The Shchukin Collection and the Paris Carnival this February in Paris.
25 January 2017
February in Paris marks the return of Valentine’s Day, and while the City of Love sees couples flocking to the city in their thousands; the month is also host to a number of alternative happenings, with the Icons of Modern Art: The Shchukin Collection at Fondation Louis Vuitton and the Carnival de Paris, being the cultural highlights of the month’s offerings.
Icons of Modern Art: The Shchukin Collection
Until 5th March 2017
Amassed by Sergei Shchukin between the years 1897 and 1914, the Shchukin Collection originally contained 275 seminal works, comprising 8 Cézannes, 13 Monets, 16 Gauguins, 38 Matisses, and 50 Picassos; now, following a long absence, these icons of modern art have finally returned to their spiritual home of Paris, after spending the best part of 100 years in obscurity.
Regarded as one of the most significant collections of modern art in history, it had been ensconced in Russia since 1915, where amongst other trials was: expropriated by Lenin following the Russian Revolution; spent four years in Siberia avoiding German bombs; and narrowly escaped being destroyed by Stalin for being “bourgeois and cosmopolitan”.
Now, after years of campaigning by Shchukin’s grandson, André-Marc Delocque-Fourcaud, and in collaboration with arts philanthropist, Bernard Arnault; the 130 masterpieces by Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Modern masters will be displayed outside Russia as a single entity for the first time.
The most important artists in the Shchukin Collection are undoubtedly Matisse and Picasso, both of whom are independently exhibited at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, with stunning galleries devoted to each. Of the 22 works by Matisse on display, his View of Collioure (1905) from his early period of Fauvism and Red Room (1908), which began his great post-Fauvist period, mark two monumental stages in his illustrious career; but what is most intriguing about his dedicated gallery is the way in which the paintings are presented. Shchukin’s Trubetskoy Palace once had a whole room dedicated to Matisse; and in a tribute to the collector, the paintings have been hung as they once were in his Moscow home.
There are also subtle reminders dotted about the exhibition that remind you of the personal friendship struck up by the two men; one being the multimedia installation ‘Shchukin, Matisse. La Dance et la Musique’, recreating the encounter which would see Shchukin commission two of Matisse’s most loved works, Dance and Music.
Through his relationship with Matisse, Shchukin would later meet Picasso; who would go on to become the most prominent artist in the Shchukin Collection, with the Russian possessing the largest collection of Picasso’s in the world before the outbreak of war in 1914. Of the many Picasso’s on display, Brick Factory at Tortosa (1909) - a Proto-Cubist work from his African period is one of the standouts - dubbed by The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones as “an experiment in how brutally you can reduce, simplify, solidify and abstract forms and still produce a picture that is not simply recognisable, but profoundly full of life”. The most familiar of the Picasso’s on display is his Trois Femmes (1908) – characterised by its dominant reddish-brown tones and regarded by many as his most important cubist work.
Other notable inclusions of the collection are Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe by Claude Monet, self-portraits by Paul Gauguin and Paul Cézanne, Vincent Van Gogh’s portrait of his doctor, Felix Rey; and Man Smoking a Pipe, also by Cézanne. The 130 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works by the masters are also joined by a surplus of 30 pieces by 20th century Russian artists who were influenced by the Shchukin Collection.
The Shchukin Collection is being exhibited at Fondation Louis Vuitton until 5th March with admission from €16.
Every February, Parisians combat the colds of winter with an injection of warmth into the city, as the spirit of Rio de Janeiro arrives in the French capital in the form of the Carnaval de Paris; bringing with it a plethora of parades, floats, bands and masses of masked party-goers who envelop the city in a kaleidoscope of colour.
Historically the Paris Carnival dates back to the Middle-Ages and was once the highlight in the Parisian calendar year; with celebrations ongoing for the months between Epiphany and Lent. Unfortunately, the age-old tradition died in the 1950s following social tensions; but since 1997 the Carnaval de Paris has been revived in a bid to capture the essence of multiculturalism in Paris; culminating in a day of widespread festivities which has grown in stature every year since its restoration.
Revelries begin with a nod to the ancient tradition of the ‘Boeuf Gras’ festival – a butcher’s costume parade at Place Gambetta, before the procession slowly makes its way towards Place de la Republique, where the bonhomie will continue long into the evening. Thousands of participants, many of whom come from cultural associations, dance troupes and local unions from across the city, each year entertain bystanders as street dancers, puppeteers, stilt walkers and performers from all walks of life carry out their energetic routines, illuminating the streets with their carnival attire of intricately designed masks, costumes of vibrant coloured fabrics and elaborately decorated head pieces.
Perhaps the only thing that outdoes the exuberant sights of the carnival, is the sounds that are conjured up by the numbering bands and live music performances; as Samba rhythms set the tempo to the animated routines, and the countless drums that are banged relentlessly throughout the procession drown out sounds for miles around, letting everyone know that the carnival has arrived in Paris.
With celebrations rife across the city, it will be impossible not to be swept away by the fun fuelled merriment that takes over Paris; which is this year inspired by the theme of ‘Global Fruit & Vegetables’ – capturing the essence of multiculturalism that the city prides itself on. Admission to the event is also free, allowing you to immerse yourself in an age-old Parisian cultural tradition without the expense!
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