History of a Parisian foundry

I’m always fascinated by the history of the buildings we visit, particularly those which have been repurposed. On our most recent trip to Paris, both of the exhibitions were in buildings originally built for diffferent purposes.

We visited the Atelier des Lumieres, in Paris set in the former Chemin-Vert foundry in 11th arrondissement, a relatively new area for us to explore. Said foundry was established in 1835 by the Plichon brothers to supply the French navy and railway companies with high-quality cast iron parts.

In all, four generations of the Plichon family successively ran the foundry until the Great Depression in 1929. The company was dissolved in 1935; the site and buildings were sold to the Martin family, who are still the current owners. The foundry was used by a tool manufacturing company until that ceased operations in 2000.

In 2013, Bruno Monnier, the President of Culturespaces, discovered the former disused foundry. After creating the Carrières de Lumières art centre in Les Baux-de-Provence, he wanted to set up a Digital Art Centre in Paris. The Martin family, which was interested in the project, agreed to rent out the great hall and its annexes to him in 2014.

Four years later, after major renovation works, the Atelier des Lumières opened its doors to the public with its three inaugural exhibitions: “Gustav Klimt” and “Hundertwasser”and “POETIC_AI.” It’s most definitely worth a visit.

After visiting the exhibition, I took time to wander around the quarter. Sadly many of us are familiar with the area solely because of the November 2015 terrorist attack which killed 132 people and injured many more. I do know it’s the most densely populated arrondissement in Paris and its bars and restaurants provide an unrivalled convivial atmosphere, a certain “joie de vivre.”

It was here that Parisians began the French Revolution with the storming of the Bastille on 14th July 1789. Today the Colonne de Juillet, the towering golden Corinthian statue commemorating the 1830 Revolution, rests on the site of the old prison at Place de la Bastille.

Place de la République, its sister square, can be found at the oppostite end of Boulevard Richard-Lenoir where crowds tend to gather for political demonstrations. After the afore-mentioned terrorist attacks, this was where Parisians came together to mourn the victims and celebrate French unity. The area is also home to a number of green squares and open places and is a pleasure to walk around despite the lack of obvious landmarks or, maybe, because of that lack!

 

 

Visit to Atelier des Lumières

Whenever we visit Paris, my beloved generally gets to choose which exhibitions and/or events we visit. This time he elected to visit a relatively new exhibition space in Paris’s 11th arrondissement – not an area we know particularly well – called Atelier des Lumières, Paris’s first digital museum of fine art.

Not quite knowing what to expect, we took the metro over to 11th in Eastern Paris and walked the length of rue Saint-Maur. We almost missed the former foundry had it not been for the long queue outside. This didn’t augur well, my beloved does not like to wait. Fortunately, the queue moved briskly and we were soon inside the large multi-sensory exhibition space operated by Culturespaces, called its “Workshop of Lights.”

The exhibition is dedicated to Gustav Klimt and a century of Viennese painting, includin works by Egon Schiele and Friederich Stowasser, better-known as Hundertwasser. There’s also a smaller studio given over to works by emerging artists.

Using state-of-the-art visuals and audio, the artists’ works are transformed as 140 video projectors expose their works onto and across 10 metre high walls over the vast 3,300 square metre surface area of the refurbished building. These fabulously colourful images provide an immersive and panoramic show to the sound track of music by Wagner, Chopin and Beethoven, among others, using an innovative motion design sound system.

It was a mesmerising digital display and we were transfixed as 360-degree views of the artworks flash across the walls. Over a period of around 30 minutes we’re taken on a journey round neoclassical Vienna. Our favourite  aspect was the exhibition’s attention to details, particularly with Klimt’s “golden” phase.

It’s difficult not to be overawed by the scale and depth of this multi-sensory exhibition. However, in my opinion, the best bit is that it makes fine art more interesting, accessible and available to younger audiences.