Most places you have to go out in search of culture and the arts. But in Paris, you just have to step outside the door and it’s there, all around, in whichever direction you care to turn.
It helps of course to be surrounded by breathtaking beauty in most areas within the ‘périphérique’ (the mad inner ring round which encircles the heart of the city), but I’m also always surprised by how Paris consistently surprises. You might be forgiven for expecting complacency, but despite its extraordinary cultural heritage, Paris doesn’t sit still.
One of the more irritating aspects of the global contemporary art world is a tendency to want to find the next ‘in’ place, the next ‘happening’ city. With a commodification mindset more appropriate to the world of fashion, there is a desperate search for the next new thing, and this rush for constant new highs makes it easy for some to argue Paris has seen its day.
Not so. Paris embraces the new and the ancient with ease, and there is exciting contemporary work to be found throughout the city.
I mentioned the other day a slight disquiet I have occasionally with some contemporary conceptual work where aesthetic or craft aspects (where relevant) are undervalued in the pursuit to realise the idea. I think what gives Parisian contemporary work an underlying strength is that virtually all the work you encounter has an aesthetic coherence and attention to detail which in a sense reflects the nature of Paris itself.
Living or working here, surrounded by a harmony and balance that I have only experienced to a similar degree in Japan, maybe it’s inevitable that this informs the art produced.
I can’t see or experience it enough.