Is the economy or the internet or just the quality of the exhibitions, wonders Charles Bremner The Times of London’s Paris correspondent about the crowds queuing up to get into the Warhol portrait show at the Grand Palais (seen above). They’re planning to open the hall 24 hours a day to accommodate the crowds. And this isn’t the only exhibit seeing big numbers. Kandinsky, deChirico and Blake are also filling the halls until all hours:
So why the rush for culture? The standard view is that, at a time of anxiety and shrinking assets, the French are reverting to old-fashioned valeurs sûres. “The crisis incites people to turn towards preserved spaces,” says Marie-Christine Labourdette, Director of the Museums of France. “The world is changing and the future is worrying ? They are reassured by the intangible in art works and the stability of museums,” she explained in le Figaro. The experts cite the example of the Hollywood boom of the 1930s Depression years.
Sometimes the explanation can be a little abstract. Le Monde found a curator who explained: “In times of crisis, people need the emotional compensation of nearness”. [Les gens ont besoin d’une compensation affective de proximité…]. That’s not so easy to convey in Anglo-Saxon.
The phenomenon also confirms France’s tradition — eclipsed in recent decades — as the world’s cultural capital. Thomas Grenon, Administrator of the Union of National Museums, says that “the richness of French collections explain the success. France is historically a land of art. And then there is the deep taste of the French for art.”
The same travelling exhibitions draw about 30 percent more visitors in Paris than London, he told us. This applied to recent Turner, Whistler and Monet shows at the Grand Palais and the Tate in London, he said. “It’s linked to our education and to a form of French taste,” he said. And yes, many of the current shows feature British, American, Russian, Italian and other nationals, but Paris excels in the art of presenting them.
Art Booms in Paris in the Spring (Times Online)