In one of those rare opportunities, after much adance planning, last week I went to Paris with my mom. We went to celebrate her retirement from teaching, and because my mom is an Emily Dickinson fan, she wanted to attend the International Emily Dickinson Society’s annual conference. Which just so happened to be at Paris’ Cite Universitaire this year. Other than going as a support and guide for my mom, I took it as a chance for business and cultural research, continuing education for myself and work. Here are some of the best visual bits from the trip.
Le Papier Tigre
A shop run by graphic designers, this place is must-visit for any designer or stationery nut, and it exceeded all my expectations. Not just fun notebooks and writing utensils, but many items incorporated origami and interesting folds, quite literally pushing the envelope on correspondence.
Beyond the paper products, there were soaps, candles, perfumes (so many fragrance options in Paris!) and other self-care products all designed with the same style so everything went well together. I found the prices of everything very reasonable too. Not sure if it was on account of Brexit, which occurred while we were there, but the Euro and the dollar were nearly the same. Lucky in the short-term!!
Au Petit Bonheur La Chance
Vintage French school and office supplies! My love for office supplies is pretty well documented, so this was a no-brainer. Interesting postage and rubber stamps, notebooks, vintage rolling papers, stickers, notions, and plenty of other oddities to build out my collection and inspire typography layouts. It’s a tiny shop, but worth the visit as the street it’s on is full of other great boutiques and interesting alleyways for further daydreaming.
Paul Klee at le Centre Pompidou. I’d already visited most of the major Paris museums years ago, but this was my first visit here. It didn’t disappoint and wasn’t even terribly busy (maybe everyone was elsewhere watching the France vs the Netherlands Eurocup match). We came for the Paul Klee show and enjoyed the huge Beat Generation show as a bonus.
Familiar, but not super in-depth on Klee’s work, the biggest take away I got was the stylistic overlap in his works to cubism, surrealism, abstract expressionism. Interestingly, his body of work feels cohesive despite covering these disparate movements that don’t always jive visually. My personal favorites are his colorful geometric pieces like these.
If you follow me on Instagram, you can tell exactly why I like this kind of work from the painting and personal work I share there.
The Beat Generation show was about exploring this cultural movement in the USA post-WWII MacCarthy era, and less about a particular medium or type of work. It was funny to experience my own country through the lens of French curators, about a time before I was born. How familiar it felt, with works referencing Bob Dylan, Dizzy Gillespie, Allen Ginsburg, names I’ve heard most of my life but removed by time and geography. I liked drawing parallels between this movement and later anti-establishment ones like sexual revolution of the 60s, or punk in the 80s, and grunge in the 90s.
Paris is very much a museum city, it takes a bit more digging or a local insider to recommend small galleries or non-traditional spaces for art. Worth the effort, though many places were closed on account of Paris Fashion Week, and we experienced many places being closed on either Mondays or Tuesdays but this was not reliably or clearly marked. Many of the guidebooks and even some of the websites had wrong information here, the best answer is simply to call them on the phone to check their hours.
I did find 104 Centquartre, which was walkable from the Airbnb. A MASSIVE space that used to house the city’s undertaking services, it’s now full of open space and art. There was a contemporary photography exhibition up, as well as a farmer’s market. To my delight, there was also a collection of hipster swing dancers grooving throughout the space, very much dressed the part. Small children were as enthralled as I was, dancing along happy to be part of the action. Super cute!
Beyond the obvious museums and less accessible galleries, Paris is full of graffiti and street art, way more than Chicago has. Plenty to see without even trying. Space Invader pieces were everywhere, and I was moved to see the Black Lives Matter movement has found traction in Paris too. Many of the other artists I can’t name, if you know, please share in the comments!
Thank you to Pret-a-Voyager, Ludmilla Barrand from the Paris School of Arts & Culture, Zack Gilbert, our Airbnb host Aurélie, one of my besties Rachel, and South Social and Home for recommendations, French help, and making us feel welcomed!