I wrote about JR’s Pantheon project earlier this week. Here’s a great Ted Talk he gave about his work.
I wrote about JR’s Pantheon project earlier this week. Here’s a great Ted Talk he gave about his work.
Photo: JR Artist
The Pantheon in Paris is a 224-year-old mausoleum that contains the remains of 73 great Frenchmen, among them Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Louis Braille and Emile Zola. Marie Curie is the sole woman to be interred in this building on her own merit (Sophie Berthelot was buried at Pierre Curie’s request). Now that’s due to change, as France announced this past week that it will be adding two female resistance fighters to the illustrious mix.
The Pantheon has been a pretty exclusive place since its inception, and late last year the Center for National Monuments released a report about how to make the grand old building more reflective of the country’s republican beliefs. Yesterday, the CMN announced it was partnering with street artist JR on a project called “Au Pantheon!” JR, known for his large-scale photographic works, will be collecting portraits of all sorts for the next month across the country and via a dedicated website. He’ll use the photographs to paper the tarp that now covers the Pantheon’s dome, which is currently under renovation. It’s the first time that the country has used art instead of a large, lucrative advertisement to cover a public building in the throes of a touch up. The project should last about two years and could include thousands of headshots and other ridiculous selfies taken by ordinary folks like me. It’s a really interesting project in the country of liberte, egalite and fraternite. Watch it unfold on Twitter by following the hashtag #AuPantheon, or join the fun by uploading a headshot to this website by March 29. The end result will be unveiled on April 22.
A recent report in the French newspaper Les Echos said that the Palais Garnier was the fifth most-visited monument in Paris during 2013. There has been a 44 percent increase in visits to the building since 2010, in part because of its increasing number of events and exhibits. Known as the backdrop for the novel and Broadway musical The Phantom of the Opera, the Opera Garnier still stages operas and ballets as well as concerts with the occasional pop star like George Michael. But it also has one of the most rich and remarkable archives I’ve ever seen, the contents of which serve as an endless source of wonder for nerds like me and as the basis for many excellent exhibitions.
Here is a photo from a recent costume exhibit it had:
Have you ever been to the Palais Garnier? If so, what did you think of it? If not, you should definitely put this building on your must-see list if you ever plan a trip to Paris.
I’ve been working on an item about art restitution that’s tied to the recent release of “The Monuments Men,” the real-life story of international art experts sent to recover and return artworks stolen by the Nazis during World War II. The piece is also tied to the recent sale of Camille Pissarro’s impressionist masterpiece, Boulevard Montmartre, matinee de printemps (pictured above). Impressionist paintings have an enduring allure, but this one sold yesterday for $32.1 million in London in part because of its restitution backstory. It was once owned by Max Silberberg, a Jewish industrialist who was forced by the Nazis to sell his collection of 19th and 20th century art. Silberberg later died in the Holocaust and it took his family decades to find his prized Pissarro.
Governments are among the organizations dedicated to unearthing pilfered pieces such as these. Auction houses such as Sotheby’s also have their own restitution groups dedicated to researching all works consigned to them that were created prior to 1945 and working with a variety of interest groups to broker deals on this art.
“Often there are really two victims: the person from whom it was stolen and the institution or person who bought it in good faith,” Sotheby’s specialist Philip Hook told The Wall Street Journal recently.
I’m looking forward to seeing Monuments Men soon. What about you?
For more on this topic:
*Here’s a feature about why restitution had such cinematic appeal.
*Here’s an item a recent auction involving sales of restituted artwork unearthed by the actual Monuments Men.
*Here’s an interesting read about how a slice of Edward, Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson’s wedding cake was auctioned off for $29,000.
A strong cup of coffee. A square of chocolate. A pair of golden fall leaves. Nothing in this world like a well-shaded park bench in the Jardin du Luxembourg.
I was at my desk earlier than usual today so that I could interview legendary golfer Greg Norman. A top-ranked player in the 1980s and 1990s, Norman is known by his nickname “The Great White Shark,” in part because of his aggressive style of play, but also because you can find a lot of those toothy predators around his native Australia. Reebok helped him develop the shark logo and brand during his golf heyday and he has since expanded it to include about 20 different businesses, from golf course design, to eyewear and a wine label too.
I always enjoy talking to creative and entrepreneurial people who pursue their passions and (most importantly) execute those pursuits well, no matter what the market, or other people say. I also confess to being a bit mystified by people like Greg Norman, or actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who have been able to sell people a lifestyle or products based on whatever their brand may be. So I got off the phone with Greg Norman this morning and was really, truly inspired by his accomplishments. Then, I had a little brainstorm that I took to my Facebook page. Granted, I was being slightly tongue-in-cheek (maybe), but I asked my Facebook followers to help me develop a brand, logo and lifestyle that I could sell to the people, a la Norman or Gwyneth. The immediate feedback was that whatever it was, it had to have some element of Frenchness to it. But I pointed out that because I’m based in the South physically (only mentally do I drift along the Seine…for now), it needed to have a Southern element.
So I submitted this to them: Deep Fried French.
Deep Fried French was very well-received, so I reserved the domain name. What I’ll do with it is anyone’s good guess, but my Facebook brain trust is guiding me toward ideas that may (or may not) result in a site of some sort, someday (maybe). What I know is that the demand for something Deep Fried and French is there. I also know that I’ve hired some people (sort of) who have developed the Sheryl Sandberg-esque corporate motto of “Jean In” which has a nice ring to it. It says “casual, but purposeful” which is what I try to go for all in endeavors.
Won’t you Jean In with us?
If you have any recommendations about what may or may not be a good idea for this endeavor, please send them my way. Or, if you’d like to share your thoughts on brands and lifestyle ideas that resonate with you, please do share your wisdom in comments.
The universe works in mysterious ways.
This story begins four years ago in a Parisian playground. My daughter was riding a weathered merry-go-round, and as I sat there watching her happy little freckled face, I quietly worried that maybe I wasn’t really good enough to make it as a writer. The market was just plain hard and I had begun to consider other things I could do.
I decided to go to graduate school and last fall I got my M.A. in Modern European History. During this period of much reading and footnoting, I rebuilt my self-confidence as I delved into the colorful life story of a nineteenth-century Parisian man. My goal was to take the work I had done in class and in dusty archives and turn it into a book.
This spring, I spent eight weeks working with the editor Jill Rothenberg on a proposal for this book that has consumed my brain for the past four years. I originally thought that this should be straight history/biography, but Jill encouraged me to infuse it with a little bit of memoir, because my journey toward this subject was obviously very personal and life-altering. I hemmed and hawed about this until I thought back to my thesis defense, which began with my advisor asking me to explain to my committee why I became interested in this subject. Jill said, “If you tell us why you fell in love with this person, we’ll fall in love with him too.”
So I wrote a brand-spanking new first chapter, and when I was done it made me believe in myself and this book just a little bit more. It also made me grateful to have people in my life — like Jill and the aforementioned advisor — who can point me in the right direction.
I spent the summer revising my book proposal and quietly hoping that it would be good enough to attract an agent’s interest. When I was done revising and felt good about the work I had done, I went to Mignon Faget and bought myself a silver wishbone pendant.
And then I made a wish.
Late Monday night, I sent a query letter to a well-regarded agent and figured that would be the end of it. First thing Tuesday morning, this agent sent me an email asking for my proposal. Midday Wednesday she emailed again, saying she wanted to talk to me about representing me. After I peeled myself off the ceiling, after I scoured the house looking for the film crew from “Candid Camera,” after I realized that this was no joke, I realized that everything that has happened since I sat watching my daughter ride that merry-go-round in Paris four years ago was meant to be.
I am grateful for every last bit of it. And now I am going to do every single solitary thing my agent asks me to do, so I can make this dream of becoming a published author a reality. I hope you’ll join me on this journey. It has been a wonderful ride so far!
Last night I finally got around to watching “Hugo”, the Martin Scorsese film based on the Brian Selznick novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” Hugo is a 12-year-old orphan boy who lives in the Montparnasse train station, where he keeps all its clocks running smoothly. In the urchin’s spare time, he repairs a broken wind-up man that his father found. Stealing odds and ends that could mend this mechanical person, Hugo is nabbed by a toy store owner in the train station who asks him to empty his pockets and hand over the contents. Outside of the wheels and gears and springs Hugo has collected, there is a notebook that used to belong to his father. In the notebook are sketches of the wind-up man and ideas on how to fix him. The toy store owner leafs through the pages and becomes disturbed by what he sees, taking the notebook and threatening to burn it.
Why the fuss? Turns out the toy store owner is the real-life filmmaker Georges Melies, who had been forgotten by the French by the time this movie takes place. Melies, the son of a shoemaker, was known as an innovator in his prime, using special effects, hand-colored frames and dream-like sequences in his work. But as his works got more ambitious, the French got preoccupied with other things — like World War I — and so he went bankrupt and faded into obscurity. Hugo’s efforts to fix the wind-up man heal Melies too and the film ends with a moving retrospective of his work.
Filmed in 3D and gorgeous, the movie won 5 Academy Awards. Here’s a scene from the film:
The Alliance Francaise d’Atlanta is honoring Melies with a showing of some of his films. For more information, or to donate, please visit Power To Give for a more detailed description of this very special project.