Story by Sophie Delon
Contemporary art works have long been a part of the urban landscape of Paris. Some blend in discretely with the environment while others immediately catch the eye. Some are there for the long term, others are simply temporary. Some occupy a major public square, others may be found around the corner of a little street.The Stravinsky fountain near the Centre Pompidou, the fruit of a collaboration between Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint-Phalle, is well known for its mechanical sculptures that seem to dance on the water. A little further away, opposite the Comédie-Française, the Palais-Royal metro station entrance has a stunning metallic cupola, “Le Kiosque des noctambules”, decorated with multicoloured glass beads. It’s an original creation by Jean-Michel Othoniel, commissioned by the RATP for the one hundredth anniversary of the Métro in 2000.
Nearby, the accumulations of Arman “L’Heure de tous” and “Consigne à vie” ironically blend into the setting of the Saint-Lazare train station. Over at the esplanade of La Défense, more than sixty works seem to hang between the sky and the earth, including the imposing “Araignée rouge”, by Calder, the “Danse aquatique” by Selinger and the majestic fountain by Yaacov Agam.
Between 2004 and 2008, the Paris City Council has commissioned 35 public works from eminent international artists that honor the places they’re located in, like the “Danse de la fontaine émergente” by Chen Zhen, an enigmatic dragon whose translucent body dives in and out of the asphalt in place Augusta-Holmes in the Chinese quarter. In place Jules-Renard, the “Tour d’exercice” by Wang Du, was erected as a tribute to the firemen of the 17th arrondissement. Other installations play with perceptions, like the audio recording “Murmures” by Christian Boltanski in , or the exotic “Mirage” by Bertrand Lavier, a facade of a jungle painted in trompe-l’œil appearing out of the middle of old stones in the rue des Peupliers.
But outside the most well-known places and routes, Paris has even more surprises. The installation by Véronique Joumard, “Les Éclats,” moves around Paris to cover the capital’s flowerbeds with a myriad of coloured light bulbs. Equally inspired, a work by by the artist and architect Yona Friedman, “Le Musée des graffitis” in the Jardin Lilolila (19th arrondissement) invites groups (with prior booking) to take part in the creation of a “shared” and perpetually changing work of art.
Check out some of these public installations:
Square in front of the Saint-Lazare train station, Paris 8th
CHRISTIAN BOLTANSKI, “Murmures”
Parc Montsouris, Paris 14th
WANG DU, “Tour d’exercice”
Place Jules-Renard, Paris 17th
YONA FRIEDMAN, “Le Musée des graffitis”
Jardin Lilolila, 295 rue de Belleville, Paris 19th
BERTRAND LAVIER, “Mirage”
Rue des Peupliers, pont Petite-Couronne, Paris 13th
JEAN-MICHEL OTHONIEL, “Le Kiosque des noctambules”
Place Colette, Paris 1st
JEAN TINGUELY AND NIKI DE SAINT-PHALLE, FONTAINE STRAVINSKY
Place Igor-Stravinsky, Paris 4th
CHEN ZHEN, “Danse de la fontaine émergente”
Place Augusta-Holmes, Paris 13th
THE WORKS ON THE SQUARE AT LA DÉFENSE