Panoramic photo of Le Grand Palais [from the free media repository of Wikimedia Commons].
To continue the commentary from my first post of 2013, le Grand Palais was built for the World Fair of 1900 and is currently divided into 3 distinct wings. The Nave (la Nef) is the stunning wing with the glass vaults bubbling up the rooftop, allowing the sunny heavens to fill its stone belly with natural light. At night, it glows from within, lighting up the skyline with its arching iron and steel skeleton. “The Great Palace” facade is breathtaking: over-the-top statues, majestic ionic columns and neoclassical stylizations. [Can you tell I love this building?] The Nave has been host to fashion shows, equestrian events, musical concerts and massive art exhibits, just to name a few. Explore the interactive video of le Grand Palais and la Nef here. It’s awesome.
Le Grand Palais hosted “Jours de fêtes” (= Celebration Days) last year during the Christmas season. I took the kids one late morning and it was impressive to host an amusement park in such a beautiful exhibition place. Yes, it was expensive, and we didn’t do a lot of rides but it beat riding the free carousels in the cold rain outside.
Another time I visited Le Grand Palais was during the exhibit, “La France en relief”, a showcase of 3-D relief maps created from Louis XIV’s time (mid-1600’s) to Napoleon III (late 1800’s). Here, visitors got to view 3-dimensional models of towns/cities and countryside built to scale, for the purpose of strategic military defense for the leaders of France. For this exhibit, these table-top maps were pieced together like a puzzle and the map models really looked fantastic, as if we viewers were Gulliver giants overlooking miniature landscapes, created from wood, sand, silk, paint, paper-mâché, etc. I have a greater appreciation of model-building since visiting this breathtaking exhibit. View the clever promo video here.
Because my camera couldn’t do it justice, I don’t have a photo of Cherbourg, whose relief map was 160 m2, or the size of a volleyball court! Sadly, a lot of the city was bombed during WWII so the map serves as valuable testimony of what the old city used to be. I wish I had taken more photos. I also have to add that there were a few comic features in the Exhibit, and I actually understood some of them!! It’s mid-February and I’m finally beginning to feel a little bilingual. Woo-hoo!
I also need to mention that my day was further sweetened by the native French men (seniors) who tried to help me get my souvenir-photo when they saw me looking all puzzled with my friends, running back and forth in front of this gimmicky monitor (see me in photo with French man). We made small talk and they endured my poor conversational French. God luv’em.
My last visit to la Nef was to view Monumenta, an annual exhibition in which a contemporary, world-renown artist is invited to design a grand installation specifically to show in la Nef. In 2012, it was French “conceptual artist,” Daniel Buren, who is widely known for his installation “Les Deux Plateaux” in the courtyard of the Palais Royal. It caused much controversy because of its modern construction juxtaposed against the Baroque grandeur of the Palais. Well I took a fellow Canucker to la Nef and… Thanks to Lori for the great photos from her iPhone and her polite Canadian response to typical Buren art! I felt the same way.
Needless to say, juxtaposing this modern art thang in such a neoclassical building is weird. When I took my kids here, however, they loved the rainbow skies, how the natural light lit up the floors with the same circular colours from the translucent shelter and the fact that there was open space to run amok between all the poles! So it was weirdly wonderful. My classical arts-snob hubby, on the other hand, just shook his head and was glad we didn’t have to pay for his entry. “Where’s the exit?”
Oh-la-la–how I miss the unpredictable art in Paris. Paris is full of surprises and creative energy. Vivre la Nef!