Picasso Primitif

The first Night of Museums, an event during which museums and cultural institutions remain open late into the night, took place for first time in Berlin in 1997. The number of participating institutions, mainly European but also of other continents, has kept on rising since and in 2005 it became an officially sponsored European Union event.

During this year’s 13the edition I happened to in Paris’ Musée du Quai Branly as I had tickets to go and see the inimitable French blues harmonica player Jean-Jacques Miltau with friends (this time singer and multi-instrumentalist Harrison Kennedy and cello player Vincent Segal) in the museum’s concert hall.

The Quai Branly museum, brainchild of the passionate and knowledgeable collector Jacques Chirac, a former French President, opened in 2006. Its permanent collections include some of the finest examples of non-western called “art premier” in French and “ethnographic or tribal art” in English. They are housed in an elegantly designed building by French architect Jean Nouvel whose winding paths literally invite you to wander and discover highlight after highlight. Besides its professional research library, the public can access one of my favourite reading spaces in Paris, a peaceful light flooded public reading room with relevant scientific works, magazines and exhibition catalogues.

I had made sure to have enough time before the concert to visit the “Picasso Primitif” exhibition. How many exhibitions of Picasso can one make and still be have something new to offer? If one does it well, countless exhibitions of course for the man himself is genius. Yet this exhibition is particularly interesting.

Unlike most other exhibitions you don’t actually get to see work by Picasso until the very end of the exhibition. Picasso Primitif concentrates on Picasso’s evolving relationship with non-western art via citations of Picasso, friends, art dealers and observers, via photographs especially of the interior of his various studios and through works of art that he saw or owned. The absence of Picasso’s work allows you to wander without distraction through the thoughts of the artist and his contemporaries.

The work of art that put the fear of God into Picasso : «Ceremonial headdress of Nevimbumbao, mythical female ogre of the island of Malekula in archipelago of Vanuatu in the South Pacific Ocean » given to him by Matisse. Picasso was convinced Matisse gave it to him because he was scared of it himself.

It allows you to see non-western art again and focus just on what it would have been like as a young and eager artist of the first half of the 20th century in a society with a still deeply colonial mindset to discover radically new ways of expressions and to realise they had been around for far longer than our presumed superior Western Art.

This happens precisely at a time and place (Paris) when so many talented Western artists coming from different cultural and linguistic background were living close together and influencing each other. A rapid succession of pervasive socio-economic changes, due to an increasingly industrialising world that subsequently got slapped in a face by two world wars, was going to challenge these artists into trying to find ever new ways of expressions and make sense of it all. The fairly sudden apparition of non-Western art was going to be one the most impressive foods for thoughts, just like Japanese art had been in the mid 19th century for the Impressionnists. A talent the size of Picasso was going to be needed to actually take in and make use of such a complex and rich source.

This exhibition must be placed on the top your exhibitions’ list!

I’d like to think that even the ones of you who know Picasso well, will leave the exhibition feeling they increased their understanding of how Picasso evolved as an artist and a person through his meeting with non-western works of art. It is one of these unique occasions when you can see a great artist deeply impressed by another men’s creative capabilities.

I would like to tip my hat to Yves Le Fur, the curator, who did an amazing job. You will walk through this exhibition reading the quotes and seeking out the art like a page-turning novel, eager to move on to the next one and the next one.

But hurry up, the exhibition will close on the 23th of July 2017!

“What links did Picasso maintain with non-Western arts? This question, frequently addressed, was however avoided by the artist himself for a long time. This exhibition aims to decipher a relationship born of admiration, respect and fear.”

Flavia Claes

Contemporary art: Patrick Roger

In Paris, there is good, very good and excellent in the world of hand-made… chocolate. And then there is the exceptional. If you really want to spoil someone Paris style, there is one address that tops them all: chocolatier Patrick Roger.

Why not go for his seasonal chocolates? You know of the traditional chocolates for Christmas and Easter? Well thanks to Patrick Roger, May has its chocolate celebration too. You have to know that for the occasion of the Labour Day in France on the 1th of May (when trade unions organise parades in all major cities to defend workers’ rights), it is customary to offer a lily of the valley to friends and family.  And the chocolate version of this tradition by Patrick Roger is a true work of art: a cup of praliné filling with coloured chocolate leafs.

It comes with a price of course, but if there is anything I have learned about chocolate in Paris, it’s to pay more for less and go for the best. I have never regretted it.

  ©PP2017 for TRNT

For your information, visiting a chocolatier can be integrated in any of my thematic half or full day tours of Paris.

Flavia Claes

And if you want to know more about this original chocolatier, please watch this visit realised by David Lebovitz, the famous Paris-based American foodwriter/blogger, chocolate specialist and baker:

Seine Musicale

In 1997 the manufacturer Renault announced the end of its car production on the  Seine island, Ile Seguin, in the western district of Paris called Boulogne Billancourt. Local city councils then decided to launch a town redevelopment plan of the old manufacturing site and were joined in this by Renault itself.

© Shigeru Ban Architects Europe – Jean de Gastines Architectes

20 years later, the Ile Seguin is entirely rededicated to culture. In the first place to music with the concerthall “La Seine musicale” created by the architects Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines (great website).  It principally will host concerts and events and was launched on the 21th of April with a concert of Bob Dylan.

But this city of music is only one part of a project to turn the whole island into a centre for contemporary culture. It was imagined by the French star architect Jean Nouvel in collaboration with landscape gardener Michel Desvigne and lighting designer Yann Kersale.

Hopfully this cultural hub will become as popular a place to visit and wander in as is its eastern counterpart Parc de la Villette in the 20th arrondissement. With another impressive project of Jean Nouvel, the Philharmonie de Paris, Parc de la Villette is a successful mix of stunning architecture, green spaces to relax in, concert halls, museums, cafés and restaurants  that has worked wonders for qualitatively reviving the north east of Paris. It is a place I regularly bring visitors to and it is always a success. It is off the beaten tourist track and a real visual breather.

Flavia Claes

La Roche-Guyon?

Two weeks ago, a British visitor asked me to help her discover a place where the impressionists lived and had their great era at the end of the 19th century. Instead of going to one of classics like Auvers-sur-Oise, well known thanks to Van Gogh, I decided to take her to the village of La Roche-Guyon about an hour drive away to the north west of  Paris. Located in the regional park of the Vexin along the Seine river, the scenery is outright stunning. Organised around the 12th century troglodyte castle still privately owned by local aristocracy, the place  is ideal if you want to walk in a delightful landscape, along and overlooking the Seine. Pissarro lived there a couple of years and many painters choose that area to develop their expertise.

Square in La Roche Guyon, Pissarro





I do recommend this place full of historical and cultural references, with a surprising museum in the castle and a beautiful orchard created in 1741 . La Roche-Guyon was rightly rewarded by the association “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France”.

Flavia Claes


Pissarro in Eragny – Nature regained

“From 16th March to 9th July, the Musée du Luxembourg is presenting a monographic exhibition on a totally new subject that focuses on the last two decades of Camille Pissarro’s artistic career. Alongside family archives, around one hundred paintings, drawings and engravings –  little known and yet spectacular – produced in Éragny-sur-Epte between 1884 and 1903, from the greatest museum and private collections in the world, illustrate the least studied period of this artist’s career. Pissarro moved to the village of Éragny in 1884 to a beautiful house which he was able to buy thanks to a loan from Claude Monet, and where he remained for the rest of his life. At the centre of this artistic and intellectual ferment, Pissarro expressed his political convictions in his painting and in his way of life.”

The two great Pissarro specialists, Richard Brettell and Joachim Pissarro, jointly curate this ambitious exhibition.
Exhibition organised by the Réunion des musées nationales – Grand Palais at the musée du Luxembourg.


see also:

Camille Pissaro, “Le premier des impressionnistes”

from 23 February to 2 July 2017 at The Marmottan Monet museum in Paris



Pontoise célèbre Pissarro

from 12 April to 8 October 2017 at Pontoise near Paris



Easter in Paris

“Paris is paradise for chocolate fans!  Chocolate takes centre stage at Easter but it is an all-year-round event for gourmets, and for master chocolatiers, whose creativity knows no bounds – a feast for the taste buds and the eyes. Whether just a mouthful, a chocolate sculpture, a chocolate wedding dress … chocolate is a renowned Parisian product, not to be missed. And an art of living to discover … and taste!”

Moulage Cloche chocolat noir (200g)

Paris Official website of the Convention and Visitors Bureau:



Auguste Rodin

“To mark the centenary of his death, the Musée Rodin and Réunion des musées nationaux Grand Palais are joining forces to celebrate Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). The exhibition reveals Rodin’s creative universe, his relationship with his audience and the way in which sculptors have appropriated his style. Featuring over 200 of Rodin’s works, it also includes sculptures and drawings by Bourdelle, Brancusi, Picasso, Matisse, Giacometti, Beuys, Baselitz and Gormley, shedding new light on this giant of sculpture.”

Exhibition organized by the Réunion des musées nationaux – Grand Palais and the musée Rodin, Paris until July 31th 2017



Johan Vermeer

“Few old master painters are as esteemed as Johannes Vermeer. Nearly everyone, it seems, admires the exquisite simplicity and subtle optical appeal of his pictures. Usually focused on a single figure–most often a woman–or a few figures enframed in the corner of a room deftly suffused in light, his paintings epitomize that fantasy of domestic order and tranquility that only the world of canvas and pigment can fully indulge. It has often been noted that Vermeer’s pristine domestic spaces have a still life-quality. Their inhabitants rarely speak, their gestures are few, and they tend to be quietly absorbed in such activities as reading, writing, sleeping, making music, making lace or simply looking. Even music-making appears to be a curiously soundless pleasure in this silent pictorial world.”

Celeste Brusati, about Vermeer, 1993
Professor, History of Art/Women’s Studies/Art & Design
LSA, Internationla Institute
University of Michigan, USA

Do not miss the Louvre’s exhibition in Paris until May 22, 2017 :
Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting


Art Gallery visits in the Marais district with aspiring art collectors

For a recent assignement I had the pleasure to introduce to a Belgian couple and their young son to art galeries in Paris. Their request was simple, namely to see contemporary art in a selection of art galleries knowing they were thinking of starting an art collection (but they had not specific wishes). They had been in Paris before but did not know it very well.

I decided to take them to the Marais. That part of Paris famously dense with art galeries which allowed us to do everything on foot. Additionaly, we were able to enjoy the lesser visited upper side of the historical Marais district with it’s narrow streets and majestic hôtels particuliers (private mansions) and discover the original boutiques and many restaurants of this equally fashionable area.

Contrary to what some people think, most galeries are also welcoming to art novices and they can be the right alternative to those who are not keen on museums but like discovering art. I prepared a visit that would allow them to discover a range of different artists on the market at the moment. First I selected 10 galeries and met with the galery owner or managers. The selection included photography, mix media, painting, sculpture and installations of international and local artists. Some very famous others not.

The day of the visit I introduced them to the artists, what inspired them, their career path and of course the prices of the work on display. The aim was to supply them with the necessary information to be able to understand or come closer to the artists intentions whether they like the work or not. That three of the artists were Belgian was of course an element of pride !

For example, the Belgian multi-disciplinary artist Pieter Vermeersch showing his marble paintings at the Perrotin Galerie (a historical mansion hidden in a courtyard).

In two hours these visitors discovered a wide range of art works, acquired an insight in the world of art galeries, walked the streets of Paris and thanks to their wise and bold 10 year old son, were challenged to view art with a very open mind indeed. A delightful experience for me too !

Flavia Claes