CLOSING OUT PARIS

As we walked back to our hotel, we came across this monument which I have had a tough time puzzling out. It says ‘memorial national de la guerre d’algerie’ which I assume is a monument to the Algerian War which is worth reading about here. A few tidbits:

The Algerian War remains a contentious event today. According to historian Benjamin Stora, doctor in history and sociology and teacher at Paris VII, and one of the leading historians of the Algerian war, memories concerning the war remain fragmented, with no common ground to speak of:

"There is no such thing as a History of the Algerian War, there is just a multitude of histories and personal paths through it. Everyone involved considers that they lived through it in their own way, and any attempt to take in the Algerian War globally is immediately thrown out by the protagonists."[41]

Stora further points out that "The phase of memorial reconciliation between the two sides of the sea is still a long way off."[41] This was recently illustrated by the UMP‘s vote of the February 23, 2005 law on colonialism, which asserted that colonialism had globally been "positive." Thus, a teacher in one of the elite’s high school of Paris can declare:

"Yes, colonisation has had positive effects. After all, we did give to Algeria modern infrastructures, a system of education, libraries, social centers… There were only 10% Algerian students in 1962? This is not much, of course, but it is not nothing either!"[42]

2008 December 29 Walking Back to Paris Hotel  _MG_2811

As we walked back to the hotel, we stopped at the Ferris wheel in the Place de la Concorde. The sun was going down and it was a great way to end the trip.

2008 December 29 In The Paris Ferris Wheel _MG_2850

2008 December 29 In The Paris Ferris Wheel _MG_2852

2008 December 29 In The Paris Ferris Wheel _MG_2865

So much still to see. Wonderful city.

MORE PARIS

After the Louvre we headed to the Eiffel Tower (of course). We did not feel like fighting the crowds and were unable to get a reservation in the tower restaurant (despite an amazing effort from the Concierge). Exiting the metro at Trocadero (Paris has an amazing subway system), we enjoyed the view across the river.

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As you exit the metro, you come across a WWI monument to the people who fought the war.

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As we looked  down on the Eiffel tower from the Trocadero, we did not realize the importance of the location:

For the Exposition Internationale of 1937, the old Palais du Trocadéro was demolished and replaced by the Palais de Chaillot which now tops the hill. It was designed in classicizing "moderne" style by architects Louis-Hippolyte Boileau, Jacques Carlu and Léon Azéma. Like the old palais, the palais de Chaillot features two wings shaped to form a wide arc: indeed, these wings were built on the foundations of those of the former building. However, unlike the old palais, the wings are independent buildings and there is no central element to connect them: instead, a wide esplanade leaves an open view from the place du Trocadéro to the Eiffel Tower and beyond.

The buildings are decorated with quotations by Paul Valéry, and they now house a number of museums:

      2008 December 29 Touring around Paris  _MG_2633

    2008 December 29 Touring around Paris  _MG_2629

    I never knew who Foch was. Interesting quote from him:

    He advocated peace terms that would make Germany unable to ever pose a threat to France again. His words after the Treaty of Versailles, "This is not a peace. It is an armistice for 20 years" would prove prophetic.

    2008 December 29 Touring around Paris  _MG_2642

    2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2786

    2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2799

    Enjoying a baguette, in the sun on a brisk December day in front of the Eiffel tower was a magical experience. We then headed down to the river and enjoyed a boat ride – a Paris must do. A few sights captured below.

    Alexander III bridge:

    Pont Alexandre III is an arch bridge that spans the Seine, connecting the Champs-Élysées quarter and the Invalides and Eiffel Tower quarter, widely regarded as the most ornate, extravagant bridge in Paris[1] [2].

    The bridge, with its exuberant Art Nouveau lamps, cherubs, nymphs and winged horses at either end, was built between 1896 and 1900. It is named after Tsar Alexander III, who had concluded the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1892. His son Nicholas II laid the foundation stone in October 1896. The style of the bridge reflects that of the Grand Palais, to which it leads on the right bank.

    2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2652

    2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2655

    Not the kind of detail you would ever see on a Canadian bridge.

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     2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2784

    Another Egyptian obelisk liberated, the Obelisk of Luxor in the Place de la Concorde:

    The center of the Place is occupied by a giant Egyptian obelisk decorated with hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramses II. It is one of two the Egyptian government gave to the French in the nineteenth century. The other one stayed in Egypt, too difficult and heavy to move to France with the technology at that time. In the 1990s, President François Mitterrand gave the second obelisk back to the Egyptians.

    The obelisk once marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple. The viceroy of Egypt, Mehemet Ali, offered the 3,300-year-old Luxor Obelisk to France in 1831. The obelisk arrived in Paris on December 21, 1833. Three years later, on October 25, 1836, King Louis-Philippe had it placed in the center of Place de la Concorde, where a guillotine used to stand during the Revolution.

    2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2658

    The Louvre.

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    The architecture of old European cities is breathtaking.

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    Notre Dame. We did not take the time to visit, the boys are all ‘churched’ out.

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    2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2714

    And it was finally time to start walking back to the hotel.

    PARIS CONTINUTED: THE LOUVRE

    Our third day in Paris was one of those days that we usually say we will never do, completely full from start to finish. The first stop was The Louvre and as one would expect, it was packed. We decided on a whirlwind tour where we agreed to hit the big three.

    2008 December 29 The Louvre  _MG_2617

    The Winged Victory of Samothrace:

    The product of an unknown sculptor, presumably of Rhodian origin, the Victory is believed to date to between 220 and 190 BC. When first discovered on the island of Samothrace (in Greek, Σαμοθρακη — Samothraki) and published in 1863 it was suggested that the Victory was erected by the Macedonian general Demetrius I Poliorcetes after his naval victory at Cyprus between 295 and 289 BC. The Samothrace Archaeological Museum continues to follow these originally established provenance and dates.[7] Ceramic evidence discovered in recent excavations has revealed that the pedestal was set up about 200 BC, though some scholars still date it as early as 250 BC or as late as 180.[8] Certainly, the parallels with figures and drapery from the Pergamon Altar (dated about 170 BC) seem strong.

    In April 1863, the Victory was discovered by the French consul and amateur archaeologist Charles Champoiseau, who sent it to Paris in the same year. The statue has been reassembled in stages since its discovery. The prow was reconstructed from marble debris at the site by Champoiseau in 1879 and assembled in situ before being shipped to Paris. Since 1884 it has dominated the Daru staircase.[9] displayed in the Louvre, while a plaster replica stands in the museum at the original location of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace. The discovery in 1948 of the hand raised in salute, which matched a fragment in Vienna, established the modern reconstruction — without trumpet — of the hand raised in epiphanic greeting.

    2008 December 29 The Louvre  _MG_2554

    Venus de Milo. A fascinating history:

    The Venus de Milo was discovered by a peasant named Yorgos Kentrotas in 1820, inside a buried niche within the ancient city ruins of Milos, on the Aegean island of Milos, (also Melos or Milo). The statue was found in two main pieces (the upper torso and the lower draped legs) along with several herms (pillars topped with heads), fragments of the upper left arm and left hand holding an apple, and an inscribed plinth. Olivier Voutier, a French naval officer, was exploring the island. With the help of the young farmer, Voutier began to dig around what were clearly ancient ruins. Within a few hours Voutier had uncovered a piece of art that would become renowned throughout the world. About ten days later, another French naval officer, Jules Dumont d’Urville, recognized its significance and arranged for a purchase by the French ambassador to Turkey, Charles-François de Riffardeau, marquis, later duc de Rivière.

    Twelve days out of Touloun the ship was anchored off the island of Melos. Ashore, d’Urville and [fellow officer] Matterer met a Greek peasant, who a few days earlier while ploughing had uncovered blocks of marble and a statue in two pieces, which he offered cheaply to the two young men. It was of a naked woman with an apple in her raised left hand, the right hand holding a draped sash falling from hips to feet, both hands damaged and separated from the body. Even with a broken nose, the face was beautiful. D’Urville the classicist recognized the Venus of the Judgement of Paris. It was, of course, the Venus de Milo. He was eager to acquire it, but his practical captain, apparently uninterested in antiquities, said there was nowhere to store it on the ship, so the transaction lapsed. The tenacious d’Urville on arrival at Constantinople showed the sketches he had made to the French ambassador, the Marquis de Riviére, who sent his secretary in a French Navy vessel to buy it for France. Before he could take delivery, French sailors had to fight Greek brigands for possession. In the mêlée the statue was roughly dragged across rocks to the ship, breaking off both arms, and the sailors refused to go back to search for them.[2]

    News of the discovery took longer than normal to get to the French ambassador. The peasant grew tired of waiting for payment and was pressured into selling to a local priest, who planned to present the statue as a gift to a translator working for the Sultan in Constantinople (present day Istanbul, Turkey).

    The French ambassador’s representative arrived just as the statue was being loaded aboard a ship bound for Constantinople and persuaded the island’s chief citizens to annul the sale and honor the first offer.

    Upon learning of the reversal of the sale, the translator had the chiefs whipped and fined but was eventually reprimanded by the Sultan after the French ambassador complained to him about the mistreatment of the island citizenry. The citizens were reimbursed and ceded all future claims to the statue in gratitude.

    2008 December 29 The Louvre  _MG_2591

    And last but not least, the Mona Lisa: which was protected by glass as it has been vandalized twice (acid thrown on it once, a rock another time).

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    We did not have a lot of time (and it was just too busy), and we passed by a thousand great pieces (which means we definitely need to go back). One noteworthy part for me was when we passed the Greek and Egyptian displays (having been there, we skipped past). It left me reflecting upon the comments of our guides in those countries and how their history no longer belonged to them. Each went on to explain how large parts of their history is in the museums of the world (Britain and England in particular). Consider the following ….

    From the Parthenon in Athens, hundreds of statues were taken (the second picture being where this would reside had it been left behind):

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    A sphinx …. (well over 6 feet high):

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    Of course. You need to look up. This is just the roof …

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    How it looks before they go on display:

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    And that was just the morning.

    PARIS DAY 2 CONTINUED

     

    After enjoying the Catacombs, we headed toward the Eiffel Tower and the Military Museum. Our first stop was lunch at a little French deli near École Militaire. The food  was fantastic and we did everything that we could to get the French lady who was serving us to smile (she certainly was not going to speak English).

    The École Militaire is a vast military training facility near the Eiffel Tower and had I read the map correctly, I would have realized that it was not the Musée de l’Armée that we were looking for. It is very vast and in the biting wind, the troops were getting a bit frustrated that I could not find the entrance.

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Armoury-4

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Armoury-5

    As we circled, we came across this memorial and to the best of my knowledge this refers to the round-ups of Jews and other political targets in Paris:

    December 12, 1941:
    Arrests in homes. Roundups carried out in Paris, regardless of nationality but aimed particularly at French Jews (dignified Jews) – sent to the camp of Compiegne.

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Armoury-6

    Coming around another corner, I finally realized we were circling around the wrong building (DOH). Guess I should have looked up earlier.

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Armoury-7

    I should have realized that it was the building with the gold roof.

    2008 Dec 28 Military Museum Paris_-2

    The Musée de l’Armée is a museum at Les Invalides in Paris, France. Originally built as a hospital and home for disabled soldiers by Louis XIV, it now houses the Tomb of Napoleon and the museum of the Army of France. The museum’s collections cover the time period from antiquity until the 20th century.

    The start of our tour was the tomb of Napoleon (among others). This is a magnificent building dedicated to one of the world’s greatest generals:

    Within Les Invalides is the final resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte.

    The former emperor’s body was returned to France from St Helenain 1840 and, after a state funeral, was laid to rest in St Jerome’s Chapel while his tomb was completed in 1861.

    There was no expense spared for the tomb and Napoleon Bonaparte’s body lies within six separate coffins. They are made of iron, mahogany, two of lead, ebony, and the outer one is red porphyry.

    The tomb sits on a green-granite pedestal surrounded by 12 pillars of victory.

    2008 Dec 28 Military Museum Paris_-8

    I found this book very interesting, it is Napoleon’s notes about Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, which influenced his thinking. The Scots would be proud.

    2008 Dec 28 Military Museum Paris_-18

    What is also interesting (and not publicized) is the fact that the tomb also hosted hundreds of President  Mitterrand’s spies who kept tabs on his enemies.

    A FORMER French spy chief has revealed how a bunker beneath Napoleon’s tomb was used by hundreds of secret policemen to monitor the conversations of politicians, writers and celebrities.

    Pierre Charroy, 69, a retired general, lifted the veil last week on one of the most sensitive secrets of French intelligence when he told a court about the so-called inter-ministerial control group, or GIC, that he ran for 16 years.

    He is one of 12 accused in the “Elysée-gate” scandal, a case that has made history by showing the extraordinary lengths to which the late President François Mitterrand went to keep tabs on his enemies.

    Abusing the near absolute powers of the French presidency, the Socialist leader set up a cell of security officials in the Elysée Palace to protect secrets such as the existence of his illegitimate daughter and his work as an official in the collaborationist wartime Vichy government.

    We then headed into the museum. Put a male in a war museum, you can never go wrong. The museum covers all major wars and France’s colonial days. A few highlights for me ….

    It is scary to think that exploitation of Africans was so common place in an era not that long past. These posters are from 1905, The paper on the right was denouncing the exploitation of black Africans (November, 1905).

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    2008 Dec 28 Military Museum Paris_-27

    During the Battle of the Marne (WWI), the German’s tried to encircle Paris. At one point, the legend of the Taxis of the Marne was created, where 670 taxis took 6,000 troops to the front as the rail system was too congested. You can read about it here. It should be noted that the fares were paid, at 27% of the metered rate.

    2008 Dec 28 Military Museum Paris_-30

    This weapon stopped me in my tracks. In the middle of machine guns and artillery from WWI was a French made cross bow. It was used to hurl grenades and made from wood. Someone must not have seen the memo about the move to Gatling guns and mortars.

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    The tank changed the cavalry but it was the Gatling gun that changed man’s approach to infantry. This 1939 Gatling gun looked menacing.

    2008 Dec 28 Military Museum Paris_-24

    This map reaffirmed my admiration for the British in World War II. A small island of blue holding out against the Axis regime. Thank God for the British and Churchill.

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    The benefits of video games? My boys could name an astonishing number of weapons in that museum including the German Goliath, the tracked mine (thanks to Company of Heroes). It was bigger than I imagined.

    2008 Dec 28 Military Museum Paris_-52

    So ended day 2, strolling past a beautiful flower shop on our way back to the hotel.

    2008 Dec 28 Paris_-3

    I SEE DEAD PEOPLE – PARIS DAY 2

    We decided to stay in the heart of the city, at the Hyatt which made it easy to get to the subway and move around Paris (public transit is fantastic).

    Walking out of the hotel we received our first big Paris experience – the cold. It was hovering around –2 but there was wind chill. As a family of Canadians who have not seen a Canadian winter in 2 years, we found –7ish crisp VERY cold (how quick we forget).

    2008 Dec 28 Our first walk in Paris_

    2008 Dec 28 Our Starting Point in Paris_

    Paris is littered with great food shops. As we walked to the subway stop we noticed these truffles in the window. Note the price for the white truffles. These are not Cadbury truffles (smile).

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Truffles_-2

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Truffles_

    Our first stop was the Paris Catacombs. We had to wait in line for a half hour and noticed these protestors in the park next to us. The boys went up and asked what they were protesting. Turns out they were protesting smoking, although I wonder if they were protesting people who smoked or the Paris smoking ban?

     2008 Dec 28 Antismoking Sleep In_

    The line slowly moved forward and after a short wait, we entered the catacombs:

    The Catacombs of Paris or Catacombes de Paris are a famous underground ossuary in Paris, France. Organized in a renovated section of the city’s vast network of subterranean tunnels and caverns towards the end of the 18th century, it became a tourist attraction on a small scale from the early 19th century and has been open to the public on a regular basis from 1867. The official name for the catacombs is l’Ossuaire Municipal.

    This cemetery covers a portion of Paris’ former mines near the Left Bank‘s Place Denfert-Rochereau, in a location that was just outside the city gates before Paris expanded in 1860. Although this cemetery covers only a small section of underground tunnels comprising "les carrières de Paris" ("the quarries of Paris"), Parisians today popularly refer to the entire network as "the catacombs".

    The catacombs are massive. We exited at least 6 blocks from where we entered.

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Catacombs_-3

    I found this sign at the entrance quite interesting. Who would steal bones? Turns out lots of people. At the exit the security guard had a stack of bones and skulls that he had confiscated from people. But he doesn’t bother calling the police.

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Catacombs_-4

    It is roughly 135 steps down to the catacombs, and then it is through a series of tunnels. My camera instantly fogged up (and kept fogging) because the humidity was very high, with water dripping from the ceilings. The ambiance was quite effective and unsettling.

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Catacombs_-6

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Catacombs_-7

    After a myriad of tunnels, you finally arrive at the catacombs. The Quarrymen’s foot bath is where the workers would draw water for personal use. The water was a rather eerie green.

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    And then there it is. The bones of 6 million (estimated) Parisians. Initially, the bones were simply thrown into the tunnels but during Napoleon’s time it was ordered that they be arranged. The front bones are in neat piles, with the rest jumbled in behind. It is genuinely creepy (but a must see).

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    Various designs adorn the bone ‘walls’.

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    Part way through the catacombs you come upon a sculpture carved into the wall, Port Mahon gallery, carved by Decure, a veteran of the armies of Louis XV. The town of Port Mahon is in Minorca, where Decure was kept prisoner by the English.

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Catacombs_-9

    There are few bodies that were actually buried in the Catacombs. Those killed during the massacres of September 1792 were:

    The September Massacres[1] were a wave of mob violence which overtook Paris in late summer 1792, during the French Revolution. By the time it had subsided, half the prison population of Paris had been executed: some 1,200 trapped prisoners, including many women and young boys. Sporadic violence, in particular against the Roman Catholic Church, would continue throughout France for nearly a decade to come.[2]

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Catacombs_-18

    An amazing start to day 2 … and a final bone design to close …. creepy.

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Catacombs_-20

    TRAVELLING TO PARIS – DAY 1

    Over the Christmas break our family elected to spend it in Paris. Our first decision was an easy one, spend time in the airport during the holidays or drive to Paris. We quickly settled on the drive (with a few reservations as it is much longer than our Brugee journey) via the Eurotunnel.

    Again, it was surprisingly easy. Approximately 6 hours door to door with roughly 1 hour waiting on the train (to board). The tunnel itself is an engineering wonder and sitting inside the train with a couple hundred other cars is surprisingly relaxing. Correction, relaxing once I had asked the people in front of us to roll up their windows as I was growing weary of listening to High School Musical 3 blaring from their DVD player.

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    Driving into Paris around 4 p.m. (We are not into the whole ‘get on the road early’ thing), we headed directly to our first tourist destination: The Pompidou Center:

    Centre Georges Pompidou (constructed 1971–1977 and known as the Pompidou Centre in English) is a complex in the Beaubourg area of the 4th arrondissement of Paris, near Les Halles and the Marais. It was designed in the style of high-tech architecture.

    It houses the Bibliothèque publique d’information, a vast public library, the Musée National d’Art Moderne, and IRCAM, a centre for music and acoustic research. Because of its location, the Centre is known locally as Beaubourg. It is named after Georges Pompidou, who was President of France from 1969 to 1974, and was officially opened on 31 January 1977 by the then-French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing.

    An interesting building, designed with the ‘guts’ of the building on the outside.

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    The center is dedicated to a French President who loved the arts, with a library and a few museums. We went straight to the top to catch the sunset from the restaurant Georges. It was a spectacular view of the city which you enjoy from here via their live webcams or here for a 360 degree view..

    The view needed to be great, because the food was average, expensive and the service was VERY poor. It was very clear to me that they picked their staff based on their looks and whether or not they would complement the ‘modern art, trendy location’ ambiance versus aptitude (they would rival the British for bad service). But like I said, we were there for the view:

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    Frustrated, but still enthusiastic, we headed down to the very cool Junior Pompidou interactive gallery, filled with interactive light and music displays. The boys particularly enjoyed posing for the light wall.

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    It was then off for a quick tour of the modern art museum, which has digitized much of the collection here. Of course, this is where the pragmatic small town boy in me comes out. I see art in many of the pieces, but am really challenged by others.

    For example, I get this piece of art: This is a protest piece. This is an artist who has something to say and is expressing his point of view. Of course, this is why it is not surprise to me that during the same year that he made this piece, he was also busy signing manifestos with his fellow art buddies:

    October 27
    Signs a manifesto with Klein, Raysse, Hains, Tinguely Spoerri and Villeglé, thus founding the “Nouveau Realisme” with the Critic/Art Historian Pierre Restany. New Realism= new perceptive approaches of reality.

    This fellow is deep. Apologies for the picture, no filters on hand. Click the link above for one without reflections.

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    Now, here is where I struggle. To me, this piece, in British terms, is ‘taking the piss’. I know, the art elite are in shock. How can I not see it? Have I no vision?

    To me, this artist is laughing all the way to the bank. Seriously, am I the only one? And to make it even funnier, it is a prominent location near the entrance.

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    The title of this magnificent piece? Dark Blue Panel by Ellsworth Kelly. When commenting on his style:

    William Rubin noted that “Kelly’s development had been resolutely inner-directed: neither a reaction to Abstract Expressionism nor the outcome of a dialogue with his contemporaries.”[7] Many of his paintings consist of a single (usually bright) color, with some canvases being of irregular shape, sometimes called “shaped canvases.” The quality of line seen in his paintings and in the form of his shaped canvases is very subtle, and implies perfection. This is demonstrated in his piece Block Island Study 1959.

    I love reading art reviews. Said one art critic to the other over a glass of white wine ‘Magnificent. Look at the way he has taken this 12’ by 12’ canvas and only covered it in the darkest black, and only black. Minimalist mastery. It is like I am looking into the tortured soul of the artist. I must have this, it is a bargain at $6,000’.

    To add to the humour of the situation, Ellsworth is an American artist. I wonder when the French will finally realize that this is simply an American getting the last laugh? And not just an American … A New Yorker …

    So ends day one, with a laugh. Thanks Ellsworth.