INTRODUCTION TO PARIS GALLERY
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INTRODUCTION TO PARIS GALLERY
Paris, je t’aime. this gallery is the culmination of a mere 3 days of hopping on and off the Métro and running from place to place, sometimes twice in the heat of a late June to take advantage of different lighting, often times getting lost along the way because I failed to follow one of my axioms, always travel with a good map. Albeit these 3 days were informed by half a dozen prior visits to this city which started as two islands in the Seine, Île Saint-Louis and Île de la Cité, home to the Gothic masterpiece, Notre Dame forever enshrined in our minds by Victor Hugo’s story of a hunchback. Paris is a monument to Western civilization as well as to Napoleon whose ego forced him to use brute force to spread the best ideals of the French Revolution to much of Europe. The Place des Vosges, the Louvre and Tuilleries serve as a lasting monument to monarchy now democratized by French and visitors alike who visit some of the world’s finest art at the Louvre and bask in the sun at the other two locations where only king’s and their entourage once walked.
The Corsican military dictator, Napoleon, with his ever present nod to Roman forebearers placed an Egyptian obelisk at the end of the Tuilleries (Place de la Concorde) where Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette had their heads terminally separated from their bodies, and dotted the Parisian landscape with memorials to himself at the Panthéon, the Arc de Triomphe, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, and Vendome Place. Added to and in sight of several of these monuments, the Eiffel Tower, reveals how the city has evolved to keep reminding us of its place amongst the world’s great cities.
Parisians share their city with us less-fashionable, more functionally-dressed tourists perhaps with the hope that their influence will spread as the court of Louis XIV’s has to form modern Western common “court”esies and manners. The French are, more than most, intellectuals (think Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida to name a few) happy to listen to talking heads in the taxi or watch in-depth discussion on television which would never be accepted in a place like US (other than perhaps from Charlie Rose) where superficial entertainments is all they breaks up our mad desire to seek material enrichment no matter how unrealistic especially as a goal to happiness. Yet Parisians are admired for joie de vivre. It’s almost as if they have learned through the ages what makes life more enjoyable and have enshrined the lessons in their culture: fashion topped with scarves, le croissant and pâtisseries, wine, cheese, long lunches, the monumental alongside low-brow art.
Paris is my favorite city in the world perhaps because it is where French culture is enshrined. Yet it helps to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism about that which we love. So I continue to admire while reminding myself how Ho Chi Minh in his early years as Nguyen Ai Quoc (Nugyen who loves his country) also praised French culture while fighting French oppression. For even as enlightened as the French may be, they were also colonial rulers who brutally suppressed the native peoples they exploited in places like Vietnam and Algeria. So I hope you can appreciate this early start of a gallery of Paris with a sense of appreciation for the beauty of the city with a healthy dose of cynicism to temper our admiration for its beauty.