A trip to Paris is not complete without a visit to the Musee D’orsay. It is unrivaled, in the scope of its architecture, the importance of its permanent collection and sadly in the size of its crowds. Reservations remain mandatory to avoid long lines and even then, an early arrival is advised. Currently on exhibition is a dynamic retrospective of the work of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch.
Munch’s world wide fame is due in large part on the famous print ‘The Scream’ which has been adopted as a universal symbol of anguish. But this sells his work short.
Munch expressed his emotions through his art in a variety of formats, mostly oil painting and woodblock, in a time when this was not acceptable. As a result his work was controversial and often rejected outright by sponsors and salons. It quickly became clear that pain in The Scream was his own. Suffering from depression and haunted by early death of his younger sister, he painted the world as an outsider, even in this most seemingly charming winter scene. Faces are blank and emotionless.
His relationships with women were equally tormented. Here he depicts the female form as a vampire her hair blood red…
And then there is jealousy. It haunts.
Munch’s creativity was his outlet his expression. It is a remarkable study of a man who found some peace in art in a world he could not fathom. Through January 22. Tickets on line at booking.parisinfo.com.
Staying on the left bank Musee du Quai Branly is featuring an exhibition entitled Black Indians from New Orleans. The museum, located near the Eiffel Tower, remains a beautiful tranquil and green space, such a contrast to the crowds just meters away. The green living wall alone is worth the visit.
Keeping in their mission of exploring world cultures, the show focuses on New Orleans, where its black community has embraced the dress of indigenous cultures as a key aspect of the Mardi Gras celebration forming tribes and creating marching societies. The show is powerful, in its detailed history of slavery and the incredible intricately beaded hand made clothing.
Much of the exhibition outlines the tragedy of the African slave trade, European exploration and the decimation of the native population of the Southeastern United States. It is not an easy thing to view such brutal images.
It continues with a chilling history of racism in America through the civil war, Jim Crow, the rise of the Klan and even current events such as the march on Charlottesville in 2017.
Finally as it draws to a close it ends with videos about the crucial role of these home grown tribes in the New Orleans community as well as the maskers who make them followed by a large hall full of what made the show a joy, the costumes themselves. They are simply spectacular.
The exhibit could have been so much better. New Orleans is the birthplace of Jazz. It is home to so many artists, from Professor Longhair to Dr. John to the Neville Brothers. How this show, curated in such detail, did not feature the contributions of groups such as the Wild Tchoupiloulas to Mardi Gras and this culture is a shame.
Then there is food. Barely a mention to the unique cuisine of New Orleans, just as crucial a part of the scene as the music. These omissions do not take away the value of the show. Perhaps it was the French lens of the museum or maybe it was a desire to educate and explain slavery and racism above all. But more could have been done.
Reservations not mandatory. And don’t bother with the audio tour, at the time of our viewing, it was difficult to manage, often impossible to use and added little understanding. For more information or tickets visit the Quai Branly website. Through January 15.