Paris is a great museum and gallery city. From the grand Louvre to the small treasure that is Musée Dapper, from the often controversial Quai Branly to the wonderfully quirky Museum of Hunting and Nature. Paris is a goldmine of small galleries and museums, often tucked away in courtyards, down small cobbled streets or in spruced up old warehouses. After 10 years of Parisian life, I am now on a mission to discover and also rediscover these gems, big and small, known and unknown. Having decided not to go to the States for the holidays, I resolved to use my free holiday time to begin my explorations. I had wanted to start with some of the smaller museums, but I got waylaid by the program at the Centre Pompidou. So, just before Christmas, off I went to the Salvador Dalí retrospective at The Centre Pompidou.
I cannot honestly that I was deeply knowledgeable of Dalí’s work, nor was I particularly fond of the pieces I was aware of. Possibly his best known work, The Persistence of Memory, had failed to impress, and his iconic red lips I found simplistic. Of course this indifference was born of an ignorance of his work, his history. I admit it. So, I went to the exhibition ready to delve deeper into an artist that I had long ignored.
Centre Pompidou is one of my favourite hangouts, either as a place to study and research, in the wonderful Public Information Library (BPI), or to have a glass of wine, on the terrace of the rooftop restaurant, a place for lectures, exhibitions concerts and films, or just to be there to watch the medley of life that congregates everyday, in and around its borders. And, I love its late opening times.
The National Museum of Modern Art, the largest in Europe, has its home there and the Brancusi studio and the Centre for Acoustic and Music Research (IRCAM) are linked to and occupy annexes next to the Center. When there is a large popular exhibition, as is the case for Dalí, getting inside the Center can be tiring work in itself. I had heard that the lines for Dalí stretched to far beyond the building and the wait could be up to 3 hours. Not wanting to fritter away my time, and knowing a bit about the movements of tourists and museum visitors, as well as, fortunately, not having a 9-5, I cut my wait time to 10 minutes. (Monday afternoon at 5 o’clock is not the most popular time for visits except for creatures like myself who are invigorated by the quiet.)
Taking the glass-covered escalators, placed on the building, to the top floor is always a treat, observing the diminishing images of people on the ground. The exhibition is on the last floor, as is of course the restaurant. On entering the exhibition, on the left, the first thing you notice is a film being projected, the surrealistic silent film Un Chien Andalou, a collaborative effort between Dali and Luis Buñuel. I decided to save it for later because I wanted to go straight to Dali’s paintings. And it didn’t take long for me to be completely absorbed by this artist. It was a revelation, his work, his being, his spirituality. And it is that last thing, his spirituality, that caught my attention, that captivated me. From my perspective I saw someone deeply interested in the boundaries between organic and inorganic, the real, the imagined, the imagined as real, the real as imagined and the ephemeral nature of reality. How could I have denied this person his place in my heart for so long. In Dali I saw a soul mate. My first visit (I have been 3 times now) was just my awakening to him.
Tomorrow I will tell you how this all unfolded.
Until then, peace and love.
Happy New Year, Happy New Era, may it bring the peace and love we so deserve.
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