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the best of culture, tr avel & art de vivre

Fall 2 01 1

$5.95 U.S. / $6.95 Canada


The DESIGN issue

The Bouroullec Brothers + Pleyel’s Piano Forte + Seats for the Seats of Power

Fall 2011 The DESIGN issue



28 The Brothers Bouroullecs

5 The f: section

An intimate encounter with the very private duo that has rocked the design world by Amy Serafin

38 Power Decorating Two exhibits showcase museum-quality pieces from the Mobilier National, whose clients range from Louis XIV to Nicolas Sarkozy by Roland Flamini

Exhibitions, performances, books, film, music, travel, shopping, food & wine edited by Melissa Omerberg

58 Calendrier French Cultural Events in North America by Tracy Kendrick

62 Temps Modernes Money Myths by Michel Faure

50 Pleyel’s Piano Forte France’s oldest piano manufacturer weds acoustic excellence with visual pizzazz by Sara Romano

The Mobilier National commissioned artist Jean-Michel Othoniel to create the upholstery design for this Louis XV bench, now on view at the Château de Versailles. Story page 38; photo ©I. Bideau.

Dear Readers, When preparing each issue, our editorial staff gauges how appealing the

France magazine

content is by how many times we blurt out, “I didn’t know that!” OK, it’s not very scientific. But the more often we find ourselves wondering out loud how this or that could possibly have escaped our attention for so long, the more our readers generally like the issue. These past weeks, we’ve been marveling at our former ignorance quite frequently. Take pianos. When we embarked on our story on Pleyel, we thought you’d be as amused as we were to discover their delightful new “designer pianos,” a fresh departure, we thought, from the sober black grands that reign in elegant living rooms and concert halls. Little did we know that, in fact, the black instruments are historically the exception—for so much of Pleyel’s history, its pianos were lavishly and fabulously decorated. Some of its designs from a

• COVER “Clouds” (2002) by

Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec is one of the brothers’ many designs consisting of modules that may be assembled in countless ways. Story page 28; photo ©Ronan et Erwan Bouroullec.

century ago are positively jaw-dropping.

Melissa Omerberg

Associate Editor RACHEL BEAMER

Copy Editor lisa olson

Art Direction todd albertson DESIGN

Production Manager Associate Art Director/Webmaster patrick nazer

turned out to be the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Sure, we knew that this institution furnished ministries and embassies, but we had no idea that its origins went

Sometimes it seems that everything related to design and décor originated with Louis XIV and his visionary finance minister. We tend to think of artists collaborating with home furnishing brands, for example, as being new and exciting, yet centuries ago, Colbert was already enlisting leading painters to design Savonnerie carpets and Gobelins tapestries. As for the Bouroullec brothers, we thought we knew them pretty well. Most of us not only recognized their work but could rattle off the names of many of their designs. Yet it was only when we viewed their creations in the context of their entire oeuvre that we really “got” them. As it turns out, these reclusive siblings are not interested in merely making cool stuff—even if their lamps and vases and chairs and sofas are definitely super cool. What is revolutionary about their work is their search for objects that can be adapted to each consumer’s unique tastes, their exploration of new ways to organize and personalize the spaces where people live and work together. A friend once said that being exposed to good design makes you feel smarter. We couldn’t agree more, and we hope this issue has that effect on you too. Karen Taylor

Editor F r a n c e • FA L L 2 011

Senior Editor/Web Editor

Our knowledge of the Mobilier National similarly

back to Colbert. Perhaps we should have guessed.


Editor Karen Taylor

Contributors mIchel faure, now

retired from L’Express, is pursuing a variety of journalistic ventures • ROLAND FLAMINI, a former TIME Magazine correspondent, now writes a foreign policy column for the Washington-based CQ Weekly and is a frequent contributor to France Magazine • Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher are New York-based writers and the authors of four books about wine and life • tRACY KENDRICK is a freelance journalist who often writes about French culture • Sara romano covers cultural topics for a number of international publications • JULIA SAMMUT is a food writer and partner in TravelFood, which offers custom culinary tours • AMY SERAFIN, formerly editor of WHERE Paris, is a Paris-based freelance journalist who has contributed to The New York Times, National Public Radio, Departures and other media.


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Photo credits

The Brothers Bouroullecs p. 28: © ola rindal; pp. 30-31: ©studio bouroullec, ©paul tahon ; pp. 32-33: ©paul tahon and r & e bouroullec, ©studio bouroullec, ©morgane le gall; pp.

34-35: ©paul tahon and r & e bouroullec, ©morgane 36-37: ©paul tahon and r & e bouroullec, ©ronan et erwan bouroullec. Power Decorating pp. 38-39: © service de communication matignon ; pp.40-41: © rmn /rené-gabriel ojéda , martin fraudreau, 2006; pp.42-43: © sophie zénon , © lawrence perquis ; pp. 44-45: © mobilier national / isabelle bideau, © monique frydman ; pp.46-47: ©sophie zénon ; pp.48-49: © jm manaï, ligne roset, © lawrence perquis. Pleyel’s Piano Forte pp. 50-51: © govin sorel , © jocelyn faroche ; pp. 52-53: © pleyel , © govin S orel ; pp. 5455: photo courtesy of pianos esther, © pleyel, ©amdl, © philippe gontier, © govin sorel; p. 56: ©thomas deron, © jérémie bouillon . le gall; pp.


F r a n c e • FA L L 2 011

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Yayoi Kusama’s unsettling “The Moment of Regeneration” (2004)—a mixed-media work of fabric, wood, polyurethane and paint—is part of a major exhibit on the Japanese artist at the Centre Pompidou.

K e i ko K i o k u



Edited by melissa omerberg

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Paris & the provinces

the career of one of Japan’s most innovative, genre-defying contemporary artists. Wellknown for her repeating dot patterns (obsession is a signature theme for Kusama, who has lived in a psychiatric institution since 1977), she has explored an astonishing array of media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, film, performance and installation art. This monographic show, which focuses in particular on the artist’s sculptures and monochrome paintings, presents 150 works created during the past six decades. Oct. 19, 2011, through Jan. 9, 2012; Forbidden City Featuring 130 works from Beijing’s Forbidden City—paintings, lacquer objects, vases, calligraphy, ceremonial and military attire— La Cité interdite au Louvre: Empereurs de Chine et rois

offers an overview of the 800-year period between the Yuan Dynasty and the mid-19th century. A highlight: Emperor Quianlong’s reconstituted throne room, complete with exquisite paintings on silk commissioned by the monarch. Sept. 29, 2011, to Jan. 9, 2012; de France

Women Seated at a Bar” (1902) is among the canvases collected by the Stein family now on view at the Grand Palais.

exhibits PARIS

Lewis Hine Wielding his camera like a weapon, Lewis Hine was an ardent defender of social justice. In this namesake exhibit, the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson brings together 150 original black-and-white prints by the Wisconsin-born photographer: portraits of immigrants at Ellis Island, depictions of child laborers, chronicles of post-WWI Europe and vertiginous shots of workers erecting the Empire State Building. Through Dec. 18; Giacometti and the Etruscans Alberto Giacometti’s discovery of Etruscan art at the Louvre led him to travel to Tuscany to learn more about the mysterious civilization that had produced such compelling objects. In the town of Volterra, he came across “Ombra della Sera” (“Evening Shadow”), a slender, elongated figure that proved revelatory to the


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sculptor, informing much of his subsequent work. Giacometti et les Etrusques at the Pinacothèque de Paris features the enigmatic “Evening Shadow” along with more than 150 Etruscan items and some 30 sculptures by Giacometti, including some of his most famous works. Through Jan. 8, 2012; Modern Munch The Centre Pompidou challenges the notion that Edvard Munch was a reclusive, tormented soul stuck in the past. Edvard Munch – L’Œil Moderne 1900-1944 looks at the Norwegian artist’s involvement in the aesthetic debates of his time, particularly the ways in which he experimented with—and was influenced by—the new languages of film and photography. This major exhibit contains some 140 works, among them paintings, photographs, works on paper, films and one of the artist’s rare sculptures. Through Jan. 9, 2012; Yayoi Kusama The Centre Pompidou’s Yayoi Kusama scrutinizes

Beauty, Morality, Sensuality The Musée d’Orsay’s Beauté, morale et volupté dans l’Angleterre d’Oscar Wilde examines the various facets of Aestheticism, a movement that sought to escape the ugliness and materialism of the Victorian era by creating a new kind of art and beauty. Spearheaded by a small avantgarde circle of bohemian romantics—among them Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and James McNeill Whistler—this new “Cult of Beauty” encompassed the arts, literature, home décor and fashion. The movement’s credo, “art for art’s sake,” is expressed through paintings, prints, drawings and photographs as well as the decorative arts, garments, jewelry and books. Through Jan. 15, 2012; Masters of Light Best known for his frescoes, Fra Angelico—a major figure in the artistic and cultural revolution that swept Florence in the early 15th century—was equally accomplished in the arts of illumination and painting on wood. Fra Angelico et les Maîtres de la lumière at the Musée Jacquemart-André pays tribute to this “master of light,” whose work combined a new understanding of perspective with the

©Gir audon /Art Resource

• Pablo Picasso’s “Two

midnight in Paris Absorb culture all night long during the 10th edition of Nuit Blanche Paris, when more than 30 rising international artists take over the city’s squares, gardens, courtyards, churches, schools and gyms. They and their creations—sculptures, installations, videos, performances—are clustered in four different neighborhoods: the Marais, Pigalle, Nouvelle Athènes and Montmartre. Public transportation linking these neighborhoods will run toute la nuit. Oct. 1;

J o c h e n L i t t k e m a n n / © G e o r g B a s e l i t z ; © A d r i a n F e r n a n d e z M i l a n e s / © m u s é e d u q u a i B r a n ly / P HOTOQUAI 2 0 11

golden luster inherited from the Gothic style. The show presents major works by the multitalented monk alongside panels by some of his most gifted contemporaries, including Lorenzo Monaco, Paolo Uccello, Filippo Lippi and Zanobi Strozzi. Through Jan. 16, 2012; The Steins’ Adventure By buying groundbreaking pieces of art, befriending their creators and welcoming people into their homes to view and discuss these works, Gertrude Stein and others in her family advanced Modernism both in their adopted home of Paris and abroad. Matisse, Cézanne, Picasso... L’aventure des Stein —now

on view at Paris’s Grand Palais after a successful run at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art—features some 200 masterpieces once owned by these inf luential art patrons as well as family photographs, correspondence and other materials. Oct. 5, 2011, through Jan. 16, 2012; Toy Story The Grand Palais’s Des Jouets et des Hommes presents a history of toys in the Western world, highlighting their importance in children’s education. More than a thousand playthings are on display, from

antique dolls to Barbies, trains to flying saucers, wind-up toys to robots. But not all is fun and games. The show also asks a number of questions: how archetypal toys have changed over the years, what has remained constant, how children’s dreams have evolved, what is the role of gender bias and so on. Through Jan. 23, 2012; Baselitz Sculptures Georg Baselitz began his career with a bang—in 1963, two of his paintings were seized by police during his first solo show due to their “offensive” nature. Since then, the Berlin-based artist has worked in a variety of media, creating etchings, paintings and large-format linocuts in diverse styles, and gaining fame for his upside-down images. Baselitz sculpteur at the Musée d’Art moderne focuses on his sculptures, with some 40 forceful, purposefully crude painted-wood carvings created between 1979 and 2010. Through Jan. 29, 2012; Arbus Revisited Diane Arbus’s black-and-white photographs were considered revolutionary, thanks to their bold, often controversial subject matter (her well-founded fear was that she would be remembered simply as “the photographer of freaks”). Arbus’s striking images—a boy holding a toy hand grenade, a young man in curlers, a pair of uncanny twins—can be read as an allegory of human experience, probing the relationship between appearance and identity, theater and reality. Some of the artist’s most emblematic pictures are on view in this eponymous 200-work retrospective at the Jeu de Paume. Oct. 18, 2011, through Feb. 5, 2012; Metropolis With its stunning set design and innovative visual effects, Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent film

• Georg Baselitz’s “Volk Ding

Zero” (2009), one of 40 sculptures on exhibit at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

• Cuban artist Adrian Fernandez Milanes

participates in Quai Branly’s “Photoquai” with his “Del Ser o del Parecer” series (2009-2011).

Metropolis continues to fascinate modern-day audiences. Set in a futuristic urban dystopia, the Expressionist masterpiece offers a stinging indictment of capitalism run amok. The Cinémathèque française’s Metropolis L’Exposition features clips, stills, original drawings, costumes and objects from the film, most notably the machine-man and a spectacular series of sculpted heads representing Death and the Seven Deadly Sins. The exhibit is accompanied by a Fritz Lang retrospective as well as a lecture series. Oct. 19, 2011, through Jan. 29, 2012; Pompeii Living While many amphitheaters, temples, bathhouses and other public sites survived the fall of the Roman Empire, the same cannot be said for private homes. The few houses that were preserved in their entirety were located in the villages buried by ash during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The Musée Maillol brings one such home back to life in Pompéi – Un art de vivre. Each of the traditional rooms in this reconstructed domus pompeiana is decorated with frescoes and objects, including 200 works from Pompeii and nearby sites. Through Feb. 12, 2012;

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Billed as the world’s first traveling museum, the Centre Pompidou Mobile is taking the show on the road this fall. Two shows, actually: “La Couleur,” presenting masterpieces by modern masters such as Picasso, Matisse and Calder; and “Your Concentric Welcome,” a contemporary installation by Olafur Eliasson. The exhibits will be housed in colorful structures measuring

“Rythme” (1938), Sonia Delaunay’s traveling masterpiece.

a combined 7,000 square feet; designed by architect Patrick Bouchain, their tentlike shapes evoke the festive atmosphere of a traveling circus. Stop number one (slated for

Oct. 10) is the town of Chaumont; the museum will continue on to Cambrai and Boulogne-surMer in 2012 and make subsequent stops in Aquitaine, Le Havre and Aubagne.

Cézanne and Paris While Cézanne is inevitably associated with Provence, the painter spent much time in and around Paris during his artistic career, traveling between Aix and the capital more than 20 times. The Musée du Luxembourg’s Cézanne et Paris focuses on the master’s work in the City of Light, presenting canvases thematically in five sections: “Following Zola to Paris,” “Paris and Auvers,” “The Temptation of Paris,” “Still Lifes and Portraits” and “The Paths of Silence.” Oct. 12, 2011, through Feb. 26, 2012; Roots of Expressionism E xpressionismus & E xpressionismi —the

quirky title references the 1986 Venice exhibition “Futurismo & Futurismi”—delves into the origins of German Expressionism. Often considered monolithic, this movement actually grew out of two currents: the theoretical, intellectual Die Blaue Reiter (“The Blue Rider”), which embraced the concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art; and Die Brücke (“The Bridge”), which emphasized the importance of emotion and instinct. The Pinacothèque de Paris contrasts these distinct schools through some 150 works, including canvases by Kirchner, Nolde and SchmittRottluff as well as Kandinsky, Marc and Jawlensky. Oct. 13, 2011, through March 11, 2012; 8

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Dance of Life The Centre Pompidou is staging an unprecedented exhibit devoted to the relationship between dance and the visual arts from 1900 to the present. Spread out over more than 21,000 square feet, Danser sa vie shows how together, dance and the visual arts inspired the major figures and artistic movements of the 20th century. Presented in three sections—“The Dance of the Senses, from Auguste Rodin to Matthew Barney”; “The Abstraction of the Body, from Loïe Fuller to Alwin Nikolais”; and “The Body as Event, from Dada to Jérôme Bel”—the show illustrates the ongoing dialogue between dance and other disciplines through paintings, sculptures, installations, films, videos and performances. Nov. 23, 2011, through April 2, 2012;

The Clark Collection Some 70 masterpieces from Massachusetts’s Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute are on view at the Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny. La Collection Clark à Giverny, de Manet à Renoir features canvases by Manet, Monet, Morisot, Pissarro and Sisley as well as more than 20 paintings by Renoir. The show also includes earlier work by Corot and Millet, along with as academic paintings by artists such as Gérôme and Bouguereau. Through Oct. 31; MOULINS

Costume Drama Spanning three centuries and comprising more than 200 costumes, L’art du costume à la Comédie-Française, on view at the Centre National du Costume de Scène, showcases apparel from plays by Corneille, Racine and Molière. Among other themes, the exhibit explores the ample influence of certain 20thcentury directors and designers, including Sonia Delaunay, Cecil Beaton and Christian Lacroix. Through Dec. 31; NANCY

Jacques Gruber A regular contributor to the Daum glass factory between 1893 and 1897, Jacques


Glories of Egypt at Avignon’s Musée Calvet examines the glories of Egyptian civilization through more than 400 works, including sculptures, wall paintings and textiles. Among the themes dealt with in this wide-ranging show are fauna and flora; religion, burial traditions and temple sites; Egyptian traditions in the Roman world; Coptic and Muslim Egypt; and the Egyptomania that swept France in the 18th and 19th centuries. Through Nov. 14; Fastueuse Egypte

• Charlotte Rudolph’s “Gret Palucca im Sprung” (c. 1922-1923) animates “Danser sa vie.”

© S u c c e s s i o n D e l a u n ay; © A d a gp, Pa r i s 2 0 11

Pompidou hits the road

specific pieces are also on display at the Jardin des Plantes. Oct. 20 through 23; Paris Photo Also moving to the Grand Palais is Paris Photo, which offers a panorama of 19th-century, modern and contemporary photography. More than 110 galleries from 30 countries are represented at this year’s event, which focuses on African photography from Bamako to Cape Town. Nov. 9 through 13;

• Cézanne’s “Poteries, tasse et fruits sur nappe blanche” is among the works

the Provençal artist produced in Paris, now showcased at the Musée du Luxembourg.

Gruber was celebrated for his energetic floral and landscape motifs. While his passion for stained glass grew, the prolific artist continued to produce posters, menus, stationery, paintings and pastels. Galeries Poirel’s Jacques Gruber et l’Art nouveau: un parcours décoratif boasts more than 150 unique pieces from prestigious private collections and international museums. Through Jan. 22, 2012; NORD-PAS DE CALAIS

Drawing Together Thirty museums in the Nord-Pas de Calais region join forces to showcase their collections of drawings and watercolors in Dessiner – Tracer: 30 musées / 30 expositions. The artists on view run the gamut from Géricault, Victor Hugo, Burne-Jones, Rodin and Matisse to contemporary creators such as Constantin Xanakis, Catherine Melin and Hans Op de Beeck. Sept. 2011 through Sept. 2012; STRASBOURG

Visions of the Occult Numerous artists, intellectuals and scholars


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have been intrigued by the occult.


des Esprits, ou la fascination de l’occulte, 17501950 investigates this attraction in a multidisciplinary exhibit at Strasbourg’s Musée d’Art moderne et contemporain. Comprising some 500 works of art, 150 scientific objects, 150 books and 100 documents from 25 European countries, the exhibit explores the esoteric tradition, with its founding texts and iconography; the role of the irrational and the obscure in art and literature; and the relationship between occult phenomena and science. Oct. 8, 2011, through Feb. 14, 2012;


FIAC Paris’s International Contemporary Art Fair, FIAC, moves to the Grand Palais this year. One hundred sixty-five of the world’s leading modern and contemporary galleries are participating this year, 33 of them for the first time. The Tuileries offer an eloquent setting for sculptures, installations, performance pieces and sound works during the event, while site-

Biennale de Lyon This year’s Biennale de Lyon, titled “Une terrible beauté est née” after the famous Yeats poem “Easter, 1916,” brings together 60 artists, most of whom come from Europe, Africa and Latin America (the curator, Victoria Noorthoorn, hails from Argentina). On the sidelines of the festival, more than 90 galleries, cultural institutions and art collectives are participating in Résonance, the traditional “off ” festival with more than 125 events throughout Greater Lyon and the Rhône-Alpes region. Through Dec. 31; GRAND REOPENING

After touring the world for two years, the Musée d’Orsay ’s Impressionist masterpieces finally return home for the unveiling of JeanMichel Wilmotte’s entirely revamped Galerie des Impressionistes on October 20. The museum is also inaugurating five floors devoted to the decorative arts, new temporary exhibition space and a renovated eatery, Le Café des Hauteurs, redesigned by the iconoclastic Campana brothers. Americans interested in supporting this acclaimed institution may visit the Web site of the new organization American Friends – Musée d’Orsay: For information about additional exhibits in Dunkerque, Le Havre, Lille, Metz and Paris, as well as highlights of the Paris Opera season, visit

© T h e M e t r o p o l i ta n M u s e u m o f A r t, D i s t. s e r v i c e p r e s s e R m n - G r a n d Pa l a i s / M a l c o l m Va r o n

Photoquai The Musée du Quai Branly hosts the third edition of Photoquai. Devoted to non-Western photography, this show on the banks of the Seine presents nearly 400 works by contemporary photographers from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Oceania, Latin America and the Caribbean. Through Dec. 4;

• Designed by Rudy Ricciotti,

the new Jean Cocteau Severin Wunderman Collection Museum is a dramatic addition to Menton’s rich cultural heritage.

Uncannily versatile, Jean Cocteau (18891963) produced not only poetry, novels, criticism, plays and films but also a visual oeuvre ranging from drawings and paintings to ceramics and jewelry. With the opening of the Jean Cocteau Severin Wunderman Collection Museum in the Riviera town of Menton this fall, the public will be able to survey the many aspects of his vast and varied artistic legacy under one roof. The project’s origins date to 1958, when then-apprentice watchmaker Wunderman spent his first paycheck on a Cocteau drawing made for Les Enfants Terribles. He went on to amass the world’s largest Cocteau collection while working his way to the top 12

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of his industry, eventually purchasing luxury watchmaker Corum. In 2005, he donated his trove to Menton, which has claimed Cocteau as an adopted son since the artist decorated its wedding hall in the late 1950s. The first stone of the museum was laid in 2008, shortly after Wunderman’s death at age 69. The 29,000-square-foot facility was designed by French architect Rudy Ricciotti, whose other credits include the Peace Bridge in Seoul and the new Palazzo del Cinema in Venice. Facing the Mediterranean, it features a concrete shell whose dynamic shape and crisp contrast of light and shadow reference Cocteau’s graphic art. The glasswalled inner structure houses Wunderman’s

entire donation of 1,800 works; 990 are by Cocteau; others are by such contemporaries as Picasso and Modigliani. Cocteau viewed his diverse endeavors as so many forms of poetry, a philosophy that informed Ricciotti’s design. “It is the idea of the ‘maze’ and its surprises, the use of apparent disorder in the layout of this semi-transparent building, that evoke the unexpected continuity between the different aspects of the artist,” wrote the architect in Domus magazine. “We are in his universe.” Scheduled to open Nov. 6;


© Ag e n c e R u dy R i c c i o t t i

Spotlight on… the Jean Cocteau Severin Wunderman Collection Museum


edited by Johan Kugelberg and Philippe Vermès

When strikes and demonstrations broke out in Paris in May ’68, a group of students from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts joined forces to produce a poster bearing the slogan “Usines, Universités, Union.” This effort gave rise to the Atelier Populaire, which produced hundreds of posters—landmarks in political art and graphic design. More than 200 are reproduced here in full color along with archival photographs, thumbnails of additional posters and firsthand accounts of the clashes. Four Corners Books; $40.


by Christian Louboutin, photographs by Philippe Garcia and David Lynch

Christian Louboutin’s beautifully crafted shoes with their signature red soles are objects of desire to fashionistas and footwear fetishists worldwide. From sexy stilettos to designs incorporating feathers and beads, his glamorous creations are celebrated in this extravagant monograph, which sports a fold-out cover, pink faux-leather binding, gilded pages and an interior pop-up. An in-depth interview sheds light on Louboutin’s childhood, inspirations, friendships and artistic vision. Rizzoli, $150.


by Penny Drue Baird

An internationally renowned decorator, Baird focuses on contemporary French home design in this latest book, dissecting the various elements—Art Deco details, neutral palettes, bold shapes—of the the sleek, elegant look showcased here. To illustrate this style, she draws from her own recent projects, highlighting a different room in each chapter. The volume concludes with a list of the author’s favorite boutiques and antique dealers in Paris, New York City and the Hamptons. Monacelli, $50.

PICASSO IN PARIS 1900-1907 by Marilyn McCully

In 1900, Pablo Picasso traveled to the French capital to visit the Exposition Universelle and immerse himself in art. Just a year later, he was invited to exhibit at the prestigious Vollard Gallery. This new volume, which accompanies a major international exhibition, explores a seminal period in the Spanish artist’s career, chronicling his life in bohemian Montmartre; his discovery of artists such as Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and Cézanne; and the creation of his own personal style. The Vendome Press, $60.

VERSAILLES A Private Invitation

by Guillaume Picon, photographs by Francis Hammond

Thousands of tourists visit the world’s largest château each year, but much of the palace and its grounds remain off-limits to the public. This opulent volume opens the doors to those inaccessible areas, offering a tour that encompasses sumptuous suites and private staircases, grand galleries and geometric gardens. Close-ups of paintings, statuary and ornaments as well as excerpts from literary and historical works give an intimate sense of life at Versailles. Flammarion, $95.


by Agnès de Gouvion Saint-Cyr

One of the 20th century’s most influential photographers, Brassaï earned renown with his 1933 Paris by Night, which revealed the mysterious nocturnal side of the City of Light. In 1957, the man dubbed “the eye of Paris” traveled to New York and Louisiana for Holiday magazine; this fascinating new collection—a treasure trove of unknown and all-but-forgotten work—features previously unpublished photos taken during that trip, including rare color images. Flammarion, $55.


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• Fabrice

Luchini and Natalia Verbeke star in The Women on the 6th Floor.

On Screen

new on dvd ORPHEUS (1950) Described by film critic

Pauline Kael as a masterpiece, Jean Cocteau’s inventive black-and-white take on the tragic Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice reveals a futuristic 1950s Paris where mirrors are portals between the worlds of the living and the dead, and car radios transmit mysterious messages. Cocteau’s longtime companion, actor Jean Marais, stars as an intense Orpheus alongside Marie Déa as Eurydice and Maria Casarès as a mysterious princess. Numerous extras include interviews with the director and a documentary on the film’s special effects. (Criterion Collection)

THE WOMEN ON THE 6TH FLOOR Fabrice Luchini stars as Jean-Louis, an investment banker


in 1960s Paris whose staid bourgeois lifestyle is turned upside-down with the arrival of Maria (Natalia Verbeke), a Spanish housekeeper. Both tender and stern, Maria provides the household with the maternal influence that Jean-Louis’s socialite wife, Suzanne (Sandrine Kiberlain), does not possess. When Suzanne mistakenly assumes Jean-Louis has been unfaithful and banishes him from their home, he temporarily takes refuge in the servants’ quarters upstairs. Discovering unexpected happiness in this community of women, he wonders if he will be able to return to his former way of life. This fictional “upstairs-downstairs” romantic comedy was inspired by the director’s memories of his own Spanish nanny. Slated release: October. (Strand Releasing) THE HEDGEHOG Muriel Barbery’s novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog was an international success, snagging a spot on the New York Times bestseller list for 89 weeks. Director Mona Achache has adapted it for the screen with a virtually unrecognizable Josiane Balasko. Starring as Renée Michel—the prickly concierge with a secret love of fine things—Balasko brings warmth and sensitivity to the role. Garance Le Guillermic and Japanese actor Togo Igawa co-star as Paloma Josse and Kakuro Ozu, upstairs neighbors who recognize a kindred spirit and begin to draw Renée out of her lonely shell. Slated release: October. (NeoClassics)

PRIEST (1961)

Music Axelle Red Un Coeur comme le mien

Alex Beaupain Pourquoi battait mon coeur

Multitalented musician and UNICEF Ambassador Axelle Red released her first album almost 20 years ago—the same year she graduated from law school. On her newest release, she shifts from her typical R&B style to create her own blend of Americana, melding folk, country and soul. Musicians Stu Kimball and Gerry Leonard lent their creativity to the recording, which was made near an American musical landmark: Woodstock, NY. (Naïve)

Soundtrack master Alex Beaupain has worked with director Christophe Honoré to create emotive music for such popular films as Dans Paris and Love Songs. For this recent album, he has left the silver screen to create an intimate work of electro-infused melancholic love songs that were inspired by a break-up. Frequent collaborator Camélia Jordana joins Beaupain for a duet on the album, which was arranged by JeanPhilippe Verdin. (Naïve)

Additional film and music reviews as well as sound clips are available at


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A young Jean-Paul Belmondo stars as the title character, a handsome Catholic priest who tends to the local women’s spiritual fulfillment in a small French village during the Occupation. Morin’s circle includes Barny (Emmanuelle Riva of Hiroshima, Mon Amour), a young widowed mother who sparks passionate discussions and ignites strong sexual tension. The theme of this black-and-white sixth feature was personal for director Jean-Pierre Melville, who fought for France and lost a brother during the war. DVD extras include interviews with Melville and Belmondo. (Criterion Collection) QUEEN TO PLAY (2009) Adapted from a

novel, Queen to Play by first-time director Caroline Bottaro stars Sandrine Bonnaire as a housekeeper in Corsica whose life changes as she masters the game of chess. Hélène (Bonnaire) first comes upon a couple engrossed in an heated game as she cleans a hotel room one morning. Intrigued by their intensity and chemistry and desiring to experience something similar in her life, she takes up the game. Eventually, she convinces her employer, Dr. Kröger (Academy-Award winner Kevin Kline, in his first entirely French-speaking role), to become her teacher. Featuring Jennifer Beals. (Zeitgeist)



Sons & Images

Bon Voyage

Notes for the savvy traveler INSIDE LOOKS

LVMH is welcoming the public at some 25 locations throughout France during a twoday “celebration of excellence” dubbed Journées Particulières.


• Catering to a gay clientele but welcoming “everyone with an open spirit,” Hôtel Jules & Jim comprises three buildings wrapped around two courtyards, one featuring a vertical garden. In 13 of its 23 rooms—those on higher floors boast views of Montmartre or the Centre Pompidou—the bed is set within a translucent, backlit “shell”; the other rooms are decorated in a contemporary mix of glass, wood, stone and concrete. Also on site: a photography gallery and chic cocktail bar. €270, free Wi-Fi; 11 rue des Gravilliers, 3e; • The three-star, 38-room Hôtel Palm Opéra is relaxed and family-friendly, with a children’s play area in the breakfast room. Bath products are organic, and the entire hotel is non-smoking. A cheerful neo-midcentury aesthetic prevails in both public spaces and rooms, which are equipped with iPod docks. From $216; free Wi-Fi; 30 rue de Maubeuge, 9e; • Located in the medieval village of Eze, on the Côte d’Azur, the newly renovated Château Eza—formerly home to a Swedish prince—features 10 rooms and suites with a mixture of private balconies, terraces, Jacuzzis, soaking tubs and seaside views. A Michelin-starred restaurant serves up dishes made from the freshest seasonal ingredients. From €295;


• You

(g )

don’t have to live in Paris to use the city’s Vélib’ bike-sharing service; passes can now be purchased online from an easy-to-navigate English-language Web site. €1.70 for a day pass, €8 for a week; • The Gare de l’Est’s Centre National des Opérations Ferroviaires—the equivalent of a control tower for rail traffic throughout France—is now open to the public. After attending a presentation, visitors are taken to the operations center where 100 people work 24/7 tracking the 20,000 trains that run daily on French rail lines. Free, reservations required. 21 rue d’Alsace, 10 e; • Purchase a one-week or one-month membership card from Restopolitan, and each time you dine at one of its member restaurants, you earn one free meal at another participating establishment. The list includes more than 250 restaurants throughout France, with more than 100 in Paris alone. For terms and conditions, visit the userfriendly English-language Web site. Starting at €9.90; 18

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Among the wine cellars, fashion houses, artist studios, gardens and private mansions that can be visited during this extraordinary openhouse are Christian Dior’s haute couture salon and Château Cheval Blanc’s sculptural new winery (below) by Christian de Portzamparc. Oct. 15 and 16;

COURTESY O F j u l e s & J i m ; © A n n e THOMES / MAIRIE DE PARIS

Hôtel Jules & Jim boasts a sleek cocktail bar.

Bon Voyage

Notes for the savvy traveler FEAR FACTOR

• The Palais

Garnier’s theatrical new L’Opéra restaurant.


As dramatic as a scene from “Tosca,” L’Opéra—the ultracontemporary new restaurant at the Palais Garnier—is all sinuous glass and undulating molded plaster. Guests can contemplate architect Odile Decq’s vision in red and white while sipping opera-themed cocktails such as “Phantom by Martini.” In the kitchen, Michelin two-star chef Christophe Aribert whips up traditional French dishes with creative touches, including a classic Opéra dessert made with honey gathered from beehives on the building’s roof. A la carte about €60; place Jacques Rouché, 9 e; • Septime’s décor is up-to-the-minute, with a spiral staircase, reclaimed wooden tables and industrial lighting. Sorrel and watercress risotto, veal tartare and bonito with fennel are all standouts, and the tarte p’tit suisse flavored with vanilla and lemon is simply dreamy. Bertrand Grébeau, the talented young chef, honed his skills at Alain Passard’s Arpège. Lunch menu €26; dinner about €40; five-course “carte blanche” menu €55. 80 rue de Charonne, 11 e; Tel. 33/1-43-67-38-29. • After opening the Café Moderne near La Bourse in 2003, chef Frédéric Hubig-Schall began staking out claims along the rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud in the 11th, where he now has a string of three delectable eateries including the new Sassotondo (right). Here the familiar somehow always tastes fresh: The shellfish in the squid’s ink tagliolini is delicious, but it’s the way pasta tastes like the sea that impresses. And this may be the only place in town where those who ask for sel are brought chunks of Sicilian rock salt with a tiny grater. Menu at €34; à la carte €30 to €60; 40 rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, 11 e; Tel. 33/1-43-55-57-00. •

Part museum, part theme park, Le Manoir de Paris is a new “haunted house” that brings 13 Paris legends to life. This unusual attraction enlists sophisticated gadgetry and professional actors to illuminate dark doings in the city’s various districts. Tales such as “The Vampire’s Wine Cellar” are narrated in the course of the 23-room tour (available in English); more legends should be added soon. €15 to

€20; 18 rue de Paradis,


• Secrets of Versailles by Nicolas Jacquet. Published with the Château de Versailles, this lively new guide offers a fascinating and often quirky tour of the palace, gardens and town, revealing the hidden meanings behind works of art, objects, furnishings, rooms and more. Available from and at major French bookstores. Parigramme, €19. • Cool Paris Part of teNeues’s “Cool Cities” series, this guide is now available in a digital version for iPad or iPod featuring an “Around Me” GPS locator, city information, visual tours, direct links to all locations, audio recordings and frequent updates. $1.99. Julia Sammut contributed to this section.


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R o l a n d H a lb e ; c o u r t e s y o f s a s s o t o n d o



What’s in store

Crystal Balls Aude Lechère conjures up the forest floor in Sous Bois, her new jewelry collection for Baccarat. Trees, moss, heather and earth were the inspiration for these delicate sculptural pieces set with gleaming crystal and wrapped in silver or gold vermeil. $195 to $950;

On Their Toes Long famed for their ballet slippers and ballerina flats, Repetto has made the leap to handbags. The flirty pink laces will make you want to dance. Available in 15 designs and seven colors. €195 to €540 at Repetto stores in France and online.

Lights Fantastic

Above Board Shown recently at the New York International Gift Fair, this coffee table designed by Aurélie Monty for her company L’Atelier 106 is made of something unexpected: cardboard. Boasting a surface resembling waxed concrete, it is one of several pieces—chests of drawers, seating, even an elegant console table—made from that sturdy, sustainable material.


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b a c c a r at / © L . Pa r r a u lt; r e p e t t o ; l’at e l i e r 10 6 ; d e s i g n h e u r e

Original, intriguing and larger-than-life lighting by award-winning DesignHeure adds drama to any décor. This chandelier design by Hervé Langlais diffuses light both directly and indirectly, ensuring optimum ambiance. About €1,500; contact company for U.S. distribution information;

Toujours Provence

Crown Jewels

Based in Provence, Terre d’Oc offers fair-trade organic body-care products, cosmetics, room fragrances, perfumes and teas sourced from locations ranging from Mali to Bali. This fall, the company brings its prettily packaged potions to New York’s Rockefeller Center—its first boutique in the Big Apple.

Marie-Hélène de Taillac’s colorful jewelry is an ethereal take on the statement pieces that adorned Indian royalty for generations. Working with artisans at Jaipur’s famous Gem Palace, she combines quality gemstones and superb craftsmanship in designs that a modern woman can wear from carpool to cocktail hour. Her newest store opens this fall at 69th Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan.

M a r i e - H é l è n e d e Ta i ll a c ; T e r r e d ’ O c ; b a c c a r at / © L . Pa r r a u lt; DUENDE

Glass Menagerie Ducks and monkeys and bears, oh my. Those are the cartoony critters that make up the new crystaland-porcelain Baccarat Zoo by Spanish designer Jaime Hayon. Use them to store honey, sweets, spare change…whatever appeals. $695 to $995;

What’s Old is New Created for Ceccotti Collezioni, Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance’s Bureau Omaggio was inspired by Carlo Molino’s iconic 1949 “Cavour” writing desk. Crafted from American walnut and maple, this clever tribute features pivoting drawers that can be reached from different angles.

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à la carte

French food & drink in America

By DoROTHY J. GaitEr & John Brecher

Cabbage and Its King André Laurent, France’s top choucroute brand, knows that most Americans eat sauerkraut only with franks. But it’s trying to change that. “Our sauerkraut is cooked with ingredients such as goose fat, onion, bacon, Champagne and juniper berries,” says third-generation proprietor François Laurent. A delicious side dish, especially with pork. About $4.30 to $9 at select gourmet markets and Spirit of Saint-Louis Amorino, the to-die-for gelato chain that got its start on the Ile Saint-Louis in 2002, has opened its first U.S. outlet, in New York. Hand-sculpted like a rose, the gelato comes in 22 flavors. As in Europe, the favorites here are chocolate, chocolate hazelnut, pistachio and vanilla. 60 University Place, New York, NY; Tel. 212/253-5599.

Founded in 1789, Revol has launched a new line of microwave- and dishwasher-safe cookware dubbed Revolution. And it’s aptly named. Not only can the sleek, two-toned casserole dishes go directly from freezer to oven to dinner table, they remain cool to the touch. And cool enough for the MoMA Store, which is stocking the Dutch oven as part of its Fall/Winter 2011 collection. $250;

grape news • Just in time for the holidays, when 40 percent of all bubbly is purchased in the States, the 400year old Champagne house Gosset has introduced Grand Blanc de Blancs, a nonvintage sparkler that’s all Chardonnay from Premier and Grand Cru vineyards. Elegant, complex and crisp. About $90,

• Gilles Louvet Vineyards is one of many wineries in the Languedoc-Roussillon region trying to make a bigger impact in the U.S. with the region’s ever-improving wines. Its O Pinot Noir, made from organic grapes and aged in concrete tanks to retain its beautiful fruitiness, is a steal at around $19.99.


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• British jewelry designer Jade Jagger has created a new label for Croix de Beaucaillou, from Château Ducru-Beaucaillou. The chic black-and-gold label will be on bottles from the 2010 vintage on, with a limited edition for the 2009. Beau caillou means beautiful stone, making Mick’s daughter’s involvement very à propos. • Didier Goubet uses organically grown grapes from Bordeaux to make mouthwatering Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sémillon, but here’s the twist: They’re non-alcoholic. Refreshing and true, the Merlot is great mixed with gin and outstanding in sauces too. $11 to $13. and

ANDR é l a u r e n t; a m o r i n o ; REVO L ; c h a m pa g n e g o s s e t, C h ât e a u d u c r u - b e a u c a i ll o u , G . l o u v e t, D . G o u b e t

Cool Casseroles

( ) Romée De Goriainoff Bar talk with…

Preparing the ultimate French-American cocktail

Romée De Goriainoff and his two best friends grew up in the south of France but spent enough time as young adults in New York to wonder, “Gee, why doesn’t Paris have great bars like this?” So they opened one: the Experimental Cocktail Club on the Right Bank. With its cool, speakeasy feel, exceptionally tasty, reasonably priced drinks and velvet-rope exclusivity, it became the leading edge of a wave that has been credited with reinvigorating

Romée De Goriainoff and business partners Olivier Bon and PierreCharles Cros.

Paris nightlife. Now they are taking their concept of a New York bar to … New York, with their latest establishment set to open in Lower Manhattan this winter. What is a New York-style cocktail bar? The best New York cocktail bars are all about service and quality. In France, they tell you that we are the country of good taste. I have been around, and that’s just not true. There’s room for French bartenders to improve. It’s very hard to achieve consistency, to be very precise. Every cocktail requires a big investment in time to perfect. In New York, people use measures and make high-quality drinks. We saw this and thought, “This is the real thing” and got the idea of importing the concept to France.

©Dherines Lor an

What is it like to have your best friends as your business partners? Pierre-Charles Cros, Olivier Bon and I met in Montpellier. We are all 29 and have known one another for almost 20 years. We are like brothers. When you control the company, it gives you a freedom that some in the business don’t have. We don’t have any pressure to make money rapidly. We don’t have to pack the place right away. We don’t have to be the richest. But we love what we do. We would never be able to sell something we didn’t like ourselves. Tell us about your enterprises. We opened our first cocktail bar, the Experimental Cocktail Club, in June 2007 on the Right Bank; Curio Parlor in July 2008 and the Prescription Cocktail Club in November 2009,

both on the Left Bank; and in December 2010, the Experimental Cocktail Club in London’s Chinatown. When one thinks of France and alcohol, it’s wine that usually comes to mind. Were cocktails a hard sell? It is true that in France, mixing different spirits in a glass was seen as a sacrilege or suspicious at best. Cocktails were thought of as a cemetery for bad booze that, once mixed with sugar, could become something drinkable. We’ve been explaining over and over that a cocktail cannot be good if the spirits and ingredients are poor and that, au contraire, making cocktails is an art that requires skill, a great knowledge of old liqueurs like Bénédictine and Chartreuse, the best spirits, the best citrus and spices, the best sugar. And passion and smiles. Our job was to convince clients that cocktails were truly amazing products with a full range of flavors, and the best way to make them was from scratch. Now there is not a single bar opening in Paris that doesn’t offer at least a limited cocktail menu.

Are wine drinkers and cocktail drinkers different species? They are not incompatible. My father is a very serious wine drinker, but little by little he got into whiskey. Now he has converted a lot of his friends to cocktails. Do you remember your first cocktail? Yes. It was in Montreal about 10 years ago, and it was a bad vodka martini. In fact, I drank bad cocktails for about two or three years. I was young, and everything was vodka. Of course, it was very much a marketing thing. Then you learn. How will your Experimental Cocktail Club be different from other bars in New York City? We will be open later than anyone else, until 4 A.M. every day. One of the things that New York is missing is a good bar after 2 A.M. Also, we always try to combine the highest quality cocktails with the best music and design; we never neglect the ambiance, the vibe. In a way, we see the bar as a very important factory for social connections. If you go to a bar, it should be to have fun, and you should be treated well. Opening in New York is a dream come true. F r a n c e • F a ll 2 0 11


à la carte

French food & drink in America TWO FOR TEA

Le Palais des Thés, the French gourmet tea company with 26 stores in Paris and worldwide, is launching a vibrant new

la gazette

U.S. Web site for online sales and is brewing plans for some stateside locations, starting in New York. Try the soothing Fleur de Geisha, a cherry-blossomflavored green tea sourced from Japan (about $10.25 for 20 bags). “Born in Saint Petersburg, raised in Paris” might sound like a fascinating biography, but the subject here is Kusmi Tea, founded in 1867 by P. M. Kousmichoff. Its Bouquet of Flowers was the tsar’s favorite, but the best-selling Detox rocks (about $15.50 for 20 bags).

A propos...

It’s important to enjoy the whole bottle, for the wine was made for drinking.

— Languedoc winemaker Gérard Bertrand, introducing some new releases available in the States.


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p i x pat i s s e r i e s ; ROS é ; D e s s y n ; E m m a Pat t i ; L e Pa l a i s d e s T h é s ; K u s m i T e a

NEW YORK It’s more difficult than it should be to find a great crêpe in the States, but one place to look is the charming Café Henri, named for owner Winston Kulok’s Maltese. Kulok says the secret to making a great crêpe is “be basic and don’t Clockwise from top left: Chef Cheryl Wakerhauser at deviate and make sure the Portland’s Pix Patisseries; a “Bardot Spa” at Los Angeles’s ingredients are wonderful.” Rosé restaurant; chef David Ashwell at DC’s new Zinc; macarons from New York’s Mille-feuille Bakery Café. The recipes come from his long-ago partnership with Robert Arbor, French chef, restaurateur and author. 27 Bedford St. with a sister location at 1010 50th Ave., Long Island City. • Nearby is the recently opened Mille-feuille Bakery Café, serving delectable pastries, sandwiches and soups made with organic ingredients. Owner Olivier Dessyn trained at the Ritz Cooking School and the famed Pierre Hermé bakery as well as at Le Meurice with Camille Lesecq. The triple vanilla mille-feuilles are scrumptious ($3.90) and the croissants ($2.25) are buttery yet feather light. 552 LaGuardia Place; PORTLAND Cheryl Wakerhauser, known as Pix, once wanted to be an astronaut but today excels at creating out-of-this-world desserts at her two Pix Patisseries. Trained at the pâtisserie belonging to Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) Philippe Urraca, she creates whimsical and stunning concoctions. She also carries an impressive selection of reasonably priced, small-production Champagne. 3402 SE Division St. and 3901 North Williams Ave.; WASHINGTON, DC This past July, former Brasserie Beck Chef David Ashwell and former Beck manager John Warner opened Le Zinc bistro in Cleveland Park with French food and an all-French wine list. Noteworthy dishes are Burgundy snails with braised Granny Smith apples, Stilton cheese and roasted wild garlic ($12), and braised lamb shank with pommes Boulangère and ratatouille sauce ($26). 3714 Macomb St., NW; LOS ANGELES If you’ve been missing the joie de vivre of 1960s St. Tropez lately—and, really, who hasn’t?—head over to Rosé restaurant, which opened in July with a promise to capture “the essence of the French Riviera lifestyle.” Rosé features seasonal cuisine by Chef Emmanuel Pradet, who was born in the Auvergne region of central France; its very own rosé wine; and an offering of original cocktails from trendsetting mixologist Alex Ott. 861 North La Cienega Blvd;

mille feuilles The Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food that French Women Cook Every Day by Wini Moranville. Another food

writer who has traveled extensively in France sets out to convince us that French cooking can be incorporated easily into everyday American life. Forget Buffalo wings and check out her lemon-saffron-rosemary wings. Harvard Common Press, $24.95. The story of post-Revolution food in Paris and the rise of food as a literary metaphor, as told through Balzac’s work. “If the stock was good,” Balzac famously declared, “the household was to be trusted.” Not just for French Lit majors— honest. Other Press, $19.95. Balzac’s Omelette by Anka Muhlstein.

Ladurée: The Savory Recipes by Michel Lerouet. The

chef de cuisine at this Parisian temple of delights shares recipes for dishes that can be enjoyed from morning to night. A follow-up to Ladurée: The Sweet Recipes by Philippe Andrieu, in which the pastry chef provides guidance for treats from macarons to milkshakes. Even if you never plan to make brioches au sucre at home, these books are seductive, beautifully packaged and make great presents. Les Editions du Chêne, $39.95 each. Ritz Paris: Haute Cuisine by Michel Roth and Jean-François Mesplède. A delicious

culinary history of the famous Paris hotel and its elegant l’Espadon restaurant, from the days of founders César Ritz and Auguste Escoffier. Featuring 60 lovingly illustrated recipes by two-star chef Michel Roth and a fascinating how-he-rose-to-the-top biography. Flammarion, $60. The Art of French Baking by Ginette Mathiot, edited by Clotilde Dusoulier. First published

in 1938, this classic text for home cooks has been updated and translated, with more than 350 recipes, including a luscious sweet potato pudding. Offers the building blocks in an unintimidating package. The message: You can do this. Phaidon Press, $45. Saint-Emilion: The Châteaux, Winemakers, and Landscapes of Bordeaux’s Famed Region by Béatrice Massenet, Emmanuelle Ponsan-Dantin and François Querre. A must for the

Summer Food in Provence by Marita van der Vyver. The South African writer, who has

lived in Provence with her French husband for a decade, says great French food needn’t be intimidating or expensive—and proves it. “Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic,” anyone? Tafelberg, $35.95. Cooking With Chocolate: Essential Recipes and Techniques edited by Frédéric Bau. The founder and top chef of l’Ecole

du Grand Chocolat Valrhona brings the school home with a step-by-step guide, accompanied by a 90-minute DVD. Delicious, for people who love chocolate enough to put some time and effort into cooking with it. Flammarion, $49.95. Pastry Paris: In Paris, Everything Looks Like Dessert by Susan Hochbaum. Utterly delightful—a tour of Paris through its pastries.

Who knew the Paris Opera looked so much like a vertical millefeuille from Bon Marché? The perfect gift for your Paris-lover. The Little Bookroom, $19.95.

coffee table in the wine room. A beautiful, romantic look at the history, wineries and people. The photographs are so lovely that you can almost smell the earth, the grapes and the barrels. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $55.

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An intimate encounter with the very private duo that has rocked the design world—just in time for their first retrospective at the Centre Pompidou-Metz. By Amy Serafin

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The poster for “Bivouac” features a collage of three Bouroullec instant-classics: their “Clouds” partition for Kvadrat (2008), “Piani” lamp for Flos (2011) and “Losanges” rug for Nanimarquina (2011).

Algues 2004, Vitra Functioning as a room divider or wall hanging, “Algues” reflects the Bouroullecs’ predilection for designs that can be customized by the buyer. Inspired by seaweed, the product features branch-like components that can be snapped together and assembled into an infinite variety of forms.

t is characteristic of Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec that they consider “Bivouac,” their career retrospective at the Centre Pompidou-Metz, an opportunity to look ahead, not back. The brothers have been pushing design into the future for more than a decade. “We don’t really see it as a retrospective,” explains Erwan at their Belleville atelier, surrounded by prototypes and drawings. “We’ve reached a point in our careers where we have a certain maturity, but as a result, we also have more doubt. We want to do more and do better.” Opening October 7 and running through July 30, this is the Bouroullecs’ first major museum exhibition in France, though they have been celebrated abroad, notably at the Design Museum in London, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. Their works have been acquired by such prestigious institutions as the Museum of Modern Art and the Centre Pompidou as well as by François Pinault, Karl Lagerfeld and other private collectors. They are often called the most important French designers since Philippe Starck, though they differ from him in style and self-promotion. Whereas Starck has designed everything from toilet brushes to catamarans in a manner that is self-knowingly witty and demanding of attention, the Bouroullecs’ creations are subtle, stripped to their essentials and quietly poetic. The show in Metz is their biggest yet. Occupying more than 12,000 square feet, it comprises nearly all the brothers’ creations going back to 1998. Laurent Le Bon, the director of the museum, has been planning this exhibit since he wrote a book about Ronan and Erwan nearly a decade ago, when he was a young curator. “I fell in love with their work,” he explains. “I thought then that if I ever had the chance to head an institution, I would do an exhibition with them.” He compares visiting the show to walking through an enchanted forest and coming across clearings, each a universe unto itself. The brothers, who famously control every aspect of what they do, organized the exhibition by ambiance rather than chronology, separating it with their signature partitions such as plastic “seaweed,” 30

F r a n ce • F A L L 2011

foam-and-fabric “clouds” and a wall of multicolored textile tiles. Hung on a wall 100 feet long and 13 feet high are 280 of their drawings, a combination of project studies and sketches they have done just for pleasure. They named the show “Bivouac” in reference to the versatile, modular nature of much of their work, and how their furnishings tend to provide shelter or reorganize a space. It can be difficult to tell the brothers apart—both are pale and often unshaven, with reddish hair and intense blue eyes. Most of the time they can be found in their three-story atelier, discussing ideas, taking photographs, building prototypes. According to Erwan, “We may have achieved a certain level of public recognition, but we don’t live like rock stars. We work pretty much all the time, traveling less than other designers and participating in fewer events.” And while both have scaled back to regular office hours since starting families, they admit they are still always working in their heads. They are also extremely private, rarely agreeing to interviews and, when they do, avoiding questions about their personal lives. Ronan, the elder and shyer of the two, picks up a felt-tip pen and sketches throughout our conversation. He admits to being a control freak: “It comes from our age difference, the fact that I’m the big brother,” he explains. “I need to see everything, to correct every detail.” Erwan, 35, is more at ease, leaning back in his chair and smoking Marlboro Lights while he philosophizes. His interests run from Kurt Cobain to the pared-down sculptures of artist Donald Judd and the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Both would rather read books about

LEFT, Below and bottom:

Center, below and bottom:

Slow Chair 2007, Vitra This comfortable armchair was created by stretching a precisely shaped knit over a lightweight metal frame like a fitted stocking. Bud vase 1997, Cappellini The pared-down purity of this white polycarbonate vase typifies the Bouroullecs’ aesthetic.

Ploum 2011, Ligne Roset Inspired by the comfort of Ligne Roset’s iconic “Togo” sofa, the award-winning Ploum is constructed like a “sandwich” of fabric and foam. Joyn Hut 2004, Vitra Conceived to meet the needs of the contemporary office, this is one element of a flexible system that allows team members to configure their own spaces. Assemblage 3 2004, Prototype, Galerie Kreo This multipurpose piece is part of a series that explores the creation of “atmospheres” for objects on display.


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prehistory (Erwan) or American Indians (Ronan) than about design. They claim there is no hierarchy, and they sign everything jointly. Osso chair 2011, Mattiazzi “That we agree, that’s the major principle of our work,” says Ronan. Efforts to build with solid wood while minimizing waste gave rise to this oak, “We want to find an ideal solution together, not compromise with maple and ash chair, created using solarone another.” They do argue, of course, like most siblings—though powered, digitally controlled equipment. less than press reports would have you believe, says Anniina Koivu. Lit Clos 2000, Limited Edition, Galerie Kreo A former journalist, she spent a great deal of time with the brothers A nod to the traditional raised beds of the Bouroullecs’ native Brittany, the “Lit while writing the text for the new Phaidon monograph about them, Clos” carves out a private sleeping area due out in the spring (the previous one dates from 2003). “The public for people who live and work in the same perception is that they fight all the time,” she laughs. “I’ve seen them open-plan space. annoyed by one another, but I’ve never seen any fighting.” Growing up in Brittany, their age difference was too great for them to share friends or even go to the same schools together. They both started drawing as children, and their parents—neither of whom came from an arts background—were perceptive enough to enroll them in a Wednesday class at the local art academy. Ronan wasn’t academically inclined, so he went to a high school that emphasized applied arts. “I had always hated school, but there I found the jumping-off point for a passion that never ended,” he recalls. After graduation he moved to Paris and enrolled at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs. Erwan, an excellent student, received his baccalaureate in science, then followed his brother to Paris to study fine arts. When Ronan started working, his younger brother helped out, and their transition to partnership sometime in 1999 came so naturally that neither one can recall the moment they became a design team. As Erwan describes it, “Before that, we lived together and did stuff together. Then later, there was a moment when we began creating a common body of work. It is fundamentally different and has linked us in a very particular way. We are interdependent, which is great and at the same time uncomfortable, psychologically speaking. Because the time comes when you ask yourself about genetics, stuff like that. You wonder, ‘Am I worth anything alone?’” Ronan had more of a chance to find “That we agree, that’s the major that out, given that he started out on principle of our work. We want to his own and quickly drew attention in his field. At the 1997 Salon du Meuble find an ideal solution together, not in Paris, he showed his “Disintegrated compromise with one another.” Kitchen,” a basic wood and aluminum frame that could be customized by adding drawers, shelves and other elements. It caught the eye of Giulio Cappellini, whose eponymous design company was one of the most influential players of the late 20th century. “I fell in love with that beautiful product,” recalls Cappellini in his rich Italian accent. “I told the people at the fair that I wanted to meet the designer. Someone said, ‘Yes, he’s here, we will call him.’ I waited five minutes, 10 minutes, and nobody appeared. Finally I asked again, and was told he was out back because when he found out that Giulio Cappellini wanted to speak with him, he got very nervous. So I went to see him, and there he was in the back of the booth, smoking.” When asked for his version of the story, Ronan doesn’t remember hiding—though he blushingly admits it could have happened—but he does remember that a journalist who was with Cappellini told him his life had just changed. “It was the type of comment that sounds ridiculous but actually was true,” he remarks. Being part of Cappellini, he says, was the equivalent of playing for a major soccer team and propelled him to a whole new level. RIGHT, Below and Bottom:

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Clouds partition 2008, Kvadrat The sky’s the limit when it comes to combining the components of the “Cloud” system, which can be used as a room divider, wall hanging or something entirely different, depending on the consumer. Shown here with the brothers’ “Box” (2004) from Vitra and “Aio” coffeepot (2000) from Habitat.


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Facett 2005, Ligne Roset An unassembled “Facett” chair hangs over a railing in the Bouroullecs’ studio like a gigantic animal hide. Origami was one of the inspirations for this collection.

s that unconventional kitchen

illustrated, the Bouroullecs introduced a brand-new idea of design. They were looking not simply to make better-looking chairs but entirely new categories of furniture. Influenced by no one, they began with a fresh slate, ultimately modifying the way people live and work. “We really started out just the two of us. So we are, in a way, selftaught,” says Erwan. “Since we tinker around ourselves, we find our own solutions, trying to learn as much as possible in the process. We are always trying out an idea, revisiting it, building and rebuilding prototypes. It’s an extremely rigorous approach mixed with a certain inexperience. I think it is that combination that led us to the major discoveries in our work, like partitioning space.” Early on they were asked to create the design for an exhibition, and they set out to do the simplest project possible: something with standard parts, easy to assemble and adaptable. They laser-cut elements out of polystyrene, creating forms that could be infinitely repeated and stacked to fit any interior. Afterwards, Cappellini marketed them as shelving components called “Brick.” The brothers would return to this concept again and again—massproduced, three-dimensional components that could be assembled according to the user’s whim. “Algues,” for instance, consists of plastic elements that snap together into textured partitions resembling seaweed. Vitra has sold 4 million units since launching production in 2004. In 2000, the brothers were invited to enter a competition to design the interior of Issey Miyake’s new A-POC boutique in the Marais. The Japanese clothing designer selected their application, then gave them three weeks to come up with a project and present it to him in Tokyo. Ronan had to be in Milan for a furniture fair, so Erwan went to see Miyake alone. “I had never been to Japan, had never made a long plane trip like that,” recalls Erwan. “I presented the project to Mr. Miyake. He said ‘Yes, that’s good.’ But he must have seen me as so young. I wasn’t even sure who he was. Well, I knew he was important, but not much more.” Contacted in Tokyo, Miyake explains that he chose the young designers because of a simple white bud vase they had created. “I recognized the values that have always guided me: purity, essentiality, innovation,” he responds. “But the Bouroullec brothers are also about experimentation, equilibrium, the work of the human hand disappearing behind the obviousness of a creation.”

The Bouroullecs introduced a brand-new idea of design. They were looking not simply to make betterlooking chairs but entirely new categories of furniture. Just as construction on the Paris store was about to start, Miyake came to town and stopped by the site. As Erwan tells it, “He came with 30 other people, but he had completely forgotten what the project looked like. He saw the prototype of our design elements and said, ‘You’re not going to put this everywhere?’ Then he saw a bit of old tile on the floor and said, ‘I hope you’re keeping that tile, it’s beautiful. And we need a hole to let light into the basement.’ In front of everyone I answered ‘No, Mr. Miyake, it’s not possible what you’re saying. The project isn’t that, you’re wrong.’ My brother was kicking me, trying to shut me up, and Mr. Miyake said, ‘This store is not yours, it’s mine.’ And he left, bam.” A few hours later and more refreshed after his long flight, Miyake called them into his office and reiterated his approval of their project. The brothers’ stubborn belief in their ideas and their resistance to Fran c e • FA LL 2 0 1 1


this page:

Kvadrat showroom 2006 The airy showroom for Kvadrat in Stockholm features the brothers’ “North Tiles” modular wall system. The scalelike tiles fold together, making it easy to reconfigure the space as necessary.

Opposite, top to bottom:

Alcove loveseat 2007, Vitra The brothers’ fascination with enclosed spaces is reflected in their “Alcove” collection of chairs and sofas; high backs and sides create an intimate nest. Pebbles 2008, Tectona Designed for outdoors, the concave disks comprising the woven-resin “Pebble” collection blend naturally into the landscape.

compromise served them then, Money doesn’t drive them. and it has done so ever since. Last year they spent much of their Similar to Miyake’s A-POC time developing a small wooden collection, where the wearer cuts tubes of cloth to fit her chair for a family-owned company body, the Bouroullecs’ furniture that specializes in high-quality can often be customized by the craftsmanship. user. Their “Zip” carpet has different colored strips that can be fastened in any sequence, their “Spring Chair” has an adjustable headrest like a car’s, and their was different from anything on the market. They were already “Joyn” office system allows for a myriad of workplace configura- thinking in terms of ‘architecturing’ interiors with creations like little tions. “Lianes,” one of their more recent creations for the Galerie houses.” Their first exhibition for the gallery, in 2001, included “CaKreo, is a lighting system that lets the user slide spotlights vertically bane,” wool-covered strips woven together to resemble an open hut or horizontally along leather-sheathed cords. (The Italian lighting large enough to shelter a chair and a sofa, and “Parasol Lumineux,” an oversized square lamp that looks like a beach umbrella. Many of company Flos is now producing an industrial version.) The brothers started collaborating with Kreo, Didier and these designs seem less revolutionary today than when the Bouroullecs Clémence Krzentowski’s gallery devoted to design exploration, soon created them, simply because they’ve since been so widely emulated. In 2002, the gallery produced the limited-edition “Lit Clos,” a after it opened in 1999. It offered the perfect playground, allowing them to design without industrial constraints. “Everything they do is semi-enclosed bed raised on four legs like a tree house. It is one new,” says Didier Krzentowski. “From the beginning, their signature of several creations that obliquely reference their childhood in 36

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Brittany—the traditional Breton bed is a raised wooden box. Made of painted plywood, steel and aluminum, it can be put together and taken apart as easily as IKEA furniture. But the similarity ends there: In 2006, a “Lit Clos” sold at auction in New York for $96,000. h e d u o w o r k s w i th a ha n d f u l o f

companies and turns down many others. Their freedom is non-negotiable; they take their time and do only what they want. One reason they can stay independent is that they have a small atelier with no more than seven employees. Another is that they generally refuse interior decoration projects. Instead they create objects that generate a constant stream of income through royalties. But money doesn’t drive them. Last year they chose to spend much of their time developing a small wooden chair, “Osso,” for Mattiazzi, a family-owned Italian company that specializes in high-quality craftsmanship. “Financially this probably wasn’t the most intelligent choice, but being a small operation, we have the flexibility to tackle projects that interest us, and to do it in an obsessive way,” says Ronan. “Many designers have a Coca-Cola policy. The Bouroullecs are more Dom Pérignon or Krug.” So says Michel Roset, co-owner of Ligne Roset, a family-run multinational and the only French company the brothers currently count among their clients. This fall, Roset’s company is releasing “Ploum,” a quilted settee that took more than a year of research. The idea for it occurred one day when Roset and the brothers were talking about the “Togo” sofa by Michel Ducaroy, a company bestseller for the past 30 years. “They decided they’d like to make the equivalent of ‘Togo’ for the 21st century,” recalls Roset. One of Togo’s most attractive features is its extreme comfort, so the Bouroullecs knew they would have to make a couch you would never want to climb out of. The cover is a single piece of fabric— thick, quilted and elastic in two directions. The foam underneath is remarkably soft yet resilient, springing back when you stand up. Together they form a complicated sandwich nearly a foot thick. “When you sit on the couch, you’re really in a kind of nest,” says Roset. Because it’s one piece, the couch moves with you whenever you change position. Aesthetically, the brothers compare it to a piece of ripe fruit, and indeed the red one looks like an overgrown strawberry. Earlier this year, “Ploum” won a red dot award, an honor reserved for “the best of the best” in product design. The last time they received this prestigious award was in 2008, for “Worknest,” an ingenious office chair for Vitra. The Swiss brand is their most important industrial collaborator, the rare company that encourages innovation without imposing briefs or deadlines. Vitra’s CEO, Rolf Fehlbaum, caught wind of “Disintegrated Kitchen” in the late 1990s and subsequently hired the brothers to design an office system, something they had never done before. They experimented for a good two years before releasing “Joyn” in 2002. At the heart of “Joyn” is a communal table, much like a farm table. It’s a blank slate where each individual in the group can customize his space with

dividers, pencil holders, a tray for coffee and so on. “Joyn” sold extremely well and led to “Alcove” in 2007, a sofa with an extra-high back and sides. While “Joyn” permitted an office full of people to work together without getting on each other’s nerves, “Alcove” gave them a place to retreat to when they needed to be alone. According to Anniina Koivu, the one-time journalist who now works as PR Director for Vitra, “This idea of creating a room-withina-room with a sofa, that was a huge innovation in the market. Of course now we see many similar sofas and boxes and lounges and islands; they’ve become rather common. But it was ‘Alcove’ that triggered that.” The piece has become one of the brothers’ all-time best-sellers. Even Erwan, who (like his brother) lives with little of his own furniture, has an “Alcove” sofa at home. Their next important undertaking will be at the Château de Versailles, where they recently won a competition to design lighting for the Escalier Gabriel, a staircase whose construction was interrupted in the 18th century and completed in 1985. Their first sketches are due this fall. But this project poses a whole new set of challenges for them. As Erwan explains, “We like the idea that design is something that’s not anchored somewhere, that it can go anywhere, that you don’t know what it will become. That gives us the freedom to fantasize and experiment. But Versailles …that’s something else. Versailles is going to be around for a long time.” f And so, of course, will they. “Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Bivouac” runs from October 7, 2011, through July 30, 2012, at the Centre Pompidou-Metz, 1 parvis des Droits-de-l’Homme, Metz. Tel. 33/3-87-15-39-39; An iPad app to accompany the exhibition is in the works; possible successive venues are currently being discussed. Fran c e • FA LL 2 0 1 1


Power Decorating

The Prime Minister’s office at the Hôtel Matignon showcases French furnishings from several centuries. 38

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When it comes to interior decorating, the Mobilier National is in a class of its own—who else can claim clients ranging from Louis XIV to Nicolas Sarkozy? This fall, two exhibitions will give the public an opportunity to admire some of the museum-quality pieces it has dispatched to palaces, ministries and embassies. By Roland Flamini

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Ab o ve : Charles Le Brun, first

Jean Manuel Guérard earns his living taking apart antique

painter to Louis XIV, presided over the many workshops that turned out furnishings for royal residences. R ig h t: Antique tapestries and carpets provide a dramatic backdrop to contemporary furniture at the French Ambassador’s Residence in Stockholm.

chairs, repairing the ravages of time, then putting them back together. Irène Chaillot is a weaver; she has an October deadline to finish an 11 by 6-foot tapestry that she started in January 2009. Julienne Sang bends over a 30-foot-long Empire carpet from the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, replacing the faded patches stitch by stitch—a museums typically stretch cords across their Louis XVI chairs to prevent visitors from sitting on them, the Mobilier’s furniture is task she and her colleagues expect will take at least four years. All three are among the nearly 400 employees of the Mobilier generally intended for regular use. Its chairs are seats for the seats National, the French government’s treasure house of furniture and of power; important documents of state are piled on brass-encrusted furnishings in Paris. Its main task, says administrator general Bernard desks perhaps once used by Colbert or Talleyrand. Magnificent decoSchotter, is “to furnish the official buildings of the Republic. This rative clocks that survived the turmoil of the Revolution now mark in turn implies conservation, which includes storing items as well as the passage of time in foreign capitals. restoring them in our seven workshops or under our supervision.” “Of course, we also have a lot of pieces by contemporary artists, What Schotter means by official buildings are some 600 permanent architects and designers,” adds Schotter. “The Mobilier National has and temporary locations ranging from the Elysée Palace and govern- a tradition of commissioning works from the leading talents of the ment ministries to France’s overseas network of embassies and major day.” This state patronage has resulted in a collection that is a stunconsulates. But the department’s presence extends to wherever a presi- ning celebration of French creativity and craftsmanship through the dent or minister needs a seat—such as providing the presidential view- ages, from Louis XIV to modern times. ing stand for the Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Elysées. This fall, the public will have an unprecedented opportunity to The sheer extent of the operation is mind-boggling. At any given see some of the most outstanding pieces, even without the benefit time, as much as half of this tentacular institution’s formidable of an invitation to the Presidential Palace or an ambassador’s resicollection of 80,000 superbly crafted chairs, fauteuils, candelabra, dence. In September, the Château de Versailles inaugurates a twoclocks and tapestries is spread around the globe on permanent loan. part exhibition featuring more than a hundred objects belonging to Much of the other half is either in storage or being restored. The the Mobilier National and representing four centuries of furniture French arts and culture magazine L’œil aptly calls it “the Repub- history. Then in October, the Mobilier National will fill its two exlic’s Aladdin’s cave.” One small example: Objects on loan used to hibition venues—the Galerie des Gobelins in Paris and the Galerie include elaborately upholstered fire screens, but with the advent of nationale de la Tapisserie in Beauvais—with furnishings it recently central heating, most of these elegant pare-feux have been retired. commissioned from renowned artists as well as rare antiques taken They are now stored in endless rows, covered in protective plastic. out of storage for the occasion (see sidebars). “We’re not a museum, but we have a museum-quality collection,” says Schotter. “Some of the furniNearly half of the Mobilier National’s ture we install in government ofcollection of furnishings is fices once belonged to the royalty spread around the globe on permanent loan. and rulers of France.” And whereas

80,000 superbly crafted


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at a Glance

The Mobilier National The Mobilier National et des Manufactures nationales des Gobelins, de Beauvais et de la Savonnerie was established in 2003 as a department of the Culture Ministry. It is composed of a number of somewhat autonomous parts. Here is a brief overview:

The Mobilier National

bernard Schotter’s full title is

administrative director of the Mobilier National et des Manufactures nationales des Gobelins, de Beauvais et de la Savonnerie, a department created in 2003 as part of the Ministry of Culture. As the unwieldy name suggests, it is a mosaic of national treasures that includes the Mobilier National, the Gobelins tapestry manufactory, the Beauvais tapestry manufactory, the Savonnerie carpet manufactory and the national lace workshops. Each has its distinct history, but the storylines often overlap. It can be said that the tale began in 1447, when Jehan Gobelin, a dyer from Reims, set up shop on the banks of the Bièvre River in eastern Paris, now part of the 13th arrondissement. The enterprise flourished, and Gobelin’s descendants acquired extensive land holdings in the area. Two centuries later, the family was no longer among the local craftsmen, but their name remained attached to buildings in the vicinity. It was here that Henry IV, in an effort to discourage foreign imports, installed his royal tapestry manufactory, which simply took the Gobelins name. Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV’s energetic finance minister, bought the property for the King in 1662 with the idea of setting up various workshops on the site. He founded the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne, whose primary task was to reflect the glory and prestige of the powerful Sun King, marshalling the talents of weavers, painters, engravers, silversmiths, cabinetmakers and other artisans to make furnishings for the royal palaces that would surpass those made anywhere else. Presiding over it all was Charles Le Brun, first painter


The precursor to this institution was the Ostel le Roy, which kept inventories of royal furnishings and moved them whenever the king traveled to a different château. In 1663, Louis XIV and Colbert mandated the creation of the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne, later renamed the Mobilier Impérial, then the Mobilier National. From the beginning, its mission has been to furnish the state’s official buildings through commissions and acquisitions. In 1937, it moved to its current location on the site of the former Gobelins gardens, and in 1959, became part of the Ministry of Culture. It has seven restoration workshops, a dyeing workshop and, since 1964, a contemporary furniture workshop (ARC).

The Manufacture des Gobelins Since its creation by Henri IV, the Gobelins has remained at its original location in eastern Paris. Charles Le Brun took over its direction in 1662, ushering in a golden age that would last 30 years—during that time, it produced 775 tapestries for the crown. In 1937, it became part of the Mobilier National. Using the high-warp technique, 30 weavers work at 15 looms, producing about six or seven tapestries per year.

The Manufacture de Beauvais Unlike the Gobelins, the Beauvais Manufactory, founded in 1664, was originally a commercial enterprise, although state commissions kept it afloat. During the 19th century, it specialized in tapestries used to upholster seating; today, it makes mostly wall hangings. Since 1935, it has been under the aegis of the Mobilier National. Using the low-warp technique, 30 weavers work at 22 looms in

Paris and Beauvais, turning out about six tapestries each year.

The Manufacture de la Savonnerie In an effort to discourage imports, Henri IV introduced “Levantine style” knotted-pile carpet making. In 1663, the manufactory, located in an old soapmaking factory in Paris’s Chaillot neighborhood, was put under the direction of Charles Le Brun and gained considerable renown. Its carpets became coveted diplomatic gifts, and in 1825, it moved to the Gobelins complex. In addition to its Paris workshop, it has another in Lodève in LanguedocRoussillon, set up to provide employment for French women living in North Africa who returned to France after Algerian independence in 1962. In 1965, it became part of the Mobilier National. The Savonnerie’s eight looms produce three to four carpets each year.

The Lace Workshops L’Atelier Conservatoire de Dentelle d’Alençon

This workshop is a direct descendant of the Manufacture royale de point de France founded by Colbert in 1665 in an effort to slow imports from Venice. Established in 1976, it continues the work of Alençon’s Lace School, which closed that year. Its eight lacemakers still use point de France stitching to make reproductions and original pieces by contemporary artists. L’Atelier Conservatoire de Dentelle du Puy Known

for lacemaking since the 16th century, Le Puy experienced its heyday in the 19th century, when it was home to 70,000 artisans who made bobbin lace. Created in 1976, the workshop employs seven lacemakers who produce traditional as well as avant-garde designs.

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“Some of the furniture we install

in government offices once belonged to the royalty and rulers of France.”

L ef t: Thousands of pieces of furniture fill the Mobilier National’s vast storage rooms. T op and a b o ve : A worker restoring an antique tapestry; skeins of wool dyed on the premises for use in repairs. R ig h t: The furniture workshop takes in worn chairs, sofas and other pieces from ministries and embassies around the world, restoring them to their former glory before dispatching them for another tour of duty.

to the king, who gave the age its style. The next year, the Savonnerie carpet manufactory, founded by Henri IV and housed in an old soapmaking factory, also came under Le Brun’s control. With the rise of Napoleon I, the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne became the Mobilier Impérial and—at the Emperor’s insistence— avidly commissioned Empire-style furniture. The restored monarchy and the florid Second Empire added their own distinctive designs. In due course, the republican era gave birth to the Mobilier National, which for a long time tended to be more backward-looking than innovative. Art Nouveau and Art Deco, for example, are sparsely represented in the collection. In 1935, the Mobilier National moved into a large new concrete building across from the historic Manufacture des Gobelins on the winding rue Berbier-du-Mets, formerly the Bièvre River (the waterway had been covered over some years earlier). That same year, it assumed control of the Beauvais tapestry manufactory, founded in 1664. About that same time, the Gobelins and Savonnerie manufactories began commissioning designs from the 20th century’s most prominent artists. Marc Chagall, Jean Arp, Victor Vasarely, Joan Miró, 42

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Sonia Delaunay, Alexander Calder and Serge Poliakoff were among those asked to make cartoons for vibrant tapestries and carpets. Today nearly all the tapestries and carpets woven by the Gobelins, Beauvais and Savonnerie manufactories are based on contemporary designs. Among the most recent is a tapestry by James Brown, an American artist who lived for many years in France and now resides in Oaxaca. His “Untitled,” an abstract work measuring 11 by 15 feet, will soon hang in the French Embassy in Washington, DC. Artists, says Schotter, are fascinated by tapestry making. “It’s not an art of replication but the transition from one language (the model or design) to another (the tapestry), with much of the creativity coming from the talent of the weaver,” he says. Going from the model, “you change format, you change material. It’s a long process, not like painting—more like pregnancy.” The Mobilier National’s furniture making finally began to catch up with its tapestries and carpets in the 1960s, thanks to writer André Malraux, who as minister of culture decided to add an experimental and creative workshop, the Atelier de Recherche et de Création, or ARC. To date, more than 500 designs have been produced, each an exploration of new techniques and materials. One of the earliest collaborations was with Pierre Paulin, who was asked to create furnishings for the Elysée Palace, then occupied by Georges Pompidou

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Décors & Installations A provocative perspective on decorative arts


ou don’t typically expect an 18th-

century tapestry by François Boucher to show up in the same exhibition as a work by Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), famous for her giant spindly spider sculptures. But that’s exactly what you’ll find at “Décor & Installations,” the Mobilier National exhibition that opens this October at two venues, the Galerie des Gobelins in Paris and the Galerie nationale de la Tapisserie in Beauvais.


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Along with Gobelins and Beauvais tapestries, visitors will discover Savonnerie carpets, lace from the workshops of Le Puy and Alençon, and upholstered pieces from the Mobilier National—all based on designs created by contemporary artists and made using centuries-old techniques. Bourgeois is represented by her “Sainte Sébastienne” tapestry (2006), a headless naked woman with arrows pointing to her accentuated curves. She once said that the

self-portrait represented “what one feels when one is attacked, anxious, frightened.” The other 30 participating artists hail from various disciplines—painting, video arts, photography, sculpture. All are prominent figures on the French art scene, and many have earned international renown. Some of the works on display are already doing duty as furnishings in government offices or embassies; others, such as François

Cl o ckwise from l e f t :

“Soleil noir,” a trompe-l'oeil carpet by Claude Lévêque (Savonnerie, 2007); a detail from “Sans titre,” a tapestry by Gérard Garouste (Gobelins, 1997-2003); “High rise,” a tapestry by Shirley Jaffe (Gobelins, 2003-2006); “L’Embellie,” a tapestry by Paul-Armand Gette (Gobelins, 2008); “Fauteuil de Jour,” upholstery fabric by Martine Aballéa (Beauvais, 2004); “Fenêtre sur cour” room dividers designed for the exhibition by Frédéric Ruyant (Beauvais, 2011).

Rouan’s video projections on the ceiling of the Galerie des Gobelins, were created especially for this event. But the show’s ambitions go beyond merely showcasing the Mobilier National’s recent commissions. As the title indicates, it aims to explore the relationship between the “décors” of decorative arts and the “installations” of contemporary art, blurring the line between the two. To this end, the curator displays the commissioned pieces

alongside other creations by these artists as well as objects selected from the Mobilier National’s historical collection. They are clustered in a series of 20 groupings, creating provocative takes on the period room. The more than 120 pieces on view are linked by Frédéric Ruyant’s exhibition design, which uses lengths of transparent fabric both to lead visitors from one section to another and to divide the space. His choice of material—textiles

imprinted with an abstract knitting pattern—is a nod to the weavers and embroiderers who are the pride of the Mobilier National as well as to the different disciplines and time periods knit together in this unique exhibition. “Décor & Installations” runs from Oct. 18, 2011, through April 15, 2012, at the Galerie des Gobelins in Paris and the Galerie nationale de la Tapisserie in Beauvais.

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L EFT : The Gobelins was originally a dyeworks; that activity continues to this day, with craftsmen producing new hues to fulfill each artist’s vision. Below and bottom: Color samples for a tapestry and the tools used by 21st-century weavers. R ig h t: The “Salon Agam,” an installation commissioned in 1974 by President Pompidou for the Elysée Palace. Created by Israeli artist Yaacov Agam, the walls are “polymorphic paintings,” the ceiling consists of translucent panels and the floor is covered with a Gobelins tapestry made with 180 different colors. In the center is “Le Triangle Volant,” a stainless-steel sculpture. The installation now belongs to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.

Today nearly all the tapestries and carpets woven by the Gobelins, Beauvais and Savonnerie manufactories are based on contemporary designs. (Ligne Roset recently began re-issuing several of these famous pieces). “Paulin continued to collaborate with us until a few months before his death in 2009,” says Schotter. “It was a wonderful relationship.” Other partnerships have involved Christophe Pillet, who in 1999 was asked to come up with new drawing-room furniture for the embassy in Hanoi, and architect-designer Sylvain Dubuisson, who in the 1990s designed a desk for Jack Lang, then minister of culture. Such famous names as Andrée Putman, sculptor César, set designer Richard Peduzzi, architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte and Philippe Starck have also enriched a collection that began with pieces by the likes of André-Charles Boulle. Some designers, such as Frédéric Ruyant, have worked with several of the Mobilier National’s workshops. Ruyant, who has produced furniture, a carpet and most recently the woven room dividers for the upcoming “Décors & Installations” show, says that it is an experience unlike any other. “These commissions are for one-of-akind pieces, and you have the luxury of time,” he says. “The carpet I designed for the Savonnerie workshop took five years to weave; the 46

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craftsmanship that went into it was amazing, and the quality is outstanding.” Collaborations with the Mobilier National are considered very prestigious and are only by invitation. Once invited, the designer submits a project that must be vetted by a board. “What is so wonderful is that you have the time to research, to innovate,” says Ruyant. “And the artisans are very open to new ideas. The partitions for the ‘Décors & Installations’ exhibit, for example, are woven using metal thread for the warp instead of cotton or linen. They had never done that before.” The Mobilier National also acts as interior designer, usually through outside contractors. The institution deals with locations, not people. Very senior ministers and officials may have input into how their respective offices and reception areas are furnished and decorated, but for everyone else, it’s “you get what you get.” Newly appointed ambassadors move into offices where for decades only minor

The Appartement de la Dauphine at Versailles, revisited by Jacques Garcia and the Mobilier National’s ARC.

Marie Antoinette meeTs Andrée putman Versailles showcases "contemporary furnishings" from the past four centuries


hat would

Versailles interiors look like today if the palace were still the seat of power? The fantasy is evoked this fall in the apartments of the Dauphin and the Dauphine, where furnishings by today’s top designers are set amid the palace’s period décors—also created by the leading designers of the day. The modern furniture—much of it crafted for President Pompidou, President Mitterrand and other leaders—was commissioned by the Mobilier National’s Atelier de


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Recherche et de Création (ARC). The selection includes pieces by noted designers Sylvain Dubuisson, Pierre Paulin, Andrée Putman, Claudio Parmiggiani and others as well as contemporary tapestries and carpets produced by the Gobelins and Savonnerie manufactories. Interior designer Jacques Garcia, who knows something about mixing the past and present, masterminded the exhibition, artfully arranging the ARC furnishings within the rocaille-style décor that was the ultimate in chic when the heir to the French throne and his wife

last inhabited these rooms. A second part of the exhibition takes place in the château’s Grands Appartements and the Appartement de Madame de Maintenon. For years, the Mobilier National has been tracking down, restoring and lending to Versailles furniture, carpets and other objects taken and sold during the French Revolution (the palace was left virtually empty) as well as antiques that are very similar to those originally found in the château. The exhibition celebrates this collaboration, displaying more than a hundred pieces now on

loan from the Mobilier National. Among the most recent additions are a four-panel screen made by Georges Jacob in 1783 for Marie Antoinette’s Grand Cabinet Intérieur, a carpet delivered to the Dauphine’s apartment in 1757 and a porphyry vase that once belonged to Madame du Barry. “Le château de Versailles raconte le Mobilier national, quatre siècles de création” runs from September 20 through December 11, 2011, at the Château de Versailles. and

details have changed, with a team of inspectors checking the condition and location of the furniture every five years. According to Edith Dauxerre, technical adviser to the administrator general, “the current trend is often a mix of antique and contemporary items, which need to be married with taste and discernment.” The office of the Minister of Culture exemplifies this trend: Eighteenth-century gilded paneling and crystal chandeliers are a backdrop to Salomé de Fontainieus’s sleek powder-gray metal and wood desk, chairs and coffee table, added in 2007. regardless of how cutting-

edge the designs may be, many of the techniques used to produce them remain traditional—some are identical to those used in Louis XIV’s day. The Mobilier National preserves this rare savoirfaire through training programs that teach young students art history and drawing as well as how to make and restore furnishings. These skills are on full display in the Gobelins Manufactory, where artisans sit behind 15 massive wooden looms. Irène Chaillot is working on a tapestry for the Cour des Comptes (Court of Audit); designed by Vincent Bioulès, it is a collage of symbols of the Republic, balance sheets and other documents. Although it appears to be predominantly red, white, blue and gold, Chaillot explains that the different tones actually require nearly 150 colors of yarn (the establishment makes its own tints and dyes its own wool). In front of Chaillot is a mirror reflecting an enlargement of the artist’s cartoon, which is mounted on the wall behind her. She works on the design inch by patient inch, deftly handling the 300 wooden bobbins by hand, much as tapestry makers did in the Middle Ages. Production is slow, averaging only 20 square feet per weaver annually, but she and her colleagues take pride in the fact that their work is recognized throughout the world as the finest there is. Gobelins tapestries are extremely rare—only six or seven are completed each year. “For the workers and the artist, it’s always a very moving moment when you cut the threads,” says Schotter. The level of mastery required in the Mobilier National’s seven workshops is equally impressive. Here, craftsmen and women repair tapestries, furniture and carpets but also chandeliers, bronzes, decorative fabrics and upholstery. Over the years the Mobilier’s approach to restoration has changed from one of heavy intervention—


for example, using screws to strengthen joints—to a more “historical” approach based on old techniques to preserve the integrity of the piece. “These days, we try to intervene as little as possible,” says one craftsman. Stapling, widely used by furniture restorers, is a no-no (glue is preferred), as is reweaving worn spots on antique tapestries (fragile areas are reinforced with special backing). This past summer, craftsmen were repairing and restoring an upholstered suite from the Empire period consisting of six settees, four armchairs, four chairs and a fire screen. Signed by Desmalter, its famous maker, the set had once belonged to Joachim Murat, whom Napoleon had made king of Naples, and had long been in the French Embassy to the Vatican. One settee had been stripped to the frame. Wooden wedges had been glued in place to reinforce the corners; curved inserts had been fitted to the damaged armrests so that upholstery could be reattached. Later, other specialists would restore the gilding; finally, upholsterers would re-stuff and re-cover the seats with the cleaned, restored material. “Each piece in this set will be treated differently, according to its specific needs,” says Jean Manuel Guérard. “In the past, they might all have been stripped, for example, and simply re-gilded.” The Mobilier National has an annual operating budget of €4 million, with another €250,000 earmarked for acquisitions. Given its ambitious mission, its roster of fewer than 400 specialists seems barely adequate. Senior staffers double as inspectors, visiting embassies overseas, and also teach students. “What unites the men and women here is their love for beautifully executed work. It is a passion,” says Bernard Schotter. “These are not careers you get into by chance. You really need to believe in what you do.” Centuries after Colbert enlisted the country’s best artisans in the service of the king, new generations are still heeding the nation’s call to excellence. This was evident on a sunny afternoon in early July, when a group of exuberant young men and women filed out of the workshops into the avenue des Gobelins. They were students at the Mobilier National celebrating the end of a school year and their new mastery of age-old techniques. Decked out in laurel wreaths and Roman togas improvised from bed sheets, they posed for a group photo outside the gate. As soon as the shutter clicked, these aspiring artisans left the past behind: Almost every one of them began tweeting, texting or f talking on a cell phone.

Renowned designer Pierre Paulin collaborated with the Mobilier National for nearly three decades, until shortly before his death in 2009. r i g ht : His famous “Pumpkin” chair, originally designed for the Elysée Palace, now marketed by Ligne Roset. Far Right: A sketch for a sofa he produced with the Atelier de Recherche et de Création. Fran c e • f all 2 0 1 1


LEFT: Michele De Lucchi’s “Lirico” (2011), Pleyel’s newest designer piano. RIGHT: A recent copy of a gilded 18th-century design originally produced for the 1900 Exposition Universelle.




By Sara Romano

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LEFT: Artist Marco Del Re’s “Cariatide” (2006) is a nod to Pleyel’s Art Deco period. The designs engraved into layers of black lacquer echo the motif he used that same year to decorate the foyer of the newly renovated Salle Pleyel. Right: Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann designed this streamlined Art Deco model for Pleyel, although it wasn’t produced until 1937, four years after Ruhlmann’s death. In 2009, the company brought back the “1937,” available in different finishes (shown here in red lacquer).


Grand pianos tend to look the same

from one living room to the next. They’re typically large, black and austere, often hand-me-downs from parents or grandparents. In an age of synthesizers and electronic keyboards, they evoke a bygone era. Pleyel decided to change all that, dusting off the instrument’s time-honored image and bringing out a line of new-look pianos that couple acoustic excellence with visual pizzazz. During the past decade, the world’s oldest piano maker has enlisted prominent artists and big-name designers—Andrée Putman, Hilton McConnico, Michele De Lucchi—to rethink its instruments. The results are sleek, colorful and indisputably modern. The mastermind of Pleyel’s designer pianos is artistic director Arnaud Marion, a consultant in strategy and crisis management who specializes in the cultural sector. Marion began working with the company in 2002, soon after industrialist Hubert Martigny bought both the Salle Pleyel, Paris’s celebrated concert hall, and the Pleyel piano brand, reuniting the two for the first time in 65 years. According to Marion, Pleyel’s new designer line and custom orders now represent an impressive 70 percent of annual sales (the remainder 52

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derives from sales of classic grand pianos). In all, 25 grand pianos are produced each year with price tags averaging €100,000. Just as fashion houses present haute couture collections to propel sales of their ready-to-wear, Pleyel has invested in a luxury label that seems to have rejuvenated la maison. Marion knew from the start that it would take a bold move to revive the company. “The piano world has changed profoundly during the past 50 years,” he explains. “For a long time, the piano was a bourgeois status symbol. Then during the postwar years, it came to symbolize a family’s cultural and intellectual standing. That was when Japanese manufacturers began crowding the market, producing reliable instruments that offered decent value for the money.” The Koreans and Chinese followed suit. At a time when no European piano maker produces more than 2,000 instruments a year, China’s top manufacturer puts out 150,000. The price differential is staggering: A European piano costs five to 10 times more than a Chinese brand. Pianos “all have the same shape and look more or less the same,” says Marion. “They’re not like cars—a Ferrari and a Toyota may serve the same purpose, but they are miles apart in aesthetics and desirability as well as performance. European pianos may be vastly

of the 20th century, you could not only choose the size of your Pleyel piano but also commission a Louis XVI, Charles X, Directoire or even contemporary finish. At the 1900 Exposition Universelle, Pleyel displayed a model that was a remarkable tangle of sinewy Art Nouveau shapes; it would go on to commission designs from leading Art Deco talents such as René Prou and Süe et Mare. In the 1930s, Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann and other designers made pianos for wealthy individuals or transatlantic cruise liners, giving them revolutionary forms. Taking a page from Pleyel’s illustrious past, Marion commissioned interior architect Thibault Desombre to update the upright; his 2005 “Fidelio” gave that old musical standby coolness creds and earned two major design awards. Artist Marco Del Re—represented by the Galerie Maeght in Paris—signed Pleyel’s first designer grand, dubbed “Erato Humana Est,” in 2006. A limited edition of eight, it has thick layers of bright red lacquer engraved with curvy white designs and an Art Deco odalisque on the lid. Also produced in a limited-edition black version, it sells for €120,000. superior in terms of quality and sound, but they look just like “We took a big risk with that piano,” recalls Marion. “It turned out to be a big success, so we were hugely relieved.” What’s more, “it pianos made anywhere else.” Admittedly, labels such as Steinway, Bechstein and Pleyel still immediately took us beyond the confines of the music world, getting denote excellence, high culture and elite music making, and they us coverage in decorating and lifestyle magazines.” Encouraged by grace the stages of the world’s top concert halls. Yet behind the scenes, that success, Pleyel approached another Maeght artist, Aki Kuroda, they have all been experiencing the worst downturn in their history. who created the colorful “Spacemeeting” model. Another artist commissioned the same year was Jean Cortot, whose Unbeknownst to many, Steinway is now 30 percent owned by the Korean piano maker Samick, which also owns a stake in Bechstein. pianist father had frequently performed at the Salle Pleyel. Cortot brought his trademark mixture of writing and painting to the task, Bösendorfer, meanwhile, has been rescued by Yamaha of Japan. Cost is not the only explanation for the decline in European inscribing the instrument with the names of famous musicians who production. Whereas pianos once provided most of the musical had played at the concert hall. In 2008, Marion began wooing top designers. The first was entertainment in the home, people now have countless electronics to pipe in all the music they could possibly want to hear. “We’re look- Andrée Putman, whose work ranges from New York’s Morgan Hotel ing at an instrument that’s no longer à la mode,” says Marion. “It’s to Christofle silverware to the Lagerfeld and Saint Laurent boutiques. no longer part of trendy interiors, which have evolved considerably. Having initially trained to become a professional pianist, she knew Until fairly recently, well-appointed homes were filled with walnut, the instrument intimately. She came up with “Milky Way” (“Voie mahogany or rosewood furniture. Today, people choose much more Lactée”), giving the elegant black-lacquered grand piano a speckled contemporary decors.” As a result, the market for pianos—be they mother-of-pearl lid and a black-and-white checkered lid prop upright or grand—has shrunk considerably. and music tray. Last year, Pleyel took an even more adventurous turn when it partWhile plotting Pleyel’s comeback, Marion delved into the company’s nered with Hilton McConnico. His “Parallèle” model, with its striped archives and discovered a strong tradition of great design. At the turn brown exterior, acrylic glass legs and bright turquoise interior, looks



Played Pleyel “When I feel out of sorts, I play on an Erard piano, where I easily find a ready-made tone. But when I feel in good form and strong enough to find my own individual sound, then I need a Pleyel piano.”—Frédéric Chopin Of all the composers in the classical-

music pantheon, Chopin is most closely associated with the Pleyel brand. His friendship

with Camille Pleyel began in the fall of 1831, soon after the young Polish composer, still unknown in Paris, alighted in the capital. Chopin gave his first public concert in the Pleyel salon on February 26, 1832. It was a critical success, with Liszt, Mendelssohn and Cherubini all in the audience. The friendship between Camille Pleyel and Chopin grew into a mutually beneficial partnership. When Chopin traveled to London in 1837, it was at Camille’s expense. There, the pianist signed a contract with an English music publisher and played anonymously at the home of a famous piano maker (though his stellar performance gave him away). In 1839, Chopin had a Pleyel upright piano shipped to him on Palma de Mallorca, where he was staying with George Sand. On it he composed the 24 Preludes, Opus 28, which he

dedicated to Camille Pleyel. Chopin sold the French and British rights to Camille in order to fund his stay on the island, though he haggled with the piano maker over price. Their relationship momentarily soured, and Chopin was conspicuously absent from the inauguration of Pleyel’s new premises and concert hall in 1839. Still, the composer remained faithful to Pleyel pianos, and Sand made sure he played on one during their summer stays in the Berry. Between 1841 and 1846, a rented Pleyel piano was dispatched to the maestro every summer. On February 16, 1848, Chopin, weakened by tuberculosis, gave what was to be his last performance at the Pleyel concert hall. Before an elite audience of royals, aristocrats, bankers and businessmen, the Polish virtuoso played a Mozart trio and an extensive selection of his own works. He died the following year. Fran c e • FA LL 2 0 1 1


more like a funky piece of furniture than a musical instrument. The piano maker looked to Italy for its latest recruit: architect Michele De Lucchi. His “Lirico” has a classic black-lacquered case, yet the rest of the instrument—lid prop, music tray, legs—is made of light, natural wood shaped into organic curves. The contrast is indeed lyrical. Of all the designs to date, his has perhaps refashioned the instrument most radically. Along with offering designer pianos, Pleyel now also customizes its classic models to fit any décor. Special orders have included a romantic 18th-century style for a Venetian palace, a Directoire motif for a Russian dacha and a black-and-white cartoon cat pattern (made with a collage technique) for a restaurant in Trouville. The strategy seems to be paying off, bringing in orders from such far-flung markets as Kuwait and Doha as well as Monaco, London and Brussels; in all, foreigners account for 75 percent of sales. So is Pleyel, like some of its competitors, appealing to the blingy, nouveauriche set? “What we do is the very opposite of bling,” says Marion. “In 2008, the French State named us an entreprise du patrimoine vivant. We cannot have a gimmicky approach to what we do.” He points out that the piano sold to the client in Doha is a replica of an instrument made for the 1900 Exposition Universelle, coated in gold leaf and adorned with copies of paintings by Watteau and Poussin. “I want to export le bon goût français,” he says.

That France’s last surviving piano

maker should pay a handful of artists and designers to jazz up its top-of-theline instruments seems surreal. Pleyel, after all, was Chopin’s favorite piano, and the company was not only a pioneer of its industry but also invented the modern concert hall. The founder of the family concern was not French but Austrian. Born in 1757 and a teacher’s son, Ignaz Pleyel was a prodigiously talented musician. With a benefactor’s backing, he trained for five years with Josef Haydn, becoming the composer’s favorite pupil. He then moved to Strasbourg in 1783, became a French citizen and changed his first name to Ignace. By the end of the 18th century, Ignace Pleyel had become one of Europe’s most respected composer-musicians. Those were years of revolution in France, and Pleyel’s talents were at times placed at the service of the governing powers. In one instance, he and Rouget de Lisle, who later wrote “La Marseillaise,” were ordered to compose a song celebrating France’s new constitution. Pleyel wrote the music to “L’Hymne à la Liberté” and conducted it at its premiere in September 1791. Political upheaval soon forced Pleyel to leave for England, where he again met up with his former mentor, Haydn. The two men were each invited to conduct 12 performances of their works, and bookmakers took bets on who would outperform whom. Not only did both come away rich and successful, their friendship remained intact. After returning to France, Pleyel bought a château outside Strasbourg. He was arrested by the new government but managed to save his neck by composing—in less than a week—an eight-hour-long homage to liberty. More revolutionary tunes would follow, keeping the man, his wife and their four children well fed and out of trouble. In 1795, Pleyel set up a music publishing house, and two years later opened his first sheet-music store at 13 rue Neuve des Petits Champs in Paris. There, he sold the music of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven as well as a piano exercise method he co-authored. In 1800, he added a new string to his bow: instrument making. The first Pleyel pianos came out in 1807. From the start, they were among the most well-crafted in the world. But it was a difficult business, and Pleyel required sustained financial support from friends and investors. Finally, in 1824, he retired to his property outside Paris, leaving the company in the hands of his 35-year-old son, Camille, a gifted pianist in his own right. Camille was so talented that Chopin once described him as the only living man who could play Mozart. He, too, was a composer, though with a much smaller repertoire than his father’s. Most of all, he was a talented entrepreneur, and la maison Pleyel would thrive on his watch.


Camille Pleyel was quick to see a synergy between music making

TOP: In 1839, Pleyel moved to new premises on rue de

Rochechouart that included the world’s first venue devoted exclusively to musical performances. ABOVE: The Salle Pleyel, an Art Deco jewel inaugurated in 1927, was entirely renovated in 2006. A Pleyel grand piano holds pride of place center stage. 54

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and piano making, and he made sure that members of Parisian high society were acutely aware of which brand they heard. With time, the greatest composers of the 19th century—Chopin, Liszt, César Franck—performed on Pleyel pianos. In return, he showed a keen interest in their acoustic desires, progressively developing what would become known as the “Pleyel sound,” described as “round, warm and sensual.” In the early 1830s, Camille Pleyel began lending pianos to the

A Conversation with...

Michele De Lucchi

Born in 1950, architect

Michele De Lucchi is among Italy’s leading designers. Early in his career he was a member of the Memphis group, then went on to build an impressive portfolio that includes such eclectic projects as home furnishings, domestic appliances and lighting as well as a power station, a hospice, a factory and the display cases for Berlin’s freshly reopened Neues Museum. Despite his reputation and breadth of experience, he approaches each new task with humility. Asked about his Pleyel project, he responds, “Working on this instrument was like working on a Stradivarius. Che meraviglia! Every designer in the world would appreciate an opportunity of this kind.” De Lucchi spent days and days sketching pianos before he came up with his final concept. “At the beginning, I pictured myself totally revolutionizing the piano, designing a completely new and completely different instrument,” he recalls. “Yet I quickly realized that wasn’t the way to go. Not so much because of the technical difficulty— these days, you can do pretty much anything— but because the image of the piano is so deeply ingrained in our minds that it simply cannot be turned upside down. A piano is a piano.” The challenge, he says, was to “strike a balance between a look that might seem oldfashioned and a look that says something new.” De Lucchi points out that the wood traditionally used to make Pleyel’s soundboards comes from a variety of larch tree found only in the Val di Fiemme region of northern Italy. The trees are chopped down only in November, only during a full moon and only by the handful of people authorized to do it. “There’s a whole ritual underpinning it all,” he says. De Lucchi speaks just as lyrically about his own use of the material. “I am a great lover of wood,” he says. “I use it in objects, furniture and architecture, and I make sculptures out of it. Wood has so much to say.” The architect feels privileged that an object of his making should be put to artistic use. “Art has a great mission,’’ he says. “It allows us to see ordinary, everyday reality with different eyes.”

TOP: Michele De Lucchi produced many sketches before arriving at the final design for his

arresting “Lirico” (2011). The 80-inch baby grand, whose gracefully curved legs suggest easels, was produced by artisans at Pleyel’s factory in Saint-Denis, north of Paris. ABOVE, LEFT TO RIGHT: A craftsman assembles the case; varnish is applied to the distinctive lightwood legs; an expert carefully tunes the instrument. Fran c e • FA LL 2 0 1 1


Above and right:

Hilton McConnico’s collaboration with Pleyel began with his “Parallèle” piano (2010) and extended to a sofa and armchairs. Both incorporate his horizontal stripes of matte and shiny chocolate brown that evoke bars of music.

fashionable salons where music was played. He also set up his own salon in the Pleyel building on Paris’s rue Cadet, which quickly became the place to hear the finest French and foreign virtuosos of the day. His marriage to the talented young pianist Marie Mocke (formerly Berlioz’s fiancée) opened more doors. When the company moved to larger quarters on rue de Rochechouart, Camille Pleyel designed the new premises to accommodate manufacturing, offices, a showroom and a concert hall—the first public venue in the world devoted entirely to musical performances. Camille’s knack for keeping up with changes in taste, style and technology led his company to win numerous awards and become King Louis Philippe’s supplier. Pleyel’s reputation for excellence spread well beyond France, earning him clients throughout the world. He was even known to adapt instruments to the climatic conditions of their destination. By 1834, he was producing 1,000 pianos annually. His relentless efforts to constantly improve kept Pleyel at the top of a growing list of competitors (there were 30 piano manufacturers in France in 1820 and 200 in 1850). Auguste Wolff, who became Camille Pleyel’s associate in 1853, continued to burnish the brand, incorporating the latest technologies and producing elegant designs. Wolff was also instrumental in the 1865 opening of Pleyel’s Manufacture de Saint-Denis, an expansive 600,000-square-foot space north of Paris. The state-of-the-art plant was further modernized under Wolff’s son-in-law, Gustave Lyon, who in 1927 inaugurated the Salle 56

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Pleyel, a handsome Art Deco edifice on the rue du Faubourg SaintHonoré where generations of stars—from Igor Stravinsky and Maurice Ravel to Leonard Bernstein and Ella Fitzgerald—would perform. Pleyel was at the height of its glory, but like countless other companies was soon brought to its knees by the Depression. In 1933, the piano maker declared bankruptcy, and two years later, it was split off from the concert hall. The manufacturer limped through the remainder of the 20th century with various owners and partnerships, but it never regained its former prestige or prosperity. The new millennium brought new opportunity in the form of Hubert Martigny, a music enthusiast and businessman who had bought the run-down Salle Pleyel in 1998. He decided to pump €30 million into renovations, but the Italian investors who owned the rights to the Pleyel name would not allow him to call the concert hall the Salle Pleyel unless he purchased the brand name. Martigny did so, buying their piano manufacturing plant in Alès and later transferring production of Pleyel instruments to a new plant in Saint-Denis, Pleyel’s historic home. The premises are small—a far cry from the sprawling factory that once kept 200 workers busy—but the company believes it can survive and hopefully thrive in its new incarnation as a producer of high-end instruments. It recently expanded its luxury vocation by branching into furniture making, taking advantage of the talents of its 15 craftspeople, some of whom have attended the prestigious Ecole Boulle, to produce contemporary designs. Already, Pleyel has turned out sleek sofas and chairs by Hilton McConnico and clever display cabinets by Michele De Lucchi, all spinoffs of their piano designs. These pieces and various Pleyel models can be seen in the company’s elegant showroom, designed by Jacques Garcia and housed in the renovated Salle Pleyel. “Design is a way for us not only to showcase our savoir faire, but also to ensure the longevity of the manufacture, so it doesn’t rely solely on the market for pianos,” say Arnaud Marion. Meanwhile, like Camille Pleyel before him, Marion continues to seek out valuable public exposure for his brand. In 2009, singer Christophe had a Pleyel piano wheeled onstage for his comeback concert at the Olympia in Paris, and this year, Julie Depardieu posed with one in the pages of Paris Match. The new-look piano has definitely put Pleyel back on the map. Given the emotional attachment that so many musicians have to this historic brand, there is fervent hope that it will continue to thrive. f


France Magazine and the French-American Cultural Foundation are honored to receive the support of these distinguished foundations.

the florence gould foundation is a major contributor to arts programming with a French focus. Florence Gould, in whose name the Foundation was established, was born to French parents and raised in San Francisco. Throughout her lifetime, she cherished the arts, beauty and letters; the Foundation continues her legacy of French-American friendship and exchange. The Florence Gould Foundation has supported exhibitions, programs and performances at many arts institutions,

The Annenberg Foundation is a longtime supporter of L’Académie Américaine de Danse de Paris, which trains students from around the world.

including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the New York City Ballet. It takes special pride, however, in smaller projects such as helping the town of Vendôme repair its statue of Rochambeau and Poillé-sur-Vègre restore its church belfry in honor of the town’s role in harboring a downed American pilot during World War II. The Gould Foundation helped the residents of Poillé-sur-Vègre restore their church tower in 2004 in honor of the town’s role in rescuing a U.S. pilot during WWII.

the annenberg foundation is a private family foundation that supports nonprofit organizations in the United States and globally. Its mission is to advance the public well-being through improved communication; as the principal means of achieving this goal, it encourages the development of more effective ways to share ideas and knowledge. Since 1989, it has generously funded programs in education and youth development; arts, culture and humanities; civic and community life; health and human services; animal services and the environment. The Foundation contributes to numerous programs that foster cultural exchange between the United States and France. Among its French projects, the Annenberg Foundation provides funding

to the American Friends of the Louvre for the development of educational tools at the museum and supports L’Académie Américaine de Danse de Paris, which offers American-style dance instruction to students from around the world. In the humanitarian sector, the Foundation funds a wide range of programs including clean water efforts in Africa by CARE France, Médecins du Monde’s youth healthcare projects in Peru, L’Envol pour les enfants européens and the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris. The Foundation continues to be a vital presence abroad and remains among the most generous American contributors to France.

Calendrier • Clockwise from top left, a PAD preview: Alberto Magnelli’s “The Two Swimmers”

(1924), Charlotte Perriand’s asymmetrical “Cloud” bookshelves (c. 1956) and Guy de Rougemont’s sculptural “Archipelago” table (2011).

October-December 2011

NOTA BENE Launched in 1997 by French art dealers Patrick Perrin and Stéphane Custot, Paris’s annual P avillon des A rts & du D esign , or PAD, has become one of the leading international fairs of its kind. Its reputation resides in its chic, intimate atmosphere—more salon than expo—and its carefully vetted coterie of exhibitors, who present outstanding pieces by the likes of Charlotte Perriand and Piero Fornasetti. In 2007, PAD both refined its focus to the period 58

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from 1860 to today and rolled out a London edition said by the International Herald Tribune to be “shaping up as the most intelligently conceived selling show in the Western world.” This fall, PAD hops the pond. The 49 exhibitors at the inaugural Pavilion of Art & Design New York will include the city’s own Cristina Grajales, London’s Lamberty, and Paris’s Galerie Downtown and Diane de Polignac. Nov. 10 through 14 at the Park Avenue Armory;

G a l e r i e d i ane d e p o l i gna c ; ga l e r i e d o w nto w n

French Cultural Events in North America


Through objects associated with dining, dressing, letter-writing, game-playing and other quotidian activities, Life & Luxury: The Art of Living in Eighteenth-Century Paris invites museum-goers to experience a day in the domestic life of a privileged 18th-century denizen of the French capital. This ingenious fly-on-thewall show displays some 160 objects of consummate artistry and craftsmanship, from paintings and sculptures to garments, furniture and musical instruments. Through Dec. 11 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston;


David, Delacroix, and Revolutionary France: Drawings from the Louvre offers American audiences their first opportunity to view stateside some of the finest works on paper from the famed Paris museum’s collection. Organized chronologically, the exhibition spans the turbulent period from the French Revolution to the founding of the Second Empire in 1852 through some 80 drawings by the leading artists of the day, including Corot, David, Delacroix, Géricault and Ingres. Through Dec. 31 at The Morgan Library & Museum;

Cou r tes y of F o r um G a l l e r y; © R M N / F r an c k Rau x

San Francisco

also functional: handbags with shoulder straps freed up women’s hands, while garments in knit jersey, a fabric previously associated with men’s undergarments, offered comfort and ease of movement to the once corset-clad. Chanel continued working until her death in 1971, at the age of 88, and the fashion house that bears her name has enjoyed enduring success under Karl Lagerfeld, who took over as artistic director in 1983. Chanel: Designs for the Modern Woman brings together suits, evening wear and accessories dating from the 1920s to today. Through Dec. 31 at the Mint Museum Randolph;


Monet’s celebrated series of 30 paintings depicting the Cathedral of Rouen epitomize the importance that Impressionists placed on light and atmospheric conditions. Some 75 years after their creation, they inspired Roy Lichtenstein to tackle the same subject, which this time reflected the Pop Art fascination with multiples and iconic images. Monet/Lichtenstein: Rouen Cathedrals displays five works by each master, revealing how two seemingly disparate art movements both emphasize the act of seeing over the thing seen. Oct. 2 through Jan. 1, 2012, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art;

Stanford, CA



Twenty-five years in the making, the tomb of John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, and his wife, Margaret of Bavaria, is one of the prize pieces of the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. Surrounding the base of this lavish work of funerary art are 40 16-inch-high mourners sculpted in alabaster, each one a unique and poignant expression of grief. These statuettes h a v e a d v a n c e d f ro m supporting to starring role as the subject of The Mourners: Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy, now on a two-year tour of the United States. Through December 31 at the Legion of Honor;

Despite having little formal training as an artist, Auguste Rodin attained worldwide fame during his lifetime thanks to the dynamism and emotional intensity of his work. Through more than 132 pieces, including 25 of his own, Rodin and America: Influence and Adaptation 1876–1936 examines how Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Steichen and some 40 other artistic contemporaries on this side of the Atlantic responded to his sculptures and drawings prior to the advent of Abstraction and other Modernist movements of the 20th century, when his star

Charlotte CHANEL

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s pioneering designs were not only distinctive but

• An homage to

Josephine Baker, Hugo Robus’s “Blackbottom” (1925) is part of “Rodin and America.”

Eugène Delacroix’s dramatic studies for “La Mort de Sardanapale” are on display in “Drawings from the Louvre.” would wane for a time. Oct. 5 through Jan. 1, 2012, at the Cantor Arts Center;


A recent conservation treatment performed on Degas’s “Dancers at the Barre” revealed how the painting evolved under the balletomane’s brush during the course of 16 years. These findings inspired Degas’s Dancers at the Barre: Point and Counterpoint, which reunites for the first time this late masterpiece with the full-scale preparatory works that preceded it. Some 30 complementary studies in charcoal, bronze, pastel, and lithography shed further light on Degas’s artistic process, such as his habit of dispensing with dancers’ costumes to focus on their musculature and posture. Oct. 1 through Jan. 8, 2012, at The Phillips Collection;


Bringing together 110 watercolors, drawing and pastels, Impressionism: Masterworks on Paper highlights an often overlooked facet of that perennial favorite of Western art movements and its successor, Post-Impressionism. Created as works of art in their own right rather than mere preparatory studies for oil paintings, these pieces represent an upending of the hierarchy of artistic media by such masters as Manet, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat and Toulouse-Lautrec. Oct. 15 through Jan. 8, 2012, at the Milwaukee Art Museum;

Toronto Chagall

The Art Gallery of Ontario hosts the only North American showing of Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde: Masterpieces from the Collection of the

Centre Pompidou, Paris, an in-depth look at the visual influences that helped shape the unique style of one of the world’s most beloved artists. Through 118 works in a wide range of media, the show investigates how Chagall engaged to a greater or lesser degree with such movements as Constructivism and Expressionism while embracing folk art traditions. Kandinsky, Malevich, Goncharova and Sonia Delaunay are among the other artists represented. Oct. 18 through Jan. 15, 2012;


Two Masters of Fantasy: Bresdin and Redon exhibits works on paper by a pair of artists who depicted worlds observable only by the mind’s eye. Invariably described as “eccentric,” draftsman and printmaker Rodolphe Bresdin (1840-1885) began his career creating engravings the size of postage stamps; his highly detailed renderings of eerily fantastic, often macabre, scenes would later earn him the admiration of such contemporaries as Charles Baudelaire and Théophile Gautier. His better-known pupil, Symbolist Odilon Redon (1840–1916), was particularly intrigued by the world of dreams. Although a gifted colorist, he spent decades working in black and white, notably producing the dark and unsettling drawings he termed les noirs. Through Jan. 16, 2012, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston;


For the first time in 30 years, Monet’s Water Lilies reunites all three panels of the 42-foot-wide “Agapanthus Triptych,” painted between 1915 and 1926, the year the artist died. During this late period, Monet devoted himself to capturing the beauty of his garden in Giverny, whose F r a n c e • F A L L 2 0 11


political ideologies. With a live score performed by composer Jean-Baptiste Julien. Oct. 20 through 22 at the Wexner Center for the Arts;


The PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART recently added this Sisley to its extensive Impressionist holdings, along with paintings by Monet and Pissarro and a pastel by Cassatt. All four works now hang in the museum’s galleries, gifts from Chara C. and the late John Haas.

importance to his work is underscored through archival photographs and a 1915 film clip of the master in action. Using X-ray imaging and other techniques, conservators discovered that the artist—in spite of his reputation for spontaneity— reworked the piece many times over the years. Oct. 2 through Jan. 22, 2012, at the Saint Louis Art Museum;

dominated his output. In total, it presents 160 of Degas’s paintings, sculptures and works on paper, sometimes juxtaposed with pieces by Ingres, Delacroix, Matisse and other masters who either inspired or drew inspiration from him. Oct. 9 through Feb. 5, 2012, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston;

Dallas San Francisco



Whether showcasing men’s skirts or sending plus-size models down the runway, Jean Paul Gaultier has consistently embraced an irreverent and fun-loving aesthetic that celebrates individuality. The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk marks the 35th anniversary of his first prêt-à-porter collection with a retrospective of his work. Emphasizing haute couture, the show presents 120 outfits, most never before exhibited. A wide assortment of other materials— from sketches to film clips to stage costumes—highlights the designer’s fondness for collaborating with fellow artists as varied as Pedro Almodóvar, Maurice Béjart and of course Madonna. Nov. 13 through Feb. 12, 2012, at the Dallas Museum of Art;

Camille Pissarro’s importance to the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist movements resided not only in his own art but also in his role as a mentor to such younger colleagues as Cézanne and Gauguin. Drawing on new research, Pissarro’s People is the first major exhibition to focus on the artist’s fascination with his fellow man, illustrated by some 100 paintings and works on paper from throughout his career. The show offers insight into these pieces by examining the artist’s ties with friends and family as well as his engagement with contemporary social, economic and political ideas. Oct. 22 through Jan. 22, 2012, at the Legion of Honor;



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performing arts Columbus WORLD FAIR

Choreographer and dancer Rachid Ouramdane takes to the stage in World Fair, a multimedia inquiry into the roles of the human body in society, from promoting luxury goods to advancing


The San Francisco Film Society hosts French Cinema Now, showcasing recent releases from the French-speaking world. The lineup includes French screenwriter/ director Alix Delaporte’s debut feature film Angèle and Tony, a slow-building love story set in a fishing village in Normandy, and The Kid with a Bike, the latest offering from the Dardenne brothers of Belgium, two-time winners of the Cannes Palme d’Or for Rosetta (1999) and The Child (2005). Oct. 27 through Nov. 2 at the San Francisco Film Society | New People Cinema (opening night screening and reception at the Embarcadero Center Cinema);

Boston Washington, Washington, DC, DC, and and New New York York



Like “Cédric Andrieux” (above), Jérôme Bel’s 37-minute film Véronique Doisneau (2005) offers an insider’s view of the world of a professional dancer. Codirected by Pierre Dupouey, the piece shows a sujet, or mid-level member, of the Paris Opéra Ballet on the day of her retirement at age 42. Alone on the bare stage of the Palais Garnier with no accompaniment but her own voice, she reflects candidly on her career, performs favorite solo passages and demonstrates the relatively thankless art of the corps dancer, forever holding poses. Oct. 7 through Dec. 31 at the Institute of Contemporary Art;

Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, best known for performing the haute-contre (high tenor) roles typical of French baroque opera, joins soprano Gaële LeRoi and members of the Opera Lafayette Orchestra for Duetto/Duo, a program of 17thcentury works by Lully, Lambert, Vittori, Melani, Cavalli and Monteverdi. Oct. 24 at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater and Oct. 30 at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall;


Choreographer Pierre Rigal’s Compagnie dernière minute performs Asphalte, an hour-long show in which five hiphop dancers interpret urban myths and stereotypes in the glow of a huge light box. The piece is part of the program of France-Atlanta 2011 (Oct. 26 through Nov. 12), a series of scientific, cultural, humanitarian and business events aiming to promote innovation and strengthen transatlantic ties. Oct. 30 at the Rialto Center for the Arts; rialtocenter. org,


The first museum show devoted exclusively to the subject, Degas and the Nude traces the evolution of the artist’s treatment of the human body over the course of 50 years. Organized chronologically, the exhibition opens with early life studies from his student years in the 1850s and follows with sections on such topics as his brothel monotypes; his “naturalist” nudes shown performing their toilette; and his final years, when bathers

San Francisco

Minneapolis, Columbus and Boston CÉDRIC ANDRIEUX

This hour-long one-man show is narrated and danced by the performer for which it is named. The piece offers an intimate look at the everyday life of a contemporary dancer through a series of snapshots from Andrieux’s career, which has included stints with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in New York and the Lyon Opéra Ballet.

New York FAUST

The Metropolitan Opera opened its doors in 1883 with a performance of Gounod’s then wildly popular Faust. This fall, the company reprises that work under the Tony and Olivier Award-winning director Des McAnuff, whose credits include “Jersey Boys” and “The Who’s Tommy.” In this modern take, Faust is an aging physicist haunted by his role in creating the atomic bomb. With Jonas Kaufmann, Roberto Alagna and Joseph Calleja in the title role, René Pape and Ferruccio Furlanetto as Méphistophélès and Marina Poplavskaya as Marguerite. Nov. 29 through Jan. 19, 2012, at the Metropolitan Opera House; —Tracy Kendrick For a regularly updated listing of cultural events, go to

Ph i l a d e l p h i a M useum of A r t: G i ft of Cha r a C . an d the l ate J ohn C . H aas

“Mooring Lines, the Effect of Snow at Saint-Cloud” (1879) by Alfred Sisley.

Walls and Bridges, Season 3 is the last of a trio of 10-day series of citywide events pairing prominent American thinkers and creative figures with peers from France and elsewhere in Europe. Highlights include “We (nearly) grew older together,” a dialogue between Catherine Millet, art critic and bestselling author of the provocative memoir The Sexual Life of Catherine M., and Robert Storr, former curator of MoMA and current dean of the Yale School of Art; and “The Beauty Contest: Human Beauty and Its Social Construction,” a roundtable featuring cross-dressing literary “It” boy Jon-Jon Goulian (The Man in the Gray Flannel Skirt) and French choreographer and dancer François Chaignaud. Oct. 19 through 28 at various New York venues;

Conceived and directed by Jérôme Bel. Oct. 28 and 29 at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN,; and Nov. 1 at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH,; Nov. 4 through 6 at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA,

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Temps Modernes

Money Myths

When it comes to the economy, the French

are notoriously pessimistic. A notable exception is Jacques Marseille, who died last year, far too young at the age of 64. Throughout his career, this historian and educator took issue with our national glumness, turning many received ideas upside down and setting many records straight. For him, simply looking back at history and the march of progress was enough to make one feel optimistic about the future. Marseille was known as a genuine “freethinker,” a word sometimes applied to agnostics. Yet although he belonged to no church or school of thought, his youthful communism did instill in him a lasting belief in social fairness. Eventually, he championed the iconoclastic idea that the free market was often the most appropriate and effective tool for attaining that goal. During his years teaching at the Sorbonne, Marseille revisited colonial history as well as the history of companies and markets and the relationship the French have with money. As it turns out, so much of what we believe simply isn’t true. The French colonial empire, for example, was not the financial abyss deplored by critics of Jules Ferry. Business is not just “a mechanical system that best combines factors of production” but also a set of values “that transcend accounting data.” Gold is not a safe haven compared with other, more productive and profitable uses of our savings, and the French passion for hoarding it “only reveals a long-standing habit of clumsy thinking.” This past June, I was honored to participate in a day of discussions at the Sorbonne in memory of Marseille. I chose to tackle a topic—“les allocations universelles” or “universal benefits”—that he deals with at the end of his remarkable L’argent des Français, des chiffres et des mythes (Editions Perrin, 2009). That book sums up Marseille’s approach quite well, offering an unprecedented overview of the French and their fraught relationship with money. In it, he challenges the persistent French pessimism about their financial future. Indeed, an IFOP study conducted last year for the Fondation de l’Innovation Politique revealed that one in two Frenchmen thinks that in 10 years he will be worse off than today, and two-thirds say they’re convinced that their children will be worse off than they are. Yet in a single century, Marseille writes, the annual per capita revenue in France rose in real terms from just under €2,200 to a little less than €22,000, while working hours were halved. Purchasing power therefore increased tenfold. The French don’t 62

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believe this—they have an ingrained tendency to believe their parents were better off than they are—and yet it’s true. In the same book, he cites François Guizot, a historian and minister under King Louis Philippe, who will remain forever famous for telling the French in 1843: “Get rich.” This injunction—not unreasonable, as it was what enabled the emergence of a middle class—was and still is considered crude and outrageous. Indeed, many in France are quite puritanical when it comes to money, greed being a cardinal sin. (François Hollande, a candidate for the 2012 presidential elections, once notably declared: “Je n’aime pas les riches”). Yet the “average” French person is now 15 times richer than in Guizot’s day, and purchasing power has increased more than 1.6 percent annually on average during the past 160 years or so. “A Frenchman today earns in less than a month what his not-so-distant forefather earned in more than a year,” he writes. As for his “universal benefit,” Marseille asserts that it is one of those “realistic utopias” that might just get the French to finally look on the bright side. Basically, the government would cut every single citizen a monthly check in the exact same amount; this payment would replace all current benefits except for those relating to health care. Marseille demonstrates that such a benefit, which he puts at €750 per month (the poverty level in 2006), would cost the State no more than “the jumble of existing social protection programs.” He sees it—no doubt with a touch of irony—as “a free-market path toward communism,” the best way to accommodate the long-held French desire for both communism without the totalitarian system and a market economy without its excesses. Addressing a group already well disposed toward Marseille’s ideas, I heard some disapproving grumbles when I reported what our historian had written on this topic. And there is no doubt that such a benefit would have sweeping consequences for the government, citizens, unions and businesses. An eternal optimist, Marseille nonetheless believed that it would be a considerable step forward in terms of freedom and gender equality. He even thought that it would boost patriotism, giving citizens new reasons to be proud of their “exemplary nation.” Addressing “all those who think this benefit is the fantastical thinking of an eccentric,” he points out good-naturedly that in Guizot’s day, not many people f believed in the “utopia” of universal suffrage, either.

I B O / S I PA



Sharing a commitment to philanthropy and community outreach in North America and France.

WILDLIFE Long committed to sustainable development, GDF SUEZ has

operated the Bald Eagle Observation Area at the Shepaug Hydroelectric Dam in Southbury, CT, for the past 26 years. The area is a popular spot for eagles in winter months when turbulence below the dam keeps the water from freezing, allowing them to feed on the fish. The viewing area is free and open to the public but requires reservations so as not to disrupt the birds’ feeding schedules. Specialists are on hand with high-powered telescopes to help visitors see the eagles in action and answer questions about America’s national symbol. Above: A volunteer shows visitors a live owl.

GRANTING WISHES Earlier this year, OpenSkies, the all-premium

COMMUNITY GARDENING The BNP Paribas Herb Garden occupies

transatlantic airline, partnered with Make-A-Wish® France to help make Maxime Couderc’s wish come true: He wanted to visit New York, which for him represents the American dream, a place where everybody can be different without encountering prejudice. The airline offered Maxime, his parents and his sister roundtrip travel from Paris; during his five-day trip, Maxime posted his impressions of the Big Apple on OpenSkies’ Facebook page, allowing fans to follow his journey in real time.

a space in West Harlem adjacent to the Food Bank for New York City Community Kitchen & Food Pantry. The garden grows fresh herbs for the Community Kitchen, a full-service soup kitchen and food pantry that helps provide more than 50,000 free meals each month. Shown here are some of the volunteers from BNP Paribas Fortis who tend the plot. This past July, they harvested 126 bags of parsley, mint, basil, oregano, lemon balm and other herbs.

Corporate sponsors

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France Magazine #99 - Fall 2011  
France Magazine #99 - Fall 2011  

Since 1985, sophisticated Americans have relied on France Magazine for authoritative coverage of French travel destinations, society, busine...