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.
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.