It was exactly the 22 July of this year that I decided I would be returning to Paris this autumn. I was sitting on a hop-on-hop-off bus in Paris (for probably the third or fourth time) and as it drove past the Musee d'Orsay, I saw the billboard for their autumn/winter exhibition of Picasso's Blue and Rose periods. "That's it", I said, "I'm coming back this autumn." Fast forward a couple of weeks and I get an email from the Fondation Louis Vuitton about their key exhibit for the colder months: Basquiat and Schiele. That was a further push for me to head onto the Thalys website and book my tickets. Last Saturday was a day dedicated to my boys Egon, Jean-Michel and Pablito ...
I think I had first come across Schiele's work years ago in a small bookshop which used to be hidden away in one of the back alleys in the Maltese town of Mosta. His art is by no means what the regular man in the street may describe as pleasant. The sinewy, yet sensual figures reveal to me an inner disturbance that one can say characterises the expressionist movement of the early 20th Century. The exposition traces Schiele's development from his early Klimt-esque days to the more bleak and almost harrowing portraits of himself, his partner and other characters. Spread across the lower floor of the Fondation Louis Vuitton, the exposition almost feels like an intimate encounter with the artist (despite the large number of people attending when I visited) as you need to move close to the relatively small paintings, thereby getting a real sense of his brushstrokes and use of sodden watercolours.
In contrast, Basquiat's works almost demand that the viewer takes a few steps back to take in the sheer size, boldness and complexity of the works, despite their apparent naive style. It's been just over a year that I visited the ground breaking Basquiat Boom for Real exhibition at London's Barbican and the appeal of the 80s street artist has not subsided. His work, again, may not be everyone's cup of tea, but personally, the way he depicts American street culture, the trials the black and latino communities would go through at the time, at the same time marrying this with symbolism from his Puerto-Rican background is as relevant today as it was then. Of course, I may have a certain bias towards him, having been a friend of Andy Warhol, one of my personal icons. Oh, if only one lived in the late 70s/early 80s New York City and had the chance to meet these greats ... one can dream.
Picasso. Bleu et Rose
Eh, Pablo, my old bad boy from Malaga. This exhibition traces his development between the years 1900-1906, a time of many changes and tumult in the artist's life. Former techniques influenced by Van Gogh and Toulouse Lautrec's works give way to what we now know as his 'blue period' following the tragic suicide of his close friend Casagemas and his visits to the Saint Lazare prison for women. Blue then gives way to pink through one of his many romantic involvements and his exploration of the life of Saltimbanques away from their shows, and eventually to red and more abstracted images preluding his cubist phase. I feel that there is a sense of sad serenity or serene sadness in works surrounding this period which somewhat speaks to me. The recurrent depiction of the harlequin figure is both intriguing and possibly revealing of Picasso's impish approach to romance. A touch of trivia: Picasso had actually arrived to Paris at the Gare d'Orsay which nowadays hosts the museum - and his works. One could call it a home coming of sorts.
Buy your tickets for Jean-Michel Basquiat and Egon Schiele at Fondation Louis Vuitton here. Both exhibitions are open between 3 October 2018 to 14 January 2019.
Buy your tickets for Picasso Bleu et Rose at Musee d'Orsay here. The exhibition is open from 18 September 2018 to 6 January 2019.