Thursday, September 20, 2007

Strip-Off: Art in the Metro

Paris métro station interiors. Some are mundane, while-tile-and-billboard affairs. Some I find downright annoying, like the neon chaser-lighting at Maubert-Mutalité. (Will someone please turn that thing off?) Some are in the throes of sorely-needed faceifts.

But there are a number of stations that have enough artistic interest that it's fun to go out of your way to head underground to take a peek; in any case, they make the journey more culturally stimulating -- if the adrenaline of the métro traveling isn't enough.

On my more familiar routes, I love the scrabble effect of the lettered tiles of the Concorde metro station. The mosaics spell out the text of the La Declaration des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen.

At the Varenne stop, a large copy of a Rodin sculpture. And I've learned some intriguing scientific facts at Champs-Elysées-Clemenceau while waiting for ligne 1.

The Louvre-Rivoli stop, with its lushly lit display cases featuring copies from the Louvre, makes me feel as though I should talk in hushed tones of a museum, even when the train is squealing to the platform.

In my moonlit musings about métro station decor, I wonder if the RATP would be adventurous enough to have a sculpture of Cerberus guarding some métro entrance, but I guess the analogy might scare away more erudite passengers.

Lacking Cerberus, there is still ample reason to head underground, at the art gallery at the Premiere station -- which, as you may have guessed, was the first métro station in Paris, at Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre. The gallery currently features an exhibit called Strip-Off. Not removal of clothes, but wallpaper.

It's a collection of wallpaper that has been used in surprising ways by artists from the IESA, the Institut des études supérieures d'art. Added are complementing original costumes designed by couturiers such as Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, Elie Saab, Jacques Garcia, and Franck Sorbier.

On September 27 at 6 pm, as the finale to the exhibit the wallpaper will be stripped off, signed by the artists, and auctioned off, with the proceeds going to charity.

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