I’m jealous. One of my family members sent me a photograph of a newly opened local shopping mall and I was amazed to see installed in the central atrium a mobile by Xavier Veilhan. You may remember Veilhan’s The Bear and his exhibition at the Phillips last fall. In fact, I had originally experienced the same sculpture when it was on view at the Grand Palais’s exhibition, Dynamo. Tell me, is it only in Paris that you can go from updating your wardrobe to seeing amazing art in the same place?
Cruising through our collection on the Google Art Project, I came across this charcoal portrait of a woman who called herself Maria Lani by Jules Pascin. I was drawn in by her confrontational pose, the arched brows, her offered jaw and aligned bobbed hair. Consulting the library’s copy of the always entertaining Kiki’s Paris: Artists and Lovers 1900-1930, I found the kind of good story I was hoping for.
Lani was a mysterious woman of Polish descent (she also went by the name Maria Ilyin) who arrived in 1920s Montparnasse with her husband, a Russian man named Maximilien Abramovitch. Though without a cent, the pair had a story of wanting to produce a film, starring Lani, and featuring a collection of portraits that would menacingly come to life. Using her intellect and beauty, Lani was able to persuade a shocking number of artists into painting, drawing, and sculpting her likeness, including Jules Pascin. The apotheosis of her apparent scheme were gallery shows of over fifty of the works. A Berlin show at Alfred Flechtheim’s gallery included works by Braque, Chagall, De Chirico, Cocteau, Derain, Dufy, Léger, and Matisse, just to name a few! (The book notes that Picasso was one of the only artists to turn her down.)
After a 1930 show in Paris at Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, apparently Lani disappeared with all of the works and needless to say, the film was never made. There is still not a great deal known about Lani; a Google search reveals quite a few images, but not much biographical information, not even an obituary. (Though the book referenced an article in Paris Match in 1954 when she died.) You can find a YouTube video of John Galliano’s Spring/Summer Ready-to-Wear 2011 collection in which he cites Lani as his inspiration. At 1:11 in the video, you can hear him tell her story. Something about this woman made her a popular muse.
The museum’s recent School of Paris installation and our upcoming Art and Romance Soirée got me nostalgic for a place in Paris. The location: the Pont des Arts, a pedestrian bridge that connects the Louvre to the Institut de France (where the Academy of Fine Arts is housed). The logic: the love padlocks.
If you haven’t seen one of these bridges in person, it’s quite a sight. Couples from around the world visit the bridge, attach padlocks with their initials and throw the keys to the locks into the Seine. Have a look at some my recent pictures above.
Though I love this place, I have heard some people just find it (and other padlock bridges) ugly! Additionally, the weight from the padlocks causes damage to the bridge. According to this article on the history of the phenomenon, one grate can have up to 330 pounds of padlocks on them! And this pic from TripAdvisor gives you a firsthand look at what all that weight can do!