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Cultural News Summary

Here are some interesting things read in French papers this week:

Marie-Douce Albert et Éric Biétry-Rivierre report (Quatre projets audacieux pour les Halles [Four audacious projects for Les Halles], April 8) in Le Figaro on the plans in Paris to renovate the neighborhood of Les Halles, both above and below ground. If you click on the Diaporama link, you can see the models proposed by the four teams.

This year is the 300th anniversary of the death of French Baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier. Marie-Aude Roux ("Te Deum" pour Charpentier, April 9) reports in Le Monde on the attempts by French musicologists to revive his music. Many Europeans would recognize the first eight bars of Charpentier's Te deum (H. 146), she says, because it has long been played on Eurovision as the introduction to special sports, political, or cultural events. See also her other article on Charpentier, Une égale maîtrise dans tous les genres (An equal mastery in all genres, April 9, in Le Monde), and the official Charpentier Web site from the French government's Ministry of Culture (see the Ionarts Proposal if you are like me and think we need a Department of Culture here in the United States).

In an article (La Bibliothèque nationale de France sèche ses livres victimes d'une inondation [French national library dries books damaged in flood], April 10) in Le Monde, Charlotte Collonge reported on a flood on April 7 caused by a malfunctioning fire alarm system on the 13th floor of the northwest tower, the "Tower of times," at the new Tolbiac building. Water flowed all the way down the stacks to the ninth floor, causing water damage to more than 1500 books and minor humidity damage to almost another 10,000. That part of the stacks contains mostly 19th- and 20th-century books, works of history, religion, and theology, with some rare pieces. Caroline Wiegandt, assistant general director of the library, is quoted as saying, "There is no irreparable damage to report. None of the reserve works, which are very precious, were affected." A big sigh of relief is in order, considering the sorts of documents the library owns. (The story was also covered by Ange-Dominique Bouzet, Sérieuse inondation à la BNF [Serious flood at the BNF], April 8, in Libération.)

There are two new exhibits on British painter Francis Bacon. The first is reviewed in Le Monde by Harry Bellet (Francis Bacon, la chair de la peinture [Francis Bacon, the flesh of painting], April 10): Francis Bacon und die Bildtradition (Francis Bacon and the painting tradition), at the Fondation Beyeler (in Basel, Switzerland) until June 20, juxtaposes a selection of Bacon's works with paintings by Titian, Velásquez, Rembrandt, Goya, Van Gogh, and Picasso. You can see a lot of the paintings in the show on their Flash site. Bellet's other review (Des papes, des morts et des autoportraits en série [Popes, the dead, and self-portraits in series], April 10, in Le Monde) deals with the second exhibit: Francis Bacon, le sacré et le profane (Francis Bacon, sacred and profane) at the Fondation Dina-Vierny—Musée Maillol in Paris until June 30. No images available for this one. Bellet quotes Michael Peppiatt, curator of this exposition, as saying, with a smile, "Thanks to the Beyeler, which snagged quite a few Bacons, I had to look for paintings that are less shown." The result, he adds, is "stunning because of the number of works, if not completely unknown, at least rarely seen."

Finally, Jean Pierrard writes (Premières taches [First spots], April 11) in Le Point about the new exhibit of some 240 paintings by Joan Miró (Joan Miró 1917-1934: La naissance du monde [The birth of the world]), at the Centre Pompidou until June 20. The Bande-Annonce link will take you to a Flash presentation of a mere 10 of the paintings in the exhibit. Better that than nothing, I guess.

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