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French News Bits for the New Year

It's Matthias Grünewald time! There is a special exhibit at the Musée d’Unterlinden in Colmar, in honor of Grünewald's Isenheim Altarpiece. At the same time, the Staatliche Kunsthalle in Karlsruhe is hosting an exhibit called Grünewald und seine Zeit. The centerpieces are the five major Grünewald works in the museum's collection, surrounded in this exhibit by another 150 works on loan. Guy Duplat has a review on this Ionarts favorite (La folie singulière de Grünewald, December 7) in La Libre Belgique: "The exhibit confims the singular talent of Grünewald for choosing very realistic images to show the lives of the saints and the suffering of Christ in a way that elicits compassion." Tell me about it. (Also see Duplat's review of the Colmar exhibit.)

We have covered the ongoing restoration at the Château de Versailles, part of the attempt to return the building and grounds to the state it was in during the life of Louis XIV. This includes reconstructing the salons de verdure (secret groves hidden in the woods used for garden parties), hosting equestrian spectacles, and recasting the grille royale in the courtyard. Béatrice de Rochebouët reports (Versailles ressuscite le mobilier d’argent du Roi-Soleil, December 3) in Le Figaro on a special exhibit, Quand Versailles était meublé d'argent, rather than an actual restoration. The seven rooms of the Grand Appartement leading to the Hall of Mirrors have been reappointed with the legendary silver furniture found there for a brief time. Louis XIV was forced to melt down all of the original pieces to finance his European campaigns, but copies made for other courts have been loaned from around Europe. For some pictures, Paris-Match has a short video report. The exhibit is on display through March 8.

This is one is for Miss Ionarts, who has recently discovered the evil attraction of Barbie. The Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine in Paris is hosting an installation by ten architects, all of whom are women, called La Villa de Mademoiselle B.. Marie-Douce Albert wrote a review (Barbie s'offre une villa idéale, December 31) in Le Figaro. Each architect was assigned a room in the luxury house to design for Barbie, with the added goal of saying something about the state of architecture, too. The show is on exhibit through January 27, during which time children who come to see it can submit a drawing showing their plan for a house for Ken.

Maurice DruonFrench feathers got ruffled over an article by Don Morrison in the European edition of TIME Magazine (The Death of French Culture, November 21). None other than Maurice Druon (pictured), former Minister of Culture and member of the Académie française, took up the gauntlet with a response (Non, la culture française n’est pas morte !, December 4) published in Le Figaro. The tone of withering sarcasm in the opening paragraph is razor-sharp and the counter-attack, against the crassness of American media, is on target (my translation):

And so it begins again. Every four or five years, the United States is seized by an anti-French fever and one of its mass media outlets decides to communicate with the universe. Enough time has passed since the preceding crisis that it could be forgotten, so the attack seems all new. If I were a teenager, I would be in despair. [...] Uncultivated America! I was about to cry. But no, the United States has many researchers, scholars, thinkers, and creators who are at the highest level. It is just that they do not write for TIME.
Druon's essay was accompanied by articles about the reputation of French artists and cultural figures beyond the borders of France. In effect, TIME, whose coverage of the arts, not to speak of classical music, is paltry, is throwing stones in glass houses.

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