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Monday, 10 December 2012

Rainbathing at the Edward Hopper exhibition in Paris

If you're planning on making it along to the Edward Hopper retrospective at Le Grand Palais in Paris, here are a few things worth bearing in mind.

First up of course, buy your ticket in advance.

If you don't, the chances are you'll spend several hours queueing, or standing in line if you will, watching those who've had the foresight to book online pass in front of you.

That said, even if you have a ticket, there's no guarantee that you'll actually make it through the doors at the time stated.

The numbers allowed in are clearly limited by the space available, and that's perfectly reasonable, if only for security purposes.

Ah waiting!

This being Le Grand Palais, so completely unused to organising major exhibitions that have popular appeal (let the irony carry you away) there's a very French approach to "service".

Because the exhibition is running from October until January - the months when Paris offers the very best of weather - absolutely no thought seems to have been made by the wonderfully-named Strategic orientation council or those involved in running the whole shebang as to how visitors might comfortably spend their time outside, rainbathing.

Temporary shelter to protect those waiting from the "inclement" (don't you just love that word - very TV presenterish n'est-ce pas?)  weather?


Not at all.

Instead, just as the masses who went to see the Monet exhibition a couple of years ago, you can take full advantage of whatever Mother Nature showers upon you.

Edward Hopper retrospective, Le Grand Palais, Paris - brolly parade
What about staff on duty to explain waiting times, deal with complaints from very patient (given the circumstances) often damp and probably cold visitors?

Oh solitary and decidedly miserable-looking attendant who sympathises with the predicament of those waiting, clearly doing his best, but cannot really deal with the situation.

Nor should he have to.

Ergo - take a brolly, wrap up warm and...hey, perhaps have a flask of something hot (or warming) to hand.

When that moment comes and you're allowed inside, be prepared to go shoulder-to-shoulder with other visitors desperate to get a glimpse of the works on display.

The atmosphere is decidedly one in which there's an intimate sharing of space as everyone politely pigeon-steps their way from room-to-room, painting to painting.

Edward Hopper retrospective, Le Grand Palais, Paris - through the doors and then what?

Oh and keep an eye out for the "professional" who has brought their own stool with them and will happily hog a prime location slap bang in front of the work THEY want to see.

As for the exhibition itself, well it's a delight as Hopper's work is accessible and his Realism - because that's what it is - is something your mother would probably approve of as "proper painting".

Plus it provides a great insight into the man often described as an iconic American artist.

If you hire the audio handset to guide you through the exhibition, be sure to return it to the unmarked little plastic basket, almost hidden,  as you leave.

Otherwise you could end up taking it home because the woman responsible for collecting headsets for groups will refuse to take it with a jobsworth, "No you cannot leave it here."

Alternatively of course you might decide to go it alone and instead simply enjoy what you see, including the influence Paris had on his style (here's a pretty good piece on that) with the occasional and inevitable pontificator happily sharing their "knowledge" and "understanding" of Hopper with anyone who doesn't really want to listen.

There's always (at least) one - isn't there?

Finally, for those of you who take shall we call it the "French and Saunders" approach to any sort of exhibition...well the coffee's all right.

The Edward Hopper retrospective runs at Le Grand Palais until January 28, 2013

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