Report from Paris: Art, Toilets, Poetry

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Art and artists
Today we walked for about five hours and at the end I felt like a novice in boot camp. It was worth it – the street music was fantastic, and we ate in the restaurant “Le Train Bleu” at the Gare de Lyons. It was ornate and a bit pretentious, but we ate well. Their specialty was baba au rhum, and they left the rum bottle on the table in case you needed more.
Last night we sallied forth at about 8:00 and stopped outside several art galleries along the quai on the West Bank, roughly opposite Notre Dame.  At one, the Art Gallery á l’Ouest,  a man came out and said that he was part of the artist collective that had started the gallery, and that there would be an auction in a few minutes.  There were about 25 people gathered inside, drinking wine and chatting.  We liked one of the smaller paintings very much and decided to stay.
We had never been to an auction before, and it turned out this was an “upside down” auction, when the high bid is the first bid and the bidders respond to a lower and lower offering price until either the painting is bought, or the reserve price is reached. Here’s a picture of the auction.
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The first few paintings were not bought; the prices were high (300-700 Euros), and we began to despair of getting the painting we wanted, but in the end, we got the seascape by Maxime Clabot.  As we were talking with the organizer, we said we liked another painting  too – a stunning bright yellow bird painstakingly executed by Christian Kej. The bidding for it had stopped at 250 Euros (the original price was 400), and we couldn’t pay more than 125.  We asked Christian if he would take 125, and he  said he would be delighted to have his bird “fly to New York.” The workmanship merited a higher price, but we did what we could.
Besides excellent art, we happened on two street concerts, one at the Place des Vosges consisting of a lovely young singer accompanied by a guitar and a violin. She sang classic French popular songs. The other was a five musicians on the bridge between Notre Dame and the Left Bank. They were mostly American and played big band music and some funky blues. In case you didn’t know, France, and Europe in general, is enamored of big band music and funky blues. Their drummer was an older man who had no drumsticks; he played with his fingers, which had steel caps.  The leader announced that he played the “washboard,” but it was more, an eclectic setup housed in a small cart that could be packed up afterward. He had whistles, washboards, cymbals, bells, and a small drum.
Great art in great venues, appreciated by large crowds which today included us.

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