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At the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

I'm in Paris, France, for three weeks, teaching on Columbia College Chicago's study abroad program. The students don't arrive until the weekend, so I'm just relaxing in the city and our rented apartment in Montparnasse, on an easy schedule of one museum per day followed by a nap and a light dinner (with wine, of course).

On Wednesday, we went to the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, near the Place de l'Alma. Half of the permanent collection was closed, but I still saw some seminal twentieth century works. From the first third of the century, there was the giant canvas-mural La Danse, the second version, painted for an American patron in the early 1930s. Inside the vast room that housed the works, there were two small cabinet with some fascinating photos, such as this one of Matisse sketching the mural:


When you enter the hall where the paintings are displayed, you first see the sketched version:


On the right, you can just about see one of the museum docents, which gives you a sense of the scale of the piece. The sketch is particularly interesting in that you see the curtain pulled back on Matisse's process of creation, with its sure steady lines and its washes of thinned oil colours. On the other side of the wall, the finished version itself, cut in the shape of the wall spaces in which it was originally installed:


The colours are not as vibrant as the original version of La Danse --also a mural, designed for a Russian collector -- and the figures are more angular, the outlines sharper, It still ahs that Matissean flowing rhythm, though.

In another part of the museum, the Christian Boltanski room, an underground chamber with three of his installations from the lasts decades of the twentieth century. This photograph shows two pieces: a room of photographs of children lit by interrogation chamber-style lamps, and a room of shelves piled high with children's clothing, horribly reminiscent of the storage facilities in the Nazi death camps, where the Nazis forced the sonder commandos (press-ganged camp inmates) to sort through the belongings of the murdered to root out anything valuable.


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