Picasso and Dalí

There has been a lot of hype about the Picasso museum. After closing for renovation in 2009, the museum finally re-opened its doors in October. It is said to have doubled in size, a move which has enabled the museum’s curators to take many of Picasso’s greatest works out of storage, and to proudly display them to the public.

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The many dramas of the Picasso Museum have been covered practically everywhere. You can read more in these articles by the New York TimesThe GuardianThe BBC (video),VogueThe Independent etc.

The renovation of the Hôtel Salé was initially supposed to take two years, but the date of the grand re-opening was repeatedly pushed back, much to the public’s annoyance. This delay is said to have been caused by Anne Baldassari who, despite her love and knowledge of the museum, was finally dismissed from her position of President of the museum in 2013 (although she stayed on to finish organising the re-opening). Baldassari has been accused of being disorganised (hence the delay), stubborn (she insisted on accompanying the artworks to every museum and gallery they were lent to), unhelpful, and generally pretty difficult to work with.

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Many people disapprove of her way of displaying the work in the new exhibition: they would prefer a chronological order over her clever juxtaposition of themes and styles. Some complain that although the renovation took five years, the museum has in fact changed relatively little, while others don’t like the ‘spaciousness’ of the new gallery, which “doesn’t suit the humour and humility of Picasso’s work” blah blah blah…

Personally, I was just excited that the doors had finally opened. People should stop complaining and be greatful that the artwork is back in the public eye!

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Although we were desperate to go and visit as soon as it opened, Sophia and I thought it would be smart to wait for the buzz to die down a bit before going. We still decided to go late on a Saturday afternoon, though, so we weren’t quite as clever as we could have been!

After our perfect brunch at Holybelly (which you can read about here), we made our way to the Marais, stopping to pop our noses into places like Merci (a great concept store, café and restaurant), Blend (burgers), Boot Café (the smallest coffee shop in Paris, whose motto is ‘This coffee was made for walking’), and Rachel’s (a well-known restaurant linked to the pastry shop, ‘Rachel’s Pont aux Choux’).

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The museum was just great. I can’t pretend I completely understand everything about Picasso, but I more or less know what I like and don’t like, and there was plenty I loved here.

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Sophia and I were both struck by how diverse Picasso’s artwork is. When I think of the artist, it’s usually Cubism, colourblocking and disformed shapes and bodies that come to mind. However, I was surprised to find such a juxtaposition of styles and techniques: Surrealist paintings sit alongside drawings and collages.

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After reading up about the museum and the artist post-visit, I learned that this is quite a common impression of Picasso. Everyone thinks that he only really produced those amazing colourful abstract works, and no one realises that he was also a serious photographer, for example. People may disagree with Baldassari’s organisation of the artworks, but there is certainly a clear order to the exhbition. As the guidebook explains, “organised bother chronologically and thematically, the artist’s paintings,sculptures, drawings, collages and constructions trace his entire career from 1895 to 1972.” It goes on to explain the 10 sequences that categorise Picasso’s work. I won’t list them all here, but we move from Genesis (1895-1900), through to the famous Cubist phase (1910-1915), then to War Paintings (1936-1946) and end with ‘After the Masters’ (1960-1973).

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We enjoyed going round together and reading the plaques – I found it really interesting to see what was painted when, and to try and work out whether this had anything to do with the progression of the art.

For example, it was interesting to see in the ‘Monochrome’ part of the exhibition, that Picasso adopted many Impressionnist techniques in order to demonstrate the influence that Cézanne and Monet had on his art.

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We took a lot of photos, of course.

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Sadly, we weren’t feeling brave enough to risk the embarrassment and take a Beyoncé-style photo in front of this drawing…

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Unfortunately the museum closed 15 minutes early, so we were unable to visit the ‘private collection’ in the attic, but that just means that I’ll have an excuse to go back again before I leave!

The following Tuesday was a bank holiday. I was sad to miss Remembrance Day in England this year, but at least the French celebrate the armistice by taking a day off work on the 11th November.

Luckily, it also happened to be an incredibly sunny day. Wanting to make the most of the weather, I suggested another trip up the hill to Montmartre to visit the Dalí exhibition.IMG_8220

I loved looking into all the little boutiques and cafés in Pigalle on the way to L’Espace Dalí. We will definitely be visiting Pigalle soon – there’s a restaurant we’ve been dying to try for ages, and all the little bars and cafés look right up our street (literally!).

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I hadn’t really concentrated on the fact that I’d be seeing the work of Picasso and Dalí within a few days of each other, but I quite liked it anyway. It’s nice to have a bit of a theme
to your cultural trips!

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Although the Espace Dalí has France’s largest permanent collection of Dali’s artwork, the gallery keeps itself surprisingly quiet. However, the current exhibition ‘Dalí Fait le Mur’, has raised the public’s awareness of this wonderful little space – we probably wouldn’t have thought to go ourselves if we hadn’t read about the exhibition in so many magazines!

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The general concept behind ‘Dali fait le mur’ is to imagine what would happen if Dali met the street artists of today. Whether they like it or not, most contemporary urban artists have been inspired by the artist’s Surrealism, and this is nicely demonstrated by the works of 20 modern artists which are displayed alongside some of Dali’s most famous pieces, such as his Elephant Spatial, the Alice in Wonderland collection and the famous clocks.

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IMG_8165.JPGDalí has been an endless source of inspiration for these artists, who have combined some of his main ideas with aspects of contemporary modern art.

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Like the Picasso museum, the exhibition was extremely diverse, not only in the varying themes and subject matters but also in the range of materials used: drawings and collages are displayed next to light and sound installations, and the street art displays are carefully woven into the original works. Occasionally we even struggled to identify which belonged to which generation!

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After the exhibition, we walked home, stopping for sweets on the way (because we’re still children!) and enjoying the freedom of a bank holiday. Finally, we rounded off the lovely day with a quick coffee at café Loustic, my new favourite place round the corner (where they serve the best banana bread, by the way!).

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A nice change from all the Impressionist exhibitions, and two lovely days out!

 The Foodie Bit

I didn’t want to interrupt all that lovely artwork, so thought I’d move this restaurant ramble to the end of this post…

Even though we’d already had a very successful day out at Holybelly and Picasso, we decided to take Saturday night to the next level and go out for dinner as well. (Two meals out in one day, what is the world coming to?!)

Feeling spontaneous, we thought we’d try Ibaji, the new Korean restaurant just around the corner that has been all over my Instagram feed recently.

When I mentioned this place to Sophia a few weeks ago, she excitedly told me the story her Korean colleague had told her about the history of the restaurant’s name. Before a Korean woman gets married, she must prepare and cook a delicious meal for her husband’s parents, a kind of test to prove that she will be a good wife: this is the ‘Ibaji’. Although I’m not sure that I love the whole idea that a woman must be a good cook if she’s to be a good wife, I like the culture that comes with the name, and it is cute that so many other Korean restaurants are also called ‘Ibaji’.

The restaurant is wonderfully decorated; black and white floors, long, narrow tables and fantastic colourful lanterns. It is tiny, though, so you have to be prepared to wait quite a while.

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The food is worth it though. Neither of us had eaten Korean food before, so we didn’t really know what to choose from the menu. Supposedly the typical choice is ‘bibimbap’ , a big rice, vegetable and meat bowl with a raw egg cracked in the centre, but we both picked random things from the menu and were really impressed. I had mackerel with a delicious spicy sauce which was delicious but impossible to eat with chopsticks, and Sophia had a rice and pork dish with a fried egg. We also had to try their famous green tea frozen yoghurt with soya granola, which was properly delicious.

Newly initiated into the world of Korean cuisine, I recommend you try it!

Ever the adventurous foodie, I also had my first Cambodian meal last week. I won’t go into detail, but if you’re a fam of Bobun and Vietnamese-style bowls, you should check out Au Petit Cambodge by the Canal Saint Martin. An insider’s tip, apparently!

Finally -I’m nearly finished, I promise! –  this week we went to Nanashi, a cute little Japanese restaurant in the 3rd (Rue Charlot), which is said to serve the best Bento boxes in the city. We were pretty impressed with that, too!

A lot of good food, and a lot of fun art. Paris as it should be!

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