of pleasure even though I'm not a huge fan of Pointillism in general.  I looked it up when I got home and discovered it's an homage to "The Angelus" (below), a painting by the French realist painter, Jean Francois Millet, of a praying couple, a painting that Dali was obsessed with his entire life.  Dali said that the woman's praying figure resembled a praying mantis, an insect known for devouring its mate after copulation. Note that the man figure is gone from Dali's painting...

Now the paintings for which Dali is popularly known, the paranoiac, hallucinogenic dreamscapes.  
"Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man" (1943),  reflecting all the narcissism and ruthless power of the United States emergent after the World Wars.  This famous painting is actually much smaller than I expected. 
"Portrait of My Dead Brother" (1963) - when he was 5-years-old, Dali was taken to the grave of his little brother who had died when 2-years-old, 9 months before Dali was born.  His parents told him he was the reincarnation of his little brother, a concept Dali himself believed.  His brother's image would appear in multiple works.   
On an immense canvas, "The Madonna" (1949), using his wife and lifelong muse, Gala, as the model.  
Here they are:

Gala was 10 years his senior and they fell madly in love with Dali stating, throughout his lifetime, that she was his muse - they were together for over 50 years until her death after which he essentially lost his will to live.  He followed her to the grave 7 years later.

Unlike most other famous painters, Dali was extremely successful and highly acclaimed in his own lifetime and actually made a lot of money; some of his Surrealist counterparts would later call him "Avida Dollars," a derogatory anagram of his name, they said he was a sellout (I sense some jealousy).  Gala was not only Dali's muse but his business manager, and very competently managed his significant earnings and budgeted their lifestyle as Dali loved luxury and leading an extravagant lifestyle; she managed to keep their luxurious lifestyles while at the same time growing his estate.  Every artist needs a Gala in his/her life!!  I always get so sad when I hear about artists who made an incredible amount of money but lose it all and end up penniless due to greedy money managers or just by frittering it all away.  


On to the rest of the museum; being multi-media, there were lots of projectors on walls and 3-D art, music accompanying works, lights, playhouses, so much more than traditional paintings on the wall.

Andy Warhol
Willem De Kooning, untitled (1976). 
Larry River's "Olympia in Black Face"
Yaakov Agam's optical room.  

Curtis Mann's works on Palestine
Adel Abdessemed's "Habiti" (2006).  Habiti means "my darling" in Arabic and is a reference to  Abdessemed's wife, who was the model for this skeleton made of Murano glass 

A few hours of wandering a museum and being pensive is exhausting work and we needed nourishment.  Enter Berko, a famous cheesecake & cupcake tea shop, just steps from the Pompidou Center.  

The fresh cheesecakes are made from scratch in the store; we chose the praline noisette and it was creamy, not too sweet and delicious!!!    
So there you have it, my trip into modern art.  It's nice to try something different and expand my's a big universe out there, so much exploring to do! 

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