Photo of the Week

Paris-Update-Louvre-evening

The Louvre lights up. © Paris Update

 

Paris Update This Week’s Events

For full details about an event, click on the title to visit the official Web site (in English when available).

French film with English subtitles
> Lost in Frenchlation shows Hélène Angel's Primaire. Cinéma Le Brady, Paris, Feb. 24

Virtual reality on show
> Virtuality will host speakers and networking sessions on this hot topice. Centquatre, Paris, Feb. 24-26.

Contemporary textile art
>Miniartextil is an exhibition of new textiles from around the world. Le Beffroi, Montrouge, Feb. 22-March 19.

A barnyard in Paris

ParisUpdate-cow
> The Salon International de l'Agriculture brings the best of the country's livestock and crops and the products made from them to Paris. Porte de Versailles, Paris, Feb. 25-March 5.

Before and after ecological disaster
> The Chic Planète festival presents two types of films, those celebrating the bounty of the earth and science-fiction views of what will happen after an ecopalypse. Forum des Images, Paris, March 1-April 13.

Paris semi-marathon
> Starts and ends on the Esplanade du Château de Vincennes, March 5.

French film with English subtitles
> Lost in Frenchlation shows Matthew Lancit's Flâneurs (Street Rambles). Cinéma MacMahon, Paris, March 3.

Literary conversations
> The festival New Writings, New Styles brings well-known Irish and French writers together to discuss contemporary literature in the two countries. Irish Cultural Centre, Paris, March 3-4.

Indian film scene
> The festival India Express takes a tour of new and classic films focusing on the subcontinent’s major cities. Forum des Images, Paris, through Feb. 26.

Young European photographers
> The Festival Circulation(s) features emerging photographers. Centquatre, Paris, through March 5.

Frank Capra Retrospective
> The great American director in the spotlight. Cinémathèque Française, Paris, through Feb. 27.

 

Art - Museums

 

elles@centrepompidou

elles@centrepompidou, paris

Ana Mendieta's video “Untitled (Chicken Piece Shot #2), 1972, has lost the interest of two visitors to the all-woman show at the Centre Pompidou. Photo: Margo Berdeshevsky

“What’s the point of going to see five hundred artworks by women?” a friend asked. “Would you go to see a show that advertised five hundred artworks by men?” ...

elles@centrepompidou, paris

Ana Mendieta's video “Untitled (Chicken Piece Shot #2), 1972, has lost the interest of two visitors to the all-woman show at the Centre Pompidou. Photo: Margo Berdeshevsky


“What’s the point of going to see five hundred artworks by women?” a friend asked. “Would you go to see a show that advertised five hundred artworks by men?”

The question came up in relation to the Centre Pompidou’s new arrangement of its permanent collection: “elles@centrepompidou,” subtitled “Women Artists in the Collections of the Centre Pompidou.”

My friend’s question is a good one. All liberation movements need plenty of self-assertion and some affirmative action to make themselves heard early on in their struggle, but certainly the women’s movement has been around so long and made such strides that attention-getting devices and special privileges are no longer needed?

Maybe not. France, always behind in these matters (only in the past year has a black face been seen on French TV news, for example), certainly still seems to need a little affirmative action for women, but even in the United States, a land I thought was now a thoroughly liberated place for women, a new controversy has just arisen about the number of female artists represented (or not) in the Museum of Modern Art. “The Museum of Modern Art practices a form of gender-based apartheid,” wrote Jerry Saltz, art critic for New York Magazine, on his Facebook page a couple of weeks ago, engendering a lively debate. He noted that only 4 percent of the works currently on show in MoMA’s permanent collection are by women and that only nine of the 135 different artists represented are women. “MoMA is telling a story of modernism that only it believes,” he said. “MoMA has declared itself a hostile witness.”

Interestingly, Saltz’s argument is echoed in a 20-year-old piece by the Guerrilla Girls collective in the Pompidou show. In “Do Women Have to Be Naked to Get into U.S. Museums?” (1989), they used poster art to humorously attack the very same New York institution for exactly the same reason and with an almost identical figure: only 3 percent of the artists whose work was being shown at MoMA at the time were women, they note (while 83 percent of the nudes were female). Maybe a little affirmative action is in order after all.

According to the Pompidou Center, this is the first time ever that a museum has presented only works by women in its permanent collection. “The new hang is neither feminine nor feminist in its approach,” write the curators. “The idea is first of all to show and pay homage to these artists.” They have appropriately entitled one section of the show “A Room of One’s Own,” a reference to Virginia Woolf’s book of the same name explaining very clearly how the traditional role of women kept many of them from achieving greatness in the arts. This historic deprivation offers an apt justification for the affirmative action of this show.

So, what’s in this exhibition of five hundred works by women? A bit of everything, with works of varying levels of quality. There are installations by Annette Messager, Louise Bourgeois and Sophie Calle (all of whom have been the subjects of one-woman shows at Pompidou in the past few years); shock-value body art by the self-mutilating Orlan; a dress made of raw beef by Jana Sterbak; Niki de Saint-Phalle’s complex, monumental doll-like figure “Bride”; furniture by Charlotte Perriand and Gae Aulenti; gorgeous abstract paintings by Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler; one of Germaine Richier’s marvelous sculptures (others are on permanent display on the museum’s terrace); early 20th-century paintings of women (naked and clothed) by Suzanne Valadon; Dorothea Tanning’ spooky hotel-room installation; a Tatiana Trouvé installation full of connections to nowhere; Atsuko Tanaka’s “Electric Dress”; and much, much more.

A goodly share of the pieces on show, but by no means all, have feminist themes, and – as always in the realm of political art – the best get their message across with humor (see Ghazel’s funny videos of a woman completely covered in a black burqa sunbathing, moonwalking, ice skating, etc.). Others use pornography or even a bit of sadistic voyeurism – the other day, a rather large group of people stared in fascination for quite a long time at Sigalit Landau’s video of a naked woman hula-hooping on a beach with a hoop made of barbed wire, complete with close-ups of the wounds it created.

What can we learn from this show of work only by women? That their work is just as diverse as that of men, for better or worse. Maybe in the future we won’t need this type of segregation anymore. MoMA take heed.

Heidi Ellison

Centre Pompidou: 19, rue Beaubourg, 75004 Paris. Tel.: 01 44 78 12 33. Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Closed Tuesday. Métro: Rambuteau. Admission: €10-€12. Through May 2010. www.centrepompidou.fr or elles.centrepompidou.fr

Buy related books and films from the Paris Update store.

More reviews of current art exhibitions.

Reader reaction

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to respond to this article (your response may be published on this page and is subject to editing).

© 2009 Paris Update