Derek Boshier’s “So Ad Men Became Depth Men” (1962).
Paris is an eternally surprising place. Although I have lived here for over 20 years, I still come across places whose existence was completely unknown to me. So it was …
|Derek Boshier’s “So Ad Men Became Depth Men” (1962).|
Paris is an eternally surprising place. Although I have lived here for over 20 years, I still come across places whose existence was completely unknown to me. So it was that the other day I discovered the Calouste Gulbenkian Cultural Center, which holds regular exhibitions of art, photography, sculpture and architecture.
Calouste Gulbenkian (1869-1955) was an engineer of Armenian origin who made a fortune by opening up Middle Eastern petroleum reserves to exploitation by the West in the late 19th century. Born in Istanbul, he lived at various times in London, Paris and Lisbon, and amassed an enormous art collection, spanning the ages and in every discipline, which is now housed in the wonderful Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon (don’t miss it if you go there), along with a fine collection of work by Modern Portuguese artists in the adjacent Modern Art Center.
The foundation’s Paris Cultural Center, located in a mansion near the Musée Guimet that served as Gulbenkian’s home and private museum until World War II, is currently holding a show called “As Dreamers Do: The 1960s in the CAM British Art Collection” (the title is a more grammatical version of the title of the Paul McCartney song “Like Dreamers Do”). With 71 works by 45 artists, it offers a brief but rewarding overview of the British art scene from the late Fifties and Swinging Sixties.
Pop Art lights up the mansion’s ground floor with bright colors and bold graphic forms. Derek Boshier’s “So Ad Men Became Depth Men” (1962; pictured above) is perfectly appropriate for the era of the TV show “Mad Men,” about 1960s advertising executives: it shows a tube of toothpaste evolving into humans and then into a gun. Representing the Pop spirit and anticipating the free love ethos of the Sixties is Peter Blake’s “The Love Wall” (1961), a collage of popular images old and new.
Not all of the work is figurative, however. Two mind-bending black-and-white optical paintings by Bridget Riley, one of Britain’s best-known and most interesting contemporary artists, are included. Joe Tilson, known as “the King of British Pop Art,” is represented by the abstract “Summer 1959,” a thick-painted, rough-surfaced oil in hot oranges and reds with a spot of pink; Alan Davie by wild, joyous colorful paintings with titles like “Bird Noises No. 31” (1963); John Hoyland by “Number 19” (1961), a large abstract
“Cambridge January 1969” by Marc Lancaster.
painting with a striated deep-blue surface slashed with bands of red, yellow, white and blue; and Mark Lancaster by the beautifully somber “Cambridge January 1969,” with its neat rectangles of grays and blacks.
Upstairs, you’ll find more handsome experiments with color and form by abstract painters including Patrick Heron (a fine colorist), Terry Frost, William Scott, Harry Mundy and Bernard Cohen.
The foundation is well worth a visit, not only for its free art shows, but also for conferences and concerts held in a lovely drawing room and its wood-paneled library, which offers 90,000 documents on Portugal and Portuguese-speaking countries.
Centre Culturel Calouste Gulbenkian: 51, avenue d’Iéna, 75016 Paris. Métro: Etoile, Kléber or Iéna. Tel.: 01 53 23 93 93. Open Monday- Friday, 9am-5:30 pm; Saturday, 1pm-6pm. Admission: free. Through Oct. 2. www.gulbenkian-paris.org
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One-Minute Paris: The exhibition “As Dreamers Do” at the Calouste Gulbenkian Cultural Center in Paris. Click here to view on larger screen.
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