I often joke that Hong Kong, the city I live in and come from, is a giant shopping mall unto inself, where people are constantly descending and ascending escalators in search of things to buy. Paris, I feel, is an enormous museum, composed of many little exhibition halls and everyone is either cursing over an abominable exhibition they saw, or raving about the latest sensation. And on one night, the state funded museums are open to the public from 6 onwards until midnight, and that was the night that I saw Ethan Hawke at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris.
The plan was really to spend time at the Palais de Tokyo right next door. It houses truly contemporary works that are expected to be famous and valuable in 100 years, at which point they will be moved to the Louvre and displayed there instead. This was the first time the Palais de Tokyo participated in La Nuit des Musées, so they had all kinds of special events going on – dancing and music and cabarets and roulettes open to all and lasting all night. The crowd was much hipper than the crowd at the Musée de Rodin where we were earlier in the day, and people were sporting all kinds of weird but fashionable items you would expect only to see in magazines – highlighter pink shoes and leopard print jumpsuits among the tamer ones.
Most of the artwork in the Palais de Tokyo were typically contemporary art that makes very little sense to most people – ‘I could have done that’ is the response most frequently evoked, and some are truly quite pointless. One that I quite liked though, was the big installation in the entrance – there were these transparent messenger pipes meant to transport capsules that would contain messages or content from one point to another. However, this installation is in fact a combination of two different pipe systems – they each function quite well individually, delivering messages between A and B, but when they are combined, the entire thing goes haywire. The capsules no longer have their original destinations to go to, and have no idea where they are coming from. They simply travel aimelessly in this maze of tubes, searching for a raison d’être. I don’t think the lovers, shamelessly displaying their affection for each other underneath the tubes got the rather pessimistic message of the installation, but they’re probably better off that way.
Although I didn’t think very highly of most of the artwork, I liked very much the mixture of different art forms. There was music, there was dancing, there were projections of films and even interior design pieces that people could sit on and appreciate first hand. This isn’t merely done at the Palais de Tokyo – in other museums that night, there were theatre productions, concerts, films showing and even food tasting. At the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris where we would eventually bump into Ethan Hawke, there was a dance performance in the same room that holds a series of large paintings of dances by Matisse.
The artwork in the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris was ironically much more interesting and far more aesthetically pleasing, although we didn’t really appreciate it much because we spent most of our energies stalking Mr. Hawke. I am personally not the biggest fan, although I did enjoy Dead Poet’s Society, Gattaca and most notably After Sunset, but I was there with an Australian girl whose face turned beetroot red when I whispered ‘Isn’t that Ethan Hawke?’ into her ears. She did eventually talk to him, but only after much encouragement and a long journey through the halls of the museum where we ignored much of the lovely artwork around us.
The evolution of art is not only in improvements (or deterioration) and changes in technique, form and subjects, but also in accessibility. I think it’s incredible what this night has done – it threw open all the doors to these museums that contain pieces of canvas and paint that are worth more than my life fifty times over. Art isn’t supposed to be snobby, and certainly not exclusive. And as a political science and economics student, I cannot help but add, that all the museums that were open for free that night were nationally owned and run.