You can say on an unyielding regular basis something is happening culturally in Paris. Last Sunday for example was the Fete de la Musique, in which well-known and lesser known bands get to take over the city, playing on the street or in bars and cafes. Walk around the city and you almost stumble upon some musicians urgently trying to enthrall a crowd. One year I remember hearing a singer do an incredible Jim Morrison impersonation. Had Jim Morrison come back from the dead? No it turned out to be some spotty youth, who had did a really good Morrison sound-alike. The range of music you can hear, in one night is remarkable. Another night if you live in Paris, you would wish to put in your diary would be the decade-old Nuit Blanche, another free event from dusk ’til dawn. A carnival of arts and culture inspired by St Petersburg’s ‘White Nights’, where music and the arts keep the population captivated, throughout the night. In Paris. The premise is simple: for one night only, art takes over the city, with projections, events in unlikely places (public swimming pools).
If you want to enjoy the writers scene, you should head to Shakespeare and Company. I used to live not far from this famed book shop. Next to it is a park and I heard a voice booming from the park, a voice I was familiar with, on television, it turned out to be Will Self, who was part of the Shakespeare Company literary festival. That year he was joined by, Philip Pullman and Martin Amis. Paris is brimming with ex-patriot writers… Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I was fortunate enough to be on a “writer’s panel” recently along with a writer David Burke author of Writers in Paris, Literary Lives in the City of Light. Here is some information about his book. “No city has attracted so much literary talent, launched so many illustrious careers, or produced such a wealth of enduring literature as Paris. From the 15th century through the 20th, poets, novelists, and playwrights, famed for both their work and their lives, were shaped by this enchanting place. From natives such as Molière, Genet, and Anaïs Nin to expats like Henry Miller, Samuel Beckett, and Gertrude Stein.” As a labor of love David Burke follows hundreds of writers through Paris’ labyrinthine streets, inviting readers on his grand tour.
The Art you can see in Paris is of course rich and varied. For example if you want to be challenged by the bizarre, you might wish to visit The Palais de Tokyo, its brand of art is conceptual. The art deco building, that dates back to 1937, itself is imposing and situated in the well-off 16th District, overlooking the Seine. The gallery has this “rough and ready, construction site” feel to it and was reopened in 2001, having been rejigged by the architects Anne Lacaton and Jean-Phillipe Vassel. The Palais de Tokyo, does not have a permanent collection, it is more the habitat for experimental artists for show their often challenging quirky offerings. The museum was derelict for a decade, but reinvented itself, as this striped-down voluminous cathedral to the unorthodox and hip contemporary art. The “hipness and chicness” of this gallery might not appeal to all, and some might find it too cold and unwelcoming and capacious . One of its advantages is that it’s programme, can be flexible and adventurous and reflect the “here and now” as well as staying open to midnight.