Modern art, feminism and theme parks in Paris

Modern art, feminism and theme parks in Paris

Ever since a high school philosophy class field trip to the SFMOMA, I’ve been intrigued by modern art. Our class visited the SFMOMA and the Legion of Honor museum with one task: find the most beautiful and least beautiful pieces in both. Yet beauty is obviously in the eye of the beholder, and defending why I thought a piece was the most beautiful to someone who hated it drove home the lesson in aesthetics.

View from the Pompidou Center

After discovering the Pompidou Center (often referred to as Beaubourg), I’ve never missed it on a trip to Paris. While the permanent collection never ceases to interest me, the constantly changing exhibitions are what make the repeat trips worth it. Added bonus: the building’s awesome architecture and a great view over the city of Paris, complete with Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur.


I was stoked when I saw the current exhibition: elles@centrepomidou (now until February 2011). It focuses on female artists and the female experience of creation, promotion, success in the art world. I focused on Women’s Studies in college, taking a women’s literature class my last semester that focused on what hinders women’s creativity in writing. Many of the same themes were present in the elles exhibit, notably Virginia Woolf’s idea of needing “a room of one’s own” and money to fund your passion.

“Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size. Without that power probably the earth would still be swamp and jungle.” –Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Some of the art was beautiful, some was ugly in a way that almost dared you stop looking at it. No matter what, it made you think. I picked up a Guerrilla Girls postcard after seeing a piece in the Tate Museum a few years ago, and I was happy to see that they were present in the elles exhibit as well. They focus on fighting discrimination in art with “facts, humor and fake fur”–and to me, their colorful yet in-your-face version of feminism is a great approach to stirring up debate and provoking change.

Another exhibition, Dreamlands, focused on how theme parks, World’s Fairs and fantasy worlds have influenced ideas about the city and how it is used. I’m not going to lie, seeing the photos of the Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas with a hillbilly American in front of it made me a bit embarrassed for the entire state of Nevada. I felt a bit awkward about all of the Vegas and Disneyland photos—is this really the best America can do? Copying the world’s greatest monuments in a haze of alcohol and child’s play? That was, until I saw the photos of the various Asian theme parks that take all the landmarks of a city on a miniature scale, and place them in a row for the ultimate photo opportunity. At least Americans aren’t the only ones. Either way, the exhibit is a thought-provoking look at the relationship between our fantasy worlds and our real worlds (now until August 9)

The elles@pompidou exhibit is open until February 2011 and Dreamlands is open until August 9. I highly recommend checking out both, as well as the museum’s permanent exhibitions.

  • thalia

    glad i'm not the only one that took women's studies in college!! sounds really neat. i took a course called “women, canada and the arts” which i really enjoyed! speaking of women's representation in the arts, i saw something yesterday called the Bechdel test for women in movies (http://bit.ly/dhXn14) on Boing Boing. you should check it out! it really makes you think.

  • LostInCheeseland

    ooo I definitely have to stop by! I'm not generally a huge fan of modern art but this particular topic intrigues me! Thanks!

  • I'm a big fan of the Pompidou! Been a few times and always love it.

  • How fun! I hoped to make it to the Pompidou when I was in Paris, but didn't get there. That exhibit sounds so interesting. Looking back, I wish I had the chance to take some women's studies classes in college!

  • I discovered the Pompidou on my last trip to Paris and loved it. And I was so excited to learn my son loved it too. I'm going to Paris in September. Can't wait to check out the new exhibits.

  • camorose

    I definitely think you would be interested, particularly after reading your interview with Elena of the Illusionists. Very interesting to see how women have been involved in the arts throughout the years, although some of it is a bit extreme. Let me know what you think!

  • camorose

    It's nice to hear from another person who likes it–most people I chat with aren't the biggest fans. The exhibits never cease to interest me–even when they're a bit weird, I always find it worth the trip for the afternoon.

  • camorose

    It's definitely worth the visit on a return trip to Paris! I actually wish that I had done a minor/major in women's studies–I absolutely loved the classes I took (Women's Health, Women Work & Family, and Women's Literature). Would love to study a lot of it further!

  • camorose

    The elles exhibit will still be on in September–can't wait to hear what you think about it and hear about any new exhibits!

  • camorose

    Wow–that is suuuuper interesting. Crazy to think just how prevalent it is. I actually loved my women's studies classes–I took Women's Health, Women, Work & Family, Women's Literature, Gender & the Media. Looking back, I really wish I had minored or double majored in Women's Studies!

  • magicant

    Working in the theme park industry, I was very pleased to find out about the exhibit at the Pompidou (which was on my list to visit regardless).

    And in answer to your question about “is this the best Americans can do?” I can unequivocally say “no, it's not!” Sadly, like reality TV, people in the US often seem to enjoy lowest common denominator schlock more than anything unique or engaging.

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