February 7, 2010By Heidi EllisonArchive

Paris Update Art Notes


Paris Update Brasilia marcel-gautherot-esplanade-des-ministeres-en-construction

Construction of the Ministries Esplanade in Brasilia, 1958. Photo by Marcel Gautherot. Collection de l’Institut Moreira Salles, Brésil

The exhibition “Brasilia” at the Paris headquarters of the French Communist Party (PCF; 2, place du Colonel Fabien, 75010; through June 29) not only offers a chance to learn about the construction of Brazil’s capital in the 1950s but also to visit a monument left behind in Paris by the great architect Oscar Niemeyer, who designed the civic buildings in Brasilia and the PCF headquarters in Paris, the latter during his exile in the French capital between 1964 and ’85 during the military dictatorship in his country.

Paris Update Brasilia marcel-gautherot-coupole-senate-federal-construction

Construction of the Federal Senate building, 1958. Photo by Marcel Gautherot. Collection de l’Institut Moreira Salles, Brésil

The exhibition begins with handsome black-and-white photos by three photographers who documented the construction of the new capital in the center of Brazil, built in what must have been record time, between 1956 and ’60. We also see Lucio Costa’s sketches for the urban plan of Brasilia, based on the shape of an irregular cross; photos and a model of the city today; and a collection of commemorative objects and works of art, some of them rather kitschy.

The PCF headquarters, built between 1966 and ’71, and now classified as a historical monument, is easily recognized by the smooth white mound (which Niemeyer modeled on the belly of a pregnant woman) protruding from its lawn and the sensual curve of the mirrored building. Niemeyer, who died last year at the age of 104, designed all of its furnishings and the handsome precast concrete walls molded from many different types of wood, and even paid attention to such details as ensuring that the overhead lighting would not cast shadows or shed dust in the conference rooms. Heidi Ellison


What do you think? Send a comment:

Your comment is subject to editing. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe for free!

The Paris Update newsletter will arrive in your inbox every Wednesday, full of the latest Paris news, reviews and insider tips.