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20.10.04

Open Studios in France

The "open studio" is a great cultural event in which artists invite the public into their studios to see what they are working on and how they work. The San Francisco Open Studios are going on this whole month, superbly covered by artist Anna L. Conti in her blog Working Artist's Journal, starting with this interview on October 1. (I've mentioned Anna's thoughts on the production of Così fan tutte here before, but I should also mention her October 4 review of the exhibit Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya, at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. Anna's review has some beautiful drawings of the pieces in the exhibit, which definitely outdoes my April 10 review of the same show when it was at the National Gallery of Art here in Washington.) Anna's series of interviews puts to shame my meager comments on an open studio event here in Washington.

It is probably no surprise at all that there was something similar in France this month, the second Journées des Métiers d'Art, with a national program of open studios and other events all over France (October 15 to 17), sponsored by the following organizations:

The program came to my attention through an article (L'excellence au XXIe siècle, October 14) in Le Figaro:
With five thousand studios and more than a million visitors expected, the Journées des métiers d'art get rolling from tomorrow until Sunday, throughout France. The scope of such an event is essential for working artists to be recognized for their true value. To revive an endangered French tradition is the goal of the Ministry for Small Business, Commerce, and Artistry and of the Society for Encouragement of Artistic Careers (Sema). By opening their doors, fan makers, marionettists, mosaic artists, or stone sculptors give witness to a professional universe that is evolving and reaching out to young people who are sometimes difficult to convince. Some of the participants are being welcomed in historic monuments, proving that tradition and modernity can co-exist. The Kerazan Estate, in the Finistère, is welcoming ceramic artists, lute makers, embroiderers, and calligraphic illuminators; the Château de Langeais, in Touraine, is plunging the public into a medieval atmosphere, by receiving them in a fortress beautified by the precise work of artists.

There is the traditional, but there is also innovation and originality. Rémy Lacombe, in Ille-et-Vilaine, who is crazy about science fiction and comic books, presents his original carafes and coffee pots modeled on his heroes. In Agde, in the Hérault, the exhibit "Rose de la vie" brings together 40 fashion designers who make use of the rose. There you can admire a dress made of foliage and fresh flowers, inspired by an actual gown owned by the Empress Sissi, the image of the eternal renewal of artistic creation.
A side note, "Sissi" is Elisabeth de Wittelsbach, who became a Habsburg when she married Emperor Franz Josef I. She was known for a love of roses, so much so that this breed of roses was named for her. For more information on the open studios in France, see Des participants par centaines aux Journées de la culture (L'Express Parole, October 15) and Métiers du patrimoine : les formations à l'honneur (Le Figaro, September 22).

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