Paris is still in a strange in-between post-lockdown period. People are out on the streets en masse, distressing the health authorities and the police, who have temporarily banned the consumption of alcohol in certain areas swarming with fêtards (hearty partyers) like the quays of the Seine and the Canal Saint-Martin. Meanwhile, masked hairdressers and beauticians are busy snipping, clipping, waxing and manicuring masked customers in this surreal new world we live in.
Art galleries are continuing to reopen and are a great alternative to museums while the major ones remain closed. Here are a few recommendations.
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in the Marais, one of the city’s leading contemporary galleries, is showing recent work by British superstar (deservedly) sculptor Antony Gormley in an exhibition titled “In Habit” (through May 2). Gormley, who has used a cast of his own naked body as the basis for most of his works for many years now, is becoming increasingly abstract and linear. In addition to angular sculptures in rusty cast iron that “map” the human body, the exhibition features a spectacular monumental “space-activating” installation, “Run II,” consisting of a single aluminum tube that angles through the gallery’s spacious main room, rising and dropping and turning to form a sort of abstract “building.”
Around the corner, the Galerie Sobering is continuing the exhibition “Espectros,” a solo show of the work of Carlos Rivera, a Chilean artist who makes delicate drawings using box cutters instead of pen or pencil and displays them in lightboxes. He doesn’t stop there, however, but turns the blades of his tools into artworks as well, some of them menacingly pointing outward from the canvas, and others abstract compositions with the blades laid flat on the canvas.
The most topical of the exhibitions I have seen since the end of lockdown is “Cabin Fever,” at the Cinémorphe space in the 10th arrondissement through June 7. Artist Carmela Uranga put her time in confinement (lockdown) to good use, recycling paper and plastic food packaging – all of it picked up on the street or collected within the prescribed 1-kilometer radius from home Parisians were restricted to during the two months of quarantine – to create an installation consisting of two ski-lift gondolas, one life-sized and one mini, a comment on the environmental consequences of ski resorts and artificial snow, accompanied by a styrofoam “avalanche” and a disintegrating world map.
If you just want to wander, this would be a good time to go gallery-hopping in areas with clusters of galleries: the Upper Marais, Saint-Germain, Belleville and Rue Louise Weiss in the 13th arrondissement. Information on the different areas can be found here. Remember to wear a mask and use the gallery’s hand sanitizer when you arrive.
For those who’d rather stay at home until it’s really safe out there, there are still plenty of online cultural options. If Nick Hammond’s series of analyses of French literature for Paris Update have inspired you to learn more about the subject, you can discover some contemporary poets through the Maison de la Poésie, which is posting videos of its interviews with poets and readings here and its podcasts here.
To get you moving, the Carreau du Temple is offering free online dance classes, starting with hip-hop today, May 20, 2020, at 5pm Paris time and every Wednesday at 5pm thereafter through June 24. “Let’s Dance” will cover everything from “booty therapy” to swing and flamenco. Click here for the Carreau’s YouTube channel.
In case you missed previous weeks’ “Francophiles’ Guide to Quarantine” (French brain teasers, free films, audiobooks, art, music, comedy, SOS Help hotline, and more) read them here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.