21 May 2007

First Museum Visits

I mentioned the museums we went to on Saturday in the previous post, but since I'm here to visit museums, I want to discuss them more fully separately.

The Institut du Monde Arabe is in a building designed by Jean Nouvel, who is an amazing architect who has done other museums in Paris and is kind of a rival to other current celebritechts Frank Gehry and Renzo Piano. The side of the building facing the Seine is undulating, and the side facing like the Latin Quarter is flat. Since it faces the south, bright light is an issue, but Nouvel solved the problem by using gorgeous Mourcharaby windows with a photosensor so that the open and close automatically. Mourcharaby windows are I think traditional to the Arab world, and they look and work like the aperture on a SLR camera. Gorgeous. The collection presented was amazing, from the Phonecians to present, but all highlights and all presented aesthetically more than contextually. The interesting part was seeing the shift from pre-622 to post-622, because the representation of people kind of stops. The bookshop was great, and I totally played into the Orientalist vibe, which rather unfairly exoticises the peoples and cultures of the Arab world, but is very in tune with the West. Right before I left to come here, I watched The Battle of Algiers again, so I was in the mood to be pro-Arab world anyway. It was kind of in the wake of all of that that l'IMA was founded, to appease a malcontented minority in France with an institution. Not bad, for sure.

View from the roof of l'IMA

If l'IMA was a super positive experience, then my first visit to the Louvre was rather lukewarm. It was of course packed, which was expected, but we were also flying by stuff and missed most things. The highlight for me of what we saw was Veronese's Wedding at Cana, which is massively gigantic and a triumph of artistic achievement. It faces the Mona Lisa, so everyone misses it as they flock to the Mona Lisa, but Veronese trumps Da Vinci any day in my book, as Venetian colore does over Florentine disegno.

At the Victory of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo, it was more interesting to watch people taking pictures of the statues than the statues were themselves. We also saw the large and famous 19th century works by David and Delacroix, which were cool also. I missed the Reubens room and I'd have loved to have seen the Apartments of Napoleon III. It's all kind of ok, because I know multiple visits are crucial and they will eventually happen.

The t-shirt below wasn't in the Louvre, but in a museum store in the Marais. The shirt costs 95euro, and the only thing that makes it special is that it is the exact color of Mona Lisa's eyes.

Sunday morning, due to rain, we went to the Musée des Arts-et-Métiers because there was a chance that going to Versailles would be cancelled due to the crappy weather, which I will get to. Arts-et-Métiers was the coolest museum, as it began as a teaching collection for industrial design students from 1790 to some point in the future. The building itself was a Benedictine abbey finished in 1720, when it was the fashionable church for Parisian aristocrats. When the Revolution happened, the congregation no longer existed (because they were mostly all killed during the Reign of Terror), and the establishment of the atelier there was an act of the revolutionary government. The former chapel now houses a Foucault pendulum, and a gorgeous car and airplane gallery. The whole place is newly renovated, and it starts with the institution of standard weights and measurements, and moves from there. They have multiple early examples of arithmatic machines, slide rules, all kinds of stuff. The machines of the Industrial Revolution are shown, along with videos of how they work, which means looms and punch cards, like manual computers. That section ends up with carbon fibers, which was the most beautiful video, because it's very complex knitting in the round. They have models of buildings, how they are built, how cameras and printing presses and cameras are built...

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