Histoire d’Automates

November 13, 2013By Heidi EllisonWhat's New Potpourri

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Paris Update Histoire Automates

“Le Pierrot Lunaire,” by Gustave Vichy. Photo: Nathalie Prebende

There is always something creepily fascinating about automatons, and visitors to the exhibition “Histoire d’Automates” at the Théâtre des Sablons (62-70, avenue du Roule 92200 Neuilly-sur-Seine; tel.: 01 55 62 60 35; through Dec. 29) will get a good dose of that particular sensation. Collected by an antique dealer, these mostly late-19th-century pieces have been restored but are still too fragile to be in constant movement while on display, so videos are provided to show what they are capable of (I recommend watching the one projected on the back wall before looking at the objects themselves). For some unfathomable reason, the pieces are displayed behind fine-meshed metal screens, giving visitors a rather blurry view of them. Many, like a realistic lion and cow, are little more than giant wind-up toys, while others are more complex. Some of the weirdest are the monkeys dressed as humans – apparently a popular conceit at the time – dancing, playing music, cooking or taking tea. Some of the creepiest and most interesting, however, are the modern-day ones commissioned from artist Nicolas Darrot. Heidi Ellison


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