Tag Archives: Art

Free Artistic Collaborations in Paris: Your New Wintertime Hangout

Last winter, I spent a lot of money on overpriced cappuccinos just to have an excuse to escape the frosty grayness of Paris and keep my hands warms. Had I known about La Gaîté Lyrique or LE CENTQUATRE, I could have saved money and found cool friends a lot quicker.

La Gaîté Lyrique

Located in the 3rd arrondissement, snug between the Marais, Republique and Grand Boulevards, La Gaîté Lyrique was originally built in 1862 under Baron Haussmann. For 120 years the building served as a popular theater, and even fell under the management of Offenbach for a short time. After a bout of bankruptcy and a few decades of abandonment, the renovated building, an interesting mélange of elegant 19th-century architecture contrasted by new-age décor, reopened in 2010 as a haven for artists to relax, explore, present and reside.

La Gaîté Lyrique offers a multitude of programs, workshops, demonstrations, performances and resources. Popular subjects include technology, digital art, video games, architecture, music, dance, urban culture, street art, graffiti and skating. For independent exploration, their resource center has a small library, free-access computers, study cubicles, comfy couches, and my favorite, a video game center with five stations, each with a large screen television and a game history overview.

On the weekends concerts are held in one of their three performance halls, though these events usually aren’t free. A boutique, three cafés and a bar include other pricier options (thought if you stick with a coffee you’ll be fine). While students may comprise the majority of the population, families, adults and even senior citizens frequent the La Gaîté Lyrique as well (the program Hype(r)Olds is held weekly for women over the age of 77, for example).



In the northeast of Paris, up near La Villete, LE CENTQUATRE encourages emerging art of all forms,

providing space for creation, presentation and residence. Though it served as the city’s main funeral parlor for over 120 years, the revamped glass, brick and iron building has an open layout flooded with natural light that is anything but dark and discouraging.

Temporary exhibitions and performances are hosted on nights and weekends, but anyone can assemble a gathering during the day. Sit on one of many lounge chairs to watch break-dancers, hoolahoopers, jugglers and yogis practicing, or join in yourself. A certified teacher holds free qi qong sessions every Saturday morning.

A high-end restaurant, a cozy café, a pizza truck and an epicerie will likely satisfy any food cravings you’d have. Similarly, an art-focused bookshop, free book exchange cabin and a very chic Emmaüs will feed your appetite for hip retro clothing, knick-knacks or coffee table literature.

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The Electric Fairy

The Musée d’art modern de la ville de Paris is a small museum about a mile or so from the Eiffel Tower, most notably known for the “La Fée Électricité” (the Electric Fairy) by Raoul Dufy. Over the course of a year Dufy marked 250 panels with oil paint and pen scratches, slowing inscribing in color humanity’s electrical victories. The finished work stretches 200 feet long and 33 feet high, and as I stand barely 5 feet tall at its base, my thoughts revise and start to gain perspective.

The painting reads like a poem, blooming from the center with the gods of Olympus and spreading outward, intertwining mythology andhistory. Cool currents intersect warm waves, landscapes shift and slant, the entire canvas in motion as it shuffles through a hundred and ten individuals, from Aristotle to Edison, who aided in the development of electricity. Dufy’s style is whimsical yet evocative, carrying the imagination of infancy into the scientific world, a reminder of science’s dependency on dreamers.

I sit in the middle of the room and dissect the painting panel by panel, wanting to note every detail, every change of brushstroke. I want to scream how beautifully he has transitioned images in this spot, how I have never seen a yellow like that one before, how it must have been tiring and exhilarating to work on this painting for a year straight and how some days he must have wanted to kick his foot through the panels, but I’m so thankful he didn’t. All of the energy he poured into the painting still radiates there, whispering of a celebration and I want to fill empty air with music and bright light. I wish I could memorize every angle so I could recite them later on. I want to do something other than nod my head silently in the dimly lit room and walk away guiltily, knowing that I can never fully give it the time and attention it deserves.

Art and time have an unusual relationship; art borrows from time in an attempt to cheat it. Those lucky enough, blessed by talent and circumstances, succeed in immortality. Raoul Dufy, a man who lived and died in France 37 years before my birth, generated a thought and projected it into the world where it lingered, hovering like a hummingbird, allowing me to find it. His ideas have impressed themselves into me, discovering and explaining parts of my psyche I never realized existed. What, other than art, demonstrates the universality of existence?

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