Montparnasse: too old to rock’n roll, too young to die

I keep hearing that Montparnasse is no longer what it used to be, that the old spirit is no longer there, that the Montparnos, these bohemian artists aren’t around anymore. Well, all the nay-sayers are at it to show that Montparnasse is a thing of the past, dead and buried. But rest assured you lovers of French culture, this is not true. Fine, ‘official’, government-commissioned artists may have all buggered off to London or NYC (there are nay-sayers in both these cities too mind you, there is never a shortage of whinging ready to spoil your day) or even Samarkand for that matter but who cares.

the Colin workshopWhat I know for sure is that all around me here are workshops and artists, bubbling with creativity and the desire to set poetry in motion. What else? Thanks to nice Mr Malevich who managed to sell a white painting on a white canvas in 1918 (white on white on the MoMa Website) – was that ominous of the Great War chaos? – we artists have been freed of our obligation to be ‘different’ and provocative. I know that there are still people who think that slicing sheep (read ‘is it Art‘ on Knowledge Art) and keeping it in formaldehyde is a great thing to do. Plus it sells well. Schmap is a new online tourist/cultural service which publishes information about sights and they have just released their new page on Montparnasse, which proves that it’s still well and truly on the map.

Port Royal As a matter of fact, one photograph from the Antimuseum (see above) was chosen to illustrate the page dedicated to the lion of Denfert Rochereau, the area where I live and create. Much as I regret it, the lion hasn’t been split in two pieces and its cast iron doesn’t need formaldehyde or any other chemical to stay in good shape. Bartholdi certainly wasn’t provocative enough. Actually, his lion – although it was meant to pay tribute to the courage of the people of Belfort on the German border for their heroic resistance in front of the Prussian invader of the 1870’s – is looking in the opposite direction as if to show that we have no hard feelings against our former foe. And indeed he was right to do so, for now, we are the world’s best friends and this is a really good idea by the way.

This natural reserve of Bartholdi’s is not going to prove sufficient to change the minds of the afore-mentioned nay-sayers but the lion still serves as a beacon for many of us located around its pedestal and the nearby catacombs.

Salon des arts de Paris 14èmeI have added a few illustrations in this text which describe the area, but I still have to write up a review depicting the 300 paintings which are displayed each year in September by the artists of the well-famed fourteenth arrondissement, not to mention the courageous artists keeping their booths in the windy shadow of the Tour Montparnasse every Sunday.

Yann Gourvennec
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