American Art Stars Have Taken Over Paris

Art Privee
Apr 29, 2014 8:17PM

Pioneer video artist, Bill Viola, and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe are both the focus of large retrospectives at the Grand Palais in Paris.

For Viola, it is his first retrospective in France, and the first time the Grand Palais has had an exhibition devoted to video art. There are 20 of his videos displayed in room after room, totaling seven hours of his works. And though each video work is different, they are each fascinating, meditative and spiritual experiences.

The exhibition begins with a quote from the artist: 

“I was born at the same time as video.”

Video is the medium of “his time.” He uses the newest technologies to create the works highlighted in this show, made in the period from 1977 to 2013.

As one continues, another quote from Viola greets the viewer: “in short, landscape is the link between our outer and inner selves.”

One can see how nature impacts his view of life and art. The first video on view is “The Reflecting Pool,” 1977-1979. In almost excruciatingly slow-motion, a man is seen jumping into a pool of water surrounded by beautiful trees and a natural landscape.

In “The Encounter,” from 2012, two women, one old and one young, are walking in a parallel line through a desert. During their journey they briefly meet.

This show is a tour de force and should be one of your first art stops if in Paris.

American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe is also having a retrospective at the Grand Palais with more than 250 images. There are self portraits, classical sculptures, and beautiful, colorful flowers. Many images of body builder and muse, Lisa Lyon as well as his soulmate, Patti Smith are represented. One of the most interesting walls in the gallery is devoted to celebrity portraiture including images of Yoko OnoLouise NevelsonRoy LichtensteinKeith HaringCindy ShermanAndy Warhol, Truman Capote, and many more — these are just fun to see.

Cross over to the left bank to visit the Musée Rodin and be prepared to be mesmerized. Whoever thought to pair Mapplethrope photographs with Rodin’s sculpture is a genius.

The dialogue between Mapplethrope’s black and white images and Rodin’s white casts and dark bronzes now seem obvious. Although the artists lived at different times, they were both obsessed with every part of the body. The show contrasts images of hands and legs made by each artist, as well as emphasizing how each used drapery to highlight his subject.

Mapplethorpe continually sought to sculpt the body through photography:

“Mapplethorpe sought the perfect form, whereas Rodin attempted to capture the sense of movement…”

The Musée Rodin is showing these artists together through September 21st. Buy tickets beforehand, the lines are tremendous. Enjoy Paris!

View more photos and read about many other fabulous art experiences at

Art Privee