Paris on Stage. 1889-1914, a Spectacular Exhibition
Ah, Belle Époque Paris, the effervescent city of boulevards, Les Halles, the circus, cinema, theater, salons d’artistes, gardens, and world fair! With its incomparable art and entertainment, thanks to Le Chat noir, the Moulin rouge, the Lumière brothers, Sarah Bernhardt, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Rodin, there’s nothing like the City of Lights! Explore this rich and exciting world through Paris on Stage: 1889–1914, a spectacular exhibition on display June 19, 2013, to February 2014, at Québec City’s Musée de la civilisation. Come find out how Paris became the European cultural capital of the day, as you discover the iconic people, events, and places that epitomized that remarkable era. This wondrous journey to another era, with its enthralling ambiance and evocative décor, has been brought to life under the artistic direction of Cirque Éloize’s Jeannot Painchaud.
“Paris on Stage: 1889–1914 is one of the major events marking the 25th anniversary of Musée de la civilisation,” said Musées de la civilisation executive director Michel Côté. “The Museum maintains ties with many countries around the world but has always had a special, ongoing relationship with France, working closely with its major museums. This extraordinary project is also part of a series of exhibitions examining the cultural fabric of Québec society, which we launched in 2011 with Rome: From the Origins to Italy’s Capital. The Belle Époque paved the way for a new culture—a culture of the masses—whose interest in leisure, popular entertainment, and consumerism can still be seen in our society today,” concluded Côté.
Paris on Stage is an immersive exhibition plunging visitors into the bustle, effervescence, and energy of Belle Époque Paris. Staged to conjure up the Paris of our dreams, it uses space, sound, and light to involve virtually all the senses. Equipped with audioguides, visitors become strollers promenading the wide boulevards where there’s so much to see.
They enter the skin of a Belle Époque Parisian, marveling at the newness and creativity, and delighted by the many expressions of popular culture and new leisure opportunities. Along the way, they’ll hear a chanson from a café or sidewalk orchestra, breathe in the fresh air of Bois de Boulogne, marvel at the view through a peephole, experience the moving sidewalk from the 1900 Universal Exhibition, or soak up the view from the Eiffel Tower’s first level.
“I imagined the exhibition’s itinerary as a show, with the intention of a strong entrance, where the visitor is propelled in the heart of Les Halles, followed by a series of pauses and strong moments. The climax is the wonderful panorama of the 1900 Universal Exhibition with Paris in the background. Between these elements, visitors can wander through the exhibition as they would a Parisian boulevard. With the fabulous scene of Paris during la Belle Époque, sometimes a simple projector is all that is required to shed the light on a masterpiece!” explained Cirque Éloize’s Jeannot Painchaud, the exhibition’s artistic director.
UNDER THE ROOFS OF PARIS: AMAZING COLLECTIONS
Paris on Stage: 1889–1914 also showcases outstanding artistic, technical, and historical pieces from the collections of leading Paris museums. In all, close to 250 artifacts and works of art attesting to the creativity of the period are on display, including paintings by Jean Béraud, Abel Truchet, posters—some extremely rare—by Toulouse-Lautrec and Alphonse Mucha, sculptures by Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel, items that belonged to the divine Sarah Bernhardt, theater costumes, photos, period film clips, automata, and objects illustrating technical advances, such as a “voiturette” from the first series of automobiles made by the Renault brothers, a model of a tramway, bicycles, a cinematograph, a telegraph, and more.
One star attraction will be Léon Lhermitte’s Les Halles, a monumental 4 m by 6.3 m painting that has not been removed from the vaults of the Petit Palais since 1930. The painting has now been restored, thanks to the patronage of Rungis Marché International, and the Québec public will have the chance to see it first before it returns to Paris.
Musée de la civilisation has also drawn on its own national collections to illustrate scientific advances of the day, as well as the presence of Québec artists in Paris, including Alfred Laliberté, Charles Huot, and Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté. It also enlisted its Québec and Canadian museum network partners to round out the display.
IN PARIS STREETS
Paris on Stage is built around a street scene evoking the City of Light’s celebrated boulevards, which reflect a society in transition. A symbol of a new mass culture blending leisure, entertainment, and consumerism, the grands boulevards of Paris provide a wealth of insight into this golden age. The various exhibition themes will be highlighted in special, partially enclosed spaces that provide a unique visitor experience.
At the entrance, a gigantic fresco depicting Les Halles transports visitors to this iconic bustling market that Zola dubbed the “belly of Paris.” Then, as they amble along the Paris streets, visitors can explore the many exhibition themes and spaces. The carnivalesque Fête Foraine, which was at its peak in the Belle Époque, will let Musée visitors relive the fun, thrills, and sounds of this typical Parisian carnival, which thrilled audiences of all ages and social classes. Cinema was a huge hit too, found at café-concerts, music halls, department stores, and even the circus before the emergence of dedicated movie theaters. In this period, café-concerts, cabarets, and music halls were a mainstay of modern sociability, contributing to the legendary image of “gay Paris.” Parks and gardens, with their walkways and footpaths, ponds, streams, and waterfalls, were meant to provide ideal locales for strolling and unwinding. The theater—the most popular form of entertainment in the 19th century—moved Parisian audiences to laughter and tears. A wealth of repertoire existed, from traditional pieces with the great Sarah Bernhardt to vaudeville and avant-garde works. Salons d’artistes were devoted to promoting academic art, providing artists seeking to make names for themselves with opportunities to show—and be paid for—their work. August Rodin, the iconic father of modern sculpture, presented a selection of his works at the Alma pavilion, a refuge of quietude and beauty specially built for the occasion. Paris also hosted five world’s fairs in the 19th century. These huge celebrations of modernity marked an essential step in the evolution of mass leisure, culminating in the 1900 World Exhibition and the construction of a massive amusement park.
BEYOND THE EXHIBITION
As a complement to the Paris on Stage exhibition, the Museum will treat visitors to guided tours, including a fascinating iPod tour for children, as well as a wide variety of cultural activities such as the captivating “Paris découvertes” series of talks.
The Museum, in collaboration with Beaux Arts magazine, will publish a book featuring contributions by numerous well-known experts. The work is being distributed nationally and internationally, in both French and English.
Paris on Stage: 1889–1914, a spectacular exhibition presented at Québec City’s Musée de la civilisation, June 19, 2013, to February 23, 2014. Visit www.mcq.org/paris for details.
A Musée de la civilisation production under the artistic direction of Cirque Éloize’s Jeannot Painchaud, with the generous support of the City of Paris Museums and the collaboration of Secrétariat à la Capitale-Nationale, Tourisme Québec, Québec City Tourism, Château Laurier (official hotel), the Le Soleil daily newspaper, and Radio-Canada. With the special contribution of the major exhibition patronage fund established by the Québec City Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Companies contributing to this fund include Auberge Saint-Antoine, the Château Laurier hotel, Les Tours du Vieux-Québec, Pain Béni restaurant, and the Québec City Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Alcoa is a partner in all Musée de la civilisation programming.
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