Detail from Pont Alexandre III bridge with Eiffel in Paris France

An art walk in Paris with Picasso, Warhol, and Vuitton

I was standing at the counter of the City of Paris tourism office, staring at a brochure that described how a 2, 4, or 6-day Museum Pass would give me unlimited access to Paris’s museums with no queuing.

I’d enjoyed rural French culture in the tiny village of Lauzun for the past two months, and now I was ready for some big-city art.

“Which museums emphasize modern or contemporary art?” I asked the agent as I pulled out my wallet. She took her pink highlighter pen and underlined two from a list of 60. The venues I had short-listed were not on the list.

I thanked her and put my wallet away. I didn’t want musty, old-man art. I wanted art that rocked the world.

I made a decision: while in Paris, I would seek and enjoy art and design à la carte. I’d skip the Louvre and the Orsay, and proceed directly to the 20th century: the Musée Picasso, Musée d’Art Moderne, Grand Palais, Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Jeu de Paume, and the Centre Pompidou.

On the way I might stroll by the Eiffel tower, the Louvre, the Seine River, and the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. I would munch a crèpe here and sip a glass of wine there to sustain me. But here in Paris, it would be art that feeds me.

¡Picasso! at the Picasso Museum

The current exhibition, ¡Picasso! presented two floors of the artist’s work from the early 1900s to his death in 1973. I learned how dabbling with 3-dimensional materials translated into fractured pieces that would be called “Cubism.” I lingered in the museum for hours and was truly moved by the colours, shapes, and range of work.

Click an image to view the photos with comments in a gallery.

Next on my list was the Musée d’Art Moderne. It was on the other side of town near the Tour Eiffel. I caught a city bus west, ate a ham-and-cheese crepe under the tower, then strolled along the Seine river to my next art stop.

Warhol and The School of Paris at the Museum of Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art was staging Unlimited, an exhibition of more than 200 pieces by Andy Warhol, but as a North American, I felt like I’d seen enough of Warhol’s soup cans, thanks to various shows mounted by my own city’s Vancouver Art Gallery.

Warhol entry at Musee D'Art Moderne Paris France
Warhol entry at Musee D’Art Moderne Paris France

Instead, I proceeded to the gallery’s free exhibition of its permanent collection. It was amazing to wander from room to room and see the evolution of modern art from Post-Impressionism to yes, the Pop Art of Warhol.

Raoul Dufy 30 Years or The Rose Life 1931 at Musee D'Art Moderne Paris France
“Fauvist” artist Raoul Dufy’s 30 Years or The Rose Life, 1931 at Musee D’Art Moderne.

I also learned about the “School of Paris.” Art critics of 1923 used the term to describe the foreign artists who settled in the Montmartre and Montparnasse areas of Paris. The School encompassed all the movements of the time—Cubism, Fauvism, Realism, Primitivism, and Expressionism.

Art class at at Musee D'Art Moderne Paris France
Art class at at Musee D’Art Moderne Paris France

On my way out, I stepped around a fresh batch of painters setting up their easels next to the masters’. I snuck a few peeks to see how a student might copy or interprete an original work.

Back on the Seine, I stopped to photograph workers fitting new cobblestones into the river’s famous banks. I was lucky enough to experience (but not get taken in by) Paris’s famous gold ring scam.

Seine promenade stones with Eiffel Tower Paris France
Seine promenade stones with Eiffel Tower Paris France

“Volez, Voguez, Voyagez – Louis Vuitton” at Grand Palais

Because I know nothing about Louis Vuitton luggage—besides that Bangkok street vendors sell it and wealthy, well-dressed ladies buy it—I thought, why not check out this French company’s free retrospective at the gorgeous Grand Palais?

Louis Vuitton exhibit entry at Grand Palais in Paris France
Louis Vuitton exhibit entry at Grand Palais in Paris France

The exhibition was organized into themed rooms according to the type of travel and use: expeditions, yachting, automobile, aviation, and trains.

This show was about the history of travel luggage, not fashion. It was beautifully-mounted and fascinating. I had to laugh when I saw how early automobilers—like today’s early-adopter bicyclists—were expected to be “protected” in head-to-toe gear in order to participate in this new, novel mode of travel.

Click an image to view the photos with comments in a gallery.

I’d read in The Eye of Photography that there were a number of photography shows going on in the city, so I vowed to do a photo art walk of Paris next.


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Writer, rider, traveller.

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