Thursday, August 15

I visit Centre Georges Pompidou and listen to jazz at Caveau de la Huchette.

Did a pile of homework, then walked over the river and up to Centre Georges Pompidou, spent several hours enjoying some spectacular art, then took the métro home. You will recognize many of the artists. I should have recorded the titles and artists to label the pictures, but I was too lazy and enjoyed looking at them too much to take the time. I didn't expect it, but I think this museum is as much a must-see as is the Musée D'Orsay.

I added comments for works by Calder, Agam and Dubuffet. Can you find the ones by Chagall, Kadinsky, Picasso, Mattise, Miró, and Warhal? This is an Art History quiz.

It's interesting that in some museums photographs are prohibited, and in others they are permitted, usually without flash. Georges Pompidou permits photos, so I took quite a few.

Ran into some nice people from Alabama and Florida in Square René Viviani across from Notre Dame and chatted with them for a long time. They're here for a month, living over in the 6th. I told them about La Pâtisserie des Rêves which turns out to very near their apartment and some nice restaurants and things to see. I'm the old hand here now!

This is the movie poster that's currently all over the city. It was shown at Cannes, and the Guardian reviewed it in English.

Centre Georges Pompidou. That's a Calder mobile titled "Horizontal". The tubes painted red on the bottom are escalators.

From a blog about this work:

Yaacov Agam's "Amenagement de l'antichambre," a room made of 
pleated walls; in turn, colour has been carefully applied to 
the backward or forward-leaning pleats while sometimes the opposite 
side was left white. The result is that everywhere you stand gives 
you the sense of a different room. To complicate our vision further, 
a chrome ball and triangle distort the walls around you. This was 
another piece that people were quite willing to play with, walking 
back and forth, looking at the room through the coloured glass on 
either side, considering the chrome ball. On the one hand, viewers 
are simply delighted by the play with colour; on the other hand, 
viewers may or may not be aware of the questions Agam is asking about 
how we see our world, how subtly it can be distorted, how many sides 
it can have. Again, this speaks to the skill of the curators (not to 
mention the artists!). Unlike those perhaps at the Museum of 
Contemporary Art in Paris, the Pompidou's don't try to put 
arguments on the walls, but to find ways of engaging with viewers.

From the net:

Dubuffet, Jean (1901-1985) - 1947 Dhotel Nuance d'abricot (Centre 
Pompidou, Paris) Oil on canvas; 116 x 89 cm.

Jean Dubuffet was a French painter, sculptor, and printmaker, best 
known for his development of art brut (“raw art”). As an art student 
in Paris, Dubuffet demonstrated a facility for academic painting. 
In 1924, however, he gave up his painting, and by 1930 was making a 
living as a wine merchant. He did not return to a full-time art 
career until the early 1940s.

After World War II, as one of the leading artists of the School 
of Paris, he developed the techniques and philosophy of art brut. 
Derived from Dubuffet’s studies of the art of children and of the 
mentally ill, art brut is intended to achieve immediacy and vitality 
of expression not found in self-conscious, academic art. To reflect 
these qualities, Dubuffet often used crude ideographic images incised 
into a rough impasto surface made up of such materials as tar, gravel, 
cinders, ashes, and sand bound with varnish and glue. His drawings 
and paintings are by turns childlike and obsessive, and their 
unfinished appearance excited much controversy.

During the 1960s Dubuffet experimented with musical composition and 
the creation of architectural environments. In various graphic and 
sculptural mediums he continued to explore the potentials of art brut. 
In his later years he also created several large sculptures of 
black-and-white painted fiberglass for various public spaces.

Went up to Caveau de la Huchette tonight by the river to drink Glenlivet and listen to jazz, 40s swing performed by the Claude Tissendier City Swing Band.

The Caveau de la Huchette was established in 1946. It was the first club in Paris where New-Orleans Jazz and be-bop were played. Performers over the years have included such greats as Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, Sidney Bechet, Art Blakey, Claude Bolling, Wild Bill Davis, Sacha Distel, Harry Sweet Edison, Panama Francis, Claude Luter, Memphis Slim, Maxim Saury, Marc Laferrière, Christian Morin, Zanini, Patrick Saussois, Les Haricots Rouges, and Bill Coleman.

The upper room is a bar, and the lower room has a tiny stage, dance floor, and funky benches. It's a popular hangout for amateur be-bop dancers. There were quite a few there tonight and they were really good, all ages from really young kids to grandparents, and all races, having a great time, dancing with their significant others (if any) and also switching partners frequently with other dancers. Others like me were there just to listen to the music.

The building dates back to before 1550 and has quite a history. The Rosicrucians and Templars met there and it became a secret lodge. During the revolution it was a meeting place for Danton, Marat, Robespierre and other members of the "committee" where they decided who was to live and who to die. It was called "the Caveau de la Terreur". The court room, the prison, the place of execution and a deep well used to dispose of the evidence still remain.

Was refilling my Glenlivet at the bar while the band was taking a break and started talking to a guy. Asked if I was French, I said no, asked where I was from, said États-Unis, asked which city, said Chicago (the French way). So far pretty normal. Then it got a bit unusual. He was obsessed with the word "requin" and wanted to know what the word was in English. I didn't know. Said it was a fish, un poisson, in the sea, dans la mer. Not enough information! The bartender got involved. Finally some guys at the other end of the bar knew the answer - it's a shark! Why was this important? I'll never know. Then he asked if Chicago was a nice city and I said yes but it's kind of like the Marseilles of the US - "beaucoup de pollution". That got a huge laugh from everyone. These French people, so easily amused. All you have to do is make fun of some other region of their country.

The place was a bit expensive: 12€ cover charge, and 10€ for drinks.

The stairs going down from the bar to the dance floor reminded me of the stairs in Notre Dame - ancient worn twisty steep narrow stone steps. It's pretty easy to imagine Robespierre going up and down them, or Quasimodo for that matter.

The club doesn't open until 9:30 pm. The band starts playing at 10:15 or so and plays until about 2 am. I left around midnight. Then they play recorded music, jazz and rock from the 40s and 50s and some disco. They close at dawn. I think that as the night goes on the crowd probably gets younger. That was already starting to happen by the time I left.

They really, really love old American music here in Paris, both jazz and rock and roll.

Rue de la Huchette up by the river is one of those Latin Quarter really narrow cobblestone streets. It's lined with bars and restaurants and souvenir shops and packed shoulder to shoulder with people walking up and down, with lots of tourists. I think it gets a bit wild at night. All the bars have big muscular bouncers standing around in front in the street keeping order. It was still packed at midnight. Shakespeare & Co is just down the street.

I was kind of hoping that Woody Allen would show up to jam with the band a little bit. But it didn't happen.

There were three lycéennes (high school girls) and a lycéen (high school boy) dancing with each other and all the other be-boppers. They were very good dancers and very cute. An older woman appeared to be their chaperone for the evening. I'll bet they had fun. What an adventure!

Two older couples were obviously very accomplished dancers who have been doing it for a long time. One of the men was really heavy, seriously overweight, but boy could he move on the dance floor! Swinging the women around like they were toys, laughing and joking with the band. What a nice time!

I read that the Tavern Club in Liverpool where the Beatles got their start was inspired by and modeled after Le Caveau de la Huchette.

When the building was a secret lodge, the people came and went via secret tunnels underneath Paris so as not to draw attention to the building. I'll bet they're still there, but I don't know.

The lower room of Caveau de la Huchette with the stage, couches and a dance floor.

The bar upstairs in Caveau de la Huchette.

The Claude Tissendier City Swing Band. I believe Claude is the one with the sax.