Weekend travel Paris: Paris Photo and fotofever art fairs
For years I've been wanting to go and see Paris Photo, one of the world's most important photo art fairs. Alas, mid of November, when the Paris version takes place (there's also a Los Angeles one in spring), is less than ideal for me. Still, in 2014 a friend happened to live in the French capital for a number of months, and a few other friends decided to go, so I joined the crew.
The decision was a bit last minute, so I didn't manage to pre-order tickets, but had to queue outside the magnificent glass domed Grand Palais, on Avenue Winston Churchill in Paris' lush 8th district (or "arondissement", if you need to indicate it to a taxi driver). Luckily it didn't rain while we had to wait in the open, without shelter. And slightly amused we realized that even pre-booked and pre-shipped tickets might not have gotten us into the venue much or any quicker. But ticket sale, security check (just take a small shoulder bag or back pack, but which can fit the catalogues and books you might be collecting over hours of hiking the ailes) and entry were actually well organized and reasonably quick.
The Paris Photo art fair itself is an impressive event. The glass domes of Grand Palais provide a natural and - depending on weather and cloud conditions - very changing light to the venue which I found attractive: a feeling closer to an open air event, rather than the usual museum or hall situation. There are gallery stands, publishing houses' stands, book signings, artist conversations and podium discussions as well as a number of topical exhibitions, in 2014 by sponsors such as Leica, BMW and J.P. Morgan. The art is of high standard, with price tags to match (I haven't seen much below 2.000 €uros a piece, and sky's the limit for some of the truly outstanding works, including along the lines of "Carbon Print, 1880ies"). We spent a full seven hours on that Saturday, amply sufficient for just visiting, perhaps a bit short if you really wanted to select and buy.
Sunday then it was over to the smaller but no less interesting fotofever, a more recent event in the halls of "Carrousel du Louvre" where previously the Paris Photo used to take place. The atmosphere is less formal, the art work on display on the more affordable end of the spectrum (the bulk of it more or less clearly below the 2.000 €uro which seemed to mark the entry price at Paris Photo). I discovered a few very interesting artists there for the first time and about whom I intend to write features here at some stage. The book printers I found spectacular, with their handcrafted small numbers artist editions. Together with a few purchases and a book signing the five hours went very quickly.
Transport: From Zurich, direct high speed train TGV several times a day, in this case, 07:34-11:37 a.m. (bar service; or else small breakfast in 1st Class, included in the fare), just in time for the daily 12:30 p.m. Paris Photo opening.
Accomodation: Functional and "correct" (as the French would say) Hotel Terminus Lyon, right opposite the Gare de Lyon. Just drop your bags (the room won't normally be ready this early, in particular not on a Saturday) before you continue to Paris Photo (ample public transport, or 15-20 €uros for a more sight seeing taxi ride), and leave them there the next day while roaming Paris before boarding for the return journey (very cramped quarters on a late Sunday afternoon - 1st Class recommended).
Dinner: "Au Petit Riche", a 160 year old Paris classic of middle price range, in 25 Rue le Peletier, 9th district or arondissement, not far from the old Opera (Garnier) and close to the "grands boulevards". Friendly waiters (yes). Subdivided into many smaller salons, which makes for an atmosphere much more intimate and authentically Parisian than the overall size would suggest. Excellent food. Wines from western France, in particular the Loire valley. Do try the Montlouis moelleux (quite rare on wine lists) as a (not really sweet) desert wine or along with a somewhat heavier main course, and perhaps precede it with Montlouis sec as the regular version.
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