Located in the heart of the 3rd arrondissement (also part of the Marais), the Musée des Archives Nationales is another of Paris’ hidden gems. Les Archives Nationales, which is held in the main building, is one of the largest archival collections in the world. As an historian I find that just incredible.
The building in which the museum now stands was originally the Hôtel de Soubise. The hotel was built for the Prince and Princess de Soubise in the 18th century. However, since 1808 the building was appointed as property of the State, hence how it has become the home of the Archives Nationales.
First opened to the public in 2011, the Jardins of the Musée offer visitors respite from the busy city. Opening up onto courtyard that is enclosed by archaic arcades and encircled by typical 19th century landscaping, the main entrance into the Musée des Archives Nationales transports visitors into the past. Here you can rest, or continue with a leisurely walk through towards the right hand side of the courtyard (when you’re facing the house). Here, the Jardin extends throughout the site, providing more spots for contemplation and rest. The Musée des Archives Nationales offers a delightful place for one to come and just relax. It is so strange that you’re in the middle of one of the most popular parts of Paris, yet feel as if you’re in a timeless oasis.
Back in 2013, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London hosted an extraordinary exhibition that offered a unique opportunity to delve into the wonderful career of one of music’s greatest legends – David Bowie.
From a personal perspective, I was beyond excited to find out that the V&A David Bowie Is exhibition would be making a stop in Paris for numerous reasons. When the retrospective first opened in London, I was unable to go and see it due to the rapid rate at which the exhibition sold out.
But for those who did not have the opportunity to see the V&A exhibition first hand, also had the chance to be able to ‘virtually visit’ the exhibit via one of the many showings of the exhibition at the cinema. I can probably imagine that you have absolutely no idea what I am talking about, but just hold on one second. Due to the sheer popularity of the exhibition, the V&A presented a live screening in the form of David Bowie is Happening Now, which was shown nationwide. Within this, cinemagoers had the chance to ‘walk’ through the exhibition with the curators, and watch behind the scene clips with extra archival footage and interviews being shown. My Mum and I bought tickets immediately, and finally had the chance to be a part of this fantastic retrospective. With this said, you can probably imagine how excited I was to hear that David Bowie Is was making a stop in Paris.
The exhibition begins with the emergence of Bowie as a musician, which then chronological traces his career and transformation. David Bowie Is is interactive and engaging. As visitors walk around the exhibition, moving in and out of the evolution of ‘Bowie’, the music changes in the headsets carried, and as one approaches the various screens throughout the exhibition showing video clips and interviews, the headset also changes. This exhibition is seamless. With a lot of ch-ch-ch-ch-changes – pun intended.
The David Bowie Is retrospective offers visitors a multi-dimensional experience, comprising of over 300 objects. The exhibition includes handwritten lyrics where one can see the processes and drafting of various songs – what is fascinating is seeing the different words and phrases crossed out, changes which certainly would have created very different songs than the ones we know. Also on display are photographs, music videos and album artwork.
Especially interesting are the various sixty original iconic stage costumes on show, including Ziggy Stardust bodysuits (1972), and Alexander McQueen’s Union Jack coat designed for the Earthling album cover (1997). Displayed as if Bowie himself was wearing them, viewing these famous costumes in person is an incredible experience.
Something that really stuck with me after visiting, was finding out that Bowie is actually a really good painter (which may not surprise some of you). I had never really known about this side of the singer, and so it was refreshing to be able to view some of his own artwork on display within the exhibition. Not only was Bowie’s creative side shown in his artwork, but throughout the retrospective his own drawings and illustrations for various music videos, films and even sketches of stage designs for the Ziggy Stardust tour, are on show.
David Bowie Is is not only about the physical manifestation of Bowie’s various personas, but it also offers a glimpse into the process of writing songs and creating lyrics. What I found thought-provoking was Bowie’s contraption called the Verbasizer. A computer application, the Verbasizer brought together different verbs and words that Bowie claimed helped with the process of lyric writing. Having read a lot of critical views regarding this specific part of the exhibition, and indeed Bowie’s creative past, this computer programme is an interesting addition to the enigmatic character of Bowie. Whether you agree or disagree with such method is up to further debate. (You can read a bit more about it here: http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2013/03/ty-roberts-on-the-trail-from-working-with-david-bowie-to-co-founding-gracenote.html)
As one explores the visually stunning and incredible exhibition, the finale brings you into a room surrounded by projections of Bowie with various videos from stage performances. It is almost like being physically at these concerts. (For those unlike my parents who have seen Bowie in concert live, this is the perfect opportunity to imagine what it must have been like.)
Overall, David Bowie Is offers an incredible multi-media and multi-sensory experience, providing a glimpse into the complex artistic and creative transformation of David Bowie. Bowie die-hards and enthusiasts, as well as those on the lesser scale, will undoubtedly enjoy this exhibition.
It has been a while since I have managed to sit down and write a blog post, and to my lovely readers I apologise! The last few weeks have been busy, and despite all this chaos, we are finally catching the first glimpses of Spring here in Paris (aka. Printemps en Francais). It may not be April just yet, but we are indeed experiencing more rain at the moment – sigh. Moving on from weather issues…
As I mentioned, my somewhat hectic schedule has been a fun one! Two weekends ago I was blessed to have my parents come and visit me in Paris. As it was both Mother’s day on the Sunday, as well as Mum’s birthday, we made the most of the time we had together. This included venturing to the Marché aux puces de Saint-Ouen and the Puces de Vanves Marché, which both have amazing trinkets and antiques on offer. For those who don’t know my father, he has a little (‘little’ being gigantic) passion for collecting records, and so these markets were somewhat like stepping into Paradise! Albeit it overpriced compared to his usual experiences at British car-boots. We also had pre-booked tickets to go and see the ‘David Bowie Is’ exhibition that is currently on a world-wide tour. Having grown up listening to Bowie, and with a father and uncle who are big fans, I was extremely excited to attend. We were unfortunate to not be able to see the exhibition in the V&A when it was in London, with mum and I instead going to the cinema for a tour of the exhibition – without having to leave Liverpool or our seats! It was great to have my parents over, not only to celebrate my mum’s birthday and because I’ve missed them, but also to be treated out for some nice food!
During the week, I met up with Emily Guerry, one of my old tutors from York who was visiting Paris with her current students from Cambridge University. I was delighted to be able to join Emily and her pupils on some of their visits. On the Monday we met at the Musée Cite de l’architecture et du patrimoine and examined the many Romanesque and Gothic reliefs; Tuesday morning saw me join them for a visit to the Abbey de Saint-Germain which is very close to my language school; and on the Friday I headed with the group to Laon to see the fantastic cathedral (as well as going to a lovely dinner that night!). Spending much time with fellow medievalists got me all excited for getting back to further study next year and continuing researching something that I am so passionate about.
The following weekend (this one just gone) also welcomed Sally, an old friend from school. I haven’t seen Sally in person for around 3 years, and so it was awesome to see her in the flesh and not on my Skype screen. Sally is also an Au Pair, but in Berlin, so she knows the routine that I am currently in. Due to her flight arriving the same time I collect the children from school, Sally had to jump in the car and come for the ride! The plus of this was that I gave her an unconventional tour of Versailles. We spent our weekend dining out with good friends. One of the reasons why me and Sally are such great friends is that we have such similar interests, one being art and culture. So we ended up exploring the Musée d’Orsay, Musée de l’Orangerie, and the current exposition at the Éléphant Paname gallery. I also took Sally around the Sainte-Chapelle – any trip to Paris avec moi is not complete without visiting this divine beauty, and I was excited to see that all the boards covering the renovation work have been removed. En fin! I will definitely have to go back again soon with my dad’s wide-eye camera lens to try to capture this exquisite space. Although the weather was pretty rubbish during the weekend, we were blessed with blue skies on Monday morning. So, before Sally’s flight we headed off on a bike ride in Saint Cloud park to see the wonderful views of the city. Unfortunately for me, I could not get on the spare bike (it was too big for me!), and so was left with the only options of running next to Sally or to take a children’s scooter. I chose the latter. What an intense workout! Never again.
So there you have it. My March thus far, which continues to be a busy one. Tomorrow is my birthday, and on Saturday night I will be going to dinner with some great friends of mine for Thai – I have been dreaming about Thai food for so long now, and cannot wait.
This Saturday, some of my closest friends and I went to the Musée d’Orsay. In addition to exploring all the beautiful paintings and sculptures on display, we could not miss seeing the iconic clock on the top floor. The vista of Paris from the clock is amazing, with stunning views of the River Seine and La Basilique du Sacré Cœur, amongst many others. Here are just a few of the photos I took.
The current exhibition at the Musée de Cluny offers a journey through time and space during the Middle Ages. ‘Voyager au Moyen Âge’ (‘Travelling in the Middle Ages’) hosts a variety of key aspects of travel in the Medieval period. As one walks around the exhibition, which is currently on show in the third-century Gallo-Roman thermal bathing hall, you are presented with different types of traveller, from the merchant to the pilgrim, the prince to the artist. Furthermore, the exhibition highlights the diverse reasons for travelling during this time, encompassing specific issues such as the aspiration for knowledge, the need to demonstrate visibility within specific societies and the journey of the afterlife. On show are a selection of varying objects, including tapestries and reliquaries taken on travel, to illuminated manuscripts illustrating maps of various countries. Probably the most notable artefact is displayed right in the centre of the exhibition – the fragments of a medieval boat which have been recreated to provide a tangible sense of the physical nature of such journeys and what they may have entailed.
Overall, the objects on show are interesting, and offer one an insight into the various aspects of travel during the Middle Ages. The exhibition closes on 23rd February 2015, so there’s still time left to be transported and travel through the life of a medieval voyager.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to meet with a friend who is studying at the Courtauld, with her fellow classmates and professor, to look around the current Medieval exhibition at the Louvre. The exhibition titled, ‘Medieval Morocco: An Empire from Africa to Spain’ offers a glimpse into a period when the Medieval Western Islamic world was at the height of its glory, as much in terms of its artistic production as its place in history. Focusing from the 11th to 15th centuries of Western Islamic dynasties, this exhibition presents over 300 objects that aim to show this culture’s long and complex history, which is crucial to an understanding of Medieval Morocco and Islam.
This exhibition shows many beautiful objects, including architectural decoration from various Mosques; textiles and ivory; and it also displays a plethora of illuminated manuscripts and examples of beautiful calligraphy. Many of these objects are extremely rare, not only in historical value, but because many have never been showcased in such a way to the public. Even though I have previously studied various key examples of Medieval Islamic works, I have never studied this particular area as a whole in depth. Despite this, I found the exhibition really interesting. Coming from a different perspective research wise during the same time period, it is completely fascinating to notice the differences in style and workmanship. If you thought Medieval Christian Reliquaries were lavish and ornate, many of the objects in the ‘Medieval Morocco: An Empire from Africa to Spain’ exhibition will be able to change ones mind. For example, before entering the exhibition you encounter an elaborately carved Grand Chandelier originally from Fez, Morocco. Created between 1202 and 1213, this magnificent Chandelier has intricate patterning and inscriptions adorning the surface. This is truly a beautiful piece of art, and one can only imagine how awe-inspsiring it must have in-situ. I can imagine good old Abbot Suger being very impressed!
Ultimately this a great exhibition, offering an interesting insight and opportunity to view the complex history of Western Islamic Culture that is not often displayed in comparison to the work and history of Medieval Christendom.
Below are a few more photos that I took around the Louvre before entering the exhibition.