For the final instalment of this trilogy, I thought that I’d bring-it-on-home by spending some time introducing you to a very important piece of Canada right here in Paris. It’s an institution that’s near and dear to my heart – in fact, one of my first big curatorial projects happened at Centre Culturel Canadien.
Located in the very political seventh arrondissement, the building is a grand example of 18th-century Parisian architecture. Even more impressive is its sightlines; from the third floor window, looking onto rue Constantine, you get a right hand view of the Seine, La Tour Eiffel at 12 o’clock and Les Invalides on the immediate other side. That last location is the final internment site of Napoleon Bonaparte, after King Louis-Philippe arranged to have the remains repatriated from the island of Saint Helena in 1840. Sorry about the history lesson, but Paris will do that to you!
So, Centre Culturel Canadien. It’s one of the most significant properties in a suit of Canadian representation abroad and, as far as I understand it, a gift from the French government. The venue is a very functional event and meeting space and, for us visiting Canadians, it’s a special beacon – our big ol’ red and white maple leaf always flies above the main entrance. In addition to all that, the centre plays host to an ongoing, and quite strong, visual and media arts exhibition schedule.
Currently what you’ll find on the walls is Get Hold of This Space, organized by Barbara Fischer at Justina Barnicke Gallery in collaboration with Catherine Bédard, who is the Directrice-adjointe of the centre. The show is an ambitious overview of conceptual art in Canada and includes some of the biggies like Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge, General Idea, Rodney Graham, Image Bank, Garry Neill Kennedy, N.E. Thing Co., Michael Snow, Françoise Sullivan, Ian Wallace and Joyce Wieland, among others. Spread between two floors, I’ve been told this is the first piece in a diptych effort with a second part coming soon.
Enough of the art biz! I want to leave you with some practical Paris pointers, should you find yourself in the city any time soon. You can see where my priorities reside…off the top are three bars followed by three art galleries!
Le Baromètre – This is the first place, on my first visit to France, where I had my first Croque Monsieur with a Kir Royale chaser! I love, love, love this place! It’s a typical neighbourhood joint with a loyal following, which means it can get very, very, very busy during lunches and the cinq-à-sept happy hour. Expect to rub one shoulder with an on-break construction worker while the other touches a local architect. Jut so you know, table seating is reserved for meals, if you’re there for drinks, cozy on up to the bar. 17 Rue Charlot, +33 1 48 87 04 54
Café La Perle – Not an all time fave, but does get marks for entertainment value. Aside from it’s über local popularity, it’s the place where fashion designer John Galliano had his completely inappropriate/drunken/drugged public outburst. C’est la vie! This diner style place is affordable with affable (by Paris standards) staff. Most fun whilst also annoying moment at La Perle, there is only one proper toilet, so during rush hour and invariably long queue forms, and it’s amazing the conversations you’ll strike up while waiting to, well, you know! 78 rue Vieille du Temple +33 1 42 72 69 93
Le Jean Bart – Parisians stare perplexed when I mention it. Firstly, the location near where rue Rivoli bleeds into Saint-Antoine, is très touristique. Also, the place is part tabac meets after hours wine shop all pressed into a restaurant. I like it because the staff are extremely welcoming, and they either actually remember me, or are superb actors … either way! I’ve also enjoyed being the cook’s guinea pig, presenting me with trial plates not yet on the menu. Another big bonus is that kitchen stays open really late (again, by Paris standards)! 86 rue Saint Antoine, +33 1 42 72 08 88
Once you’ve downed a few glasses of Champagne and had a fill of foie gras, you might want to visit a few of the city’s visual art offerings of which there are many! Everyone knows the Louvre, Pompidou and Orsay set, but here are a few places maybe not on the usual radar – and all happen to be private, commercial spaces.
Galerie Yvon Lambert – This is the granddaddy of them all! Yvon Lambert has been selling art for more that 45 years and is unquestionably the most important dealer in the country. The roster of gallery artists is as impressive as the owner’s linage – Lambert comes from art-loving, very well to do, stock. If you ever find yourself in the south of France, it’s worth knowing that the Paris space has a sister site Collection Lambert located in Avignon. This second venue houses and exhibits Lambert’s private collection of some 1200 works. Can Con Alert: The gallery just closed an Ian Wallace exhibition. 108 rue Vieille-du-Temple, +33 1 42 710 933
Galerie Marian Goodman – Brave is the New Yorker who even attempts to navigate the contemporary art frontier in Paris. The city’s cultural scene tends to be very cliquey, but Marian Goodman has been going like gangbusters here since 1995. The space is more modest than the New York location, but certainly blue chip nonetheless. Can Con Alert: Vancouver’s Ken Lum is one of the gallery artists. 79 rue du Temple, +33-1-48-04 7052
Galerie Dukan – A relative newcomer to the Parisian landscape, the gallery has been in operation here for a handful of years after a relocation from Marseille. Owner Sam Dukan is a very likeable personality and maintains an approachable and unpretentious viewing atmosphere. Can Con Alert: The gallery represents Toronto artist Nicholas Di Genova. 24, rue Pastourelle, +33 9 81 34 61 83
Well that’s it from me, from Paris! I’ll bid you adieu and look forward to sharing some further exploits. Next time it’ll be a New York story! I’ll be checking in from the eye of the art fair storm, during Armory week in Manhattan.
William Huffman is an arts administrator, curator, educator, and writer with a history of extensive involvement on both local and international cultural fronts. Follow @williamhuffman on Twitter.