Au Revoir, Paris

Tonight is our last in Paris. I will have more to say about our experiences here in future posts, especially on the much debated subject of the Australian Indigenous Art Commission (AIAC). But for now, we’re taking a break from packing for our flight home tomorrow.

Many people who were at the Embassy reception Friday night are already on their way to London to preview the Sotheby’s auction of Aboriginal art and catch the opening of the great Papunya Tula show at Hamiltons Gallery. We are unfortunately bypassing that to return to the States, do some laundry, and get in the car for the drive to Washington DC and the opening of Dreaming Their Way at the National Museum of Women in the Arts on Wednesday. It was quite surprising on Friday to find out how many people who were here in Paris are stopping in Washington on their way home, and after the opening, going down to the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Museum on Friday. 

When you stop to think about it,it’s pretty amazing that in the space of one week there will be major Aboriginal art events in three great world capitals: Paris, London, and Washington. This should give pause to the pundits who say that the movement is spent. I hope it will also generate some positive press in Australia. Someone should sit up and take notice of these achievements.

I can’t close out this Parisian chapter without posting a few more photographs, more personal this time, of people I spent time with here apart from the festivities at the Musee. There were others: Will Stubbs made good on his promise to join us in a sidewalk cafe to chew over new developments, for one. I got to meet Barbara Glowczewski, whose studies of Walpiri and Kukatja people have helped keep my French toned up over the years, and who has just published a lovely new work, Pistes des Reves (Dreaming Tracks, Editions du Chene, 2005). I also met her co-author on this title, Jessica de Largy-Healy, who has been working with Yolngu people of Elcho Island on developing ways in which new technology can help to preserve and disseminate their culture. I had several opportunities to speak with Georges Petit-Jean from the Aboriginal Art Museum in Utrecht, a charming man, impressive in his enthusiasm for and knowledge of indigenous art. 

Unfortunately, I wasn’t always thinking with my camera on those occasions, but sometimes I did manage to say, “wait, let me get a picture,” so here’s my limited photographicau revoirs.

At the end of our first full day in Paris, Harvey (left) and I had dinner in a neighborhood bistro with Mary Durack (center) of Contemporary Aboriginal Art here in Paris and Susan Owens (right), who writes for the Australian Financial Review from here.

Dinner the next night was equally and indubitably French, at the Petit Sud-Ouest, a boutique restaurant a few blocks from the Quai Branly that specializes in duck. Duck everything. And not much else. It was a lovely place, managed by a most friendly and patient proprietress, who took this picture at the evening’s end, and loaned us and umbrella against the rain that had begun to fall as we were setting off for a night time view of the MQB. Left to right here, Ian Thornquest, Suzanne O’ConnellStephane Jacob, me, and Harvey.

The next day we visited Stephane at his apartment, where he operates Arts D’Australie and holds soirees to introduce Parisians to the varieties of aboriginal art.

And finally, after all the festivities were over, we met Bill Gregory of Annandale Galleries for lunch at La Palette, a bistro amidst the art galleries of St. Germain-des-Pres, where Bill has been hanging out for three decades. After lunch, Bill suggested we walk over to the Louvre, and we spent two hours there visiting about a dozen of Bill’s favorite paintings (and Michelangelo’s astonishing Bound Slaves, which are now given a rightful position of prominence in the galleries; on my last trip through the Louvre, I couldn’t find them). It was a fantastic way to spend time in the Louvre, which usually induces panic with the superabundance of masterpieces to choose from. This time, we rode in Bill’s wake down the Grande Galerie, letting him choose where to stop: the Entombment by Titian, a Crucifixion by El Greco, a couple of Carvaggios, some early paysages, a portrait by Raphael, a very risque piece by Mategna painted to celebrate the marriage of a female patron. We couldn’t have asked for a better transition from a week immersed in Aboriginal art to the rest of the glories of Paris than this afternoon of incisive conversation with our guide Bill.

So, au revoir. See you when I return to America. It’s been a great adventure so far.

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