8 Things to See at The Louvre That Aren't The Mona Lisa

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,


There is SO much to see at the Louvre in Paris, but after purchasing their entry ticket most visitors head straight to the Denon Wing and the Mona Lisa. (Read this post to find out why the Mona Lisa is such a big deal.)

The galleries in this wing, housing the Decorative Arts and the Italian, Spanish, and French paintings (also made famous from the movie The Da Vinci Code), are packed with tourists waiting their turn to stand in front Mona. 

They are loud, bustling, and give the impression that the museum is packed with people. But, the reality is that there are hundreds of rooms and galleries that are actually more-or-less deserted, full of incredible works of art, many of which are located on the other side of the iconic central pyramid.  

Planning your visit to the Louvre

Before we dive into what to see at the Louvre, here's what you need to know when planning your visit: 

  • The museum is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm (closed Tuesdays) and until 9:45 pm on Wednesdays and Fridays. 
  • Admission is 15 Euros per person if purchased at the museum (double check the website for up-to-date pricing).

Sculptures in the Marly and Puget Courtyards

These stunning courtyards (photo above) are located in the Richelieu Wing on Levels -1 and 0. They are vast, covered in glass, and filled with outdoor statues dating from the 17th to 19th centuries. It is quiet and, while wandering, it is easy to imagine what it would have been like for the past Kings and Queens of France to stroll through the space. 

The surrounding rooms are drenched in light and give amazing views of the street and the main square of the museum (photos above). They are also filled with beautiful sculptures, arranged by period, from the Middle Ages to the Romantic Era. 

Napoleon's Apartments

If you were wondering how French Royalty really lived, a visit to Napoleon's Apartments will give you some insight. The pictures don't do the over-the-top opulence justice — this is definitely a place that needs to be visited in person.

Set up exactly the way Napoleon lived in them, the rooms are gilded in gold, velvet, and crystal. They are definitely a must-see on any visit to the Louvre, and are located on the first floor of the Richelieu Wing. 

The ceiling and walls of the Egyptian Antiquities & Greek and Roman Antiquities displays

Located on the first floor of the Sully Wing, the Egyptian display is one of my favourites. I love the sculptures, mummies, and tomb walls that are on display as well as cabinet after cabinet of artifacts that have been found in tombs. 

The Greek and Roman antiquity displays are full of much the same — stunning stone and marble sculptures, figures, jewellery, and more that have been found in digs located in various locations over the two countries. 

The REAL draw for me in this part of the museum, however, are the gorgeous painted ceilings, intricate wood floors, and marble walls and doorways (see photo below). The surroundings that house these artifacts are absolutely stunning, and well worth seeing whether you are interested in these types of artifacts or not. 

Also on this floor is a huge ballroom (see below) that contains paintings related to astrological signs, gilded decorations, and display cabinets filled with priceless royal jewels. It is awe-inspiring, and is often missed by visitors, as it is located just before the entrance to the gallery where the Mona Lisa is located. 

The other Da Vinci paintings

Of course, you are still going to visit Mona! You can't visit the Louvre and not see this famous painting. But, did you know that there are actually more paintings by Da Vinci located in the hallway leading up to the Mona Lisa?

There are! And they are stunning and some of his most famous. Not too many visitors seem to be aware of them, however, as there is rarely more than one or two people checking them out (unless you happen to be traveling the same path through the museum as a school or tour group), so you can get up close to see the brush strokes and details of the work. 

These paintings are located in the gallery outside of the Mona Lisa room on the first floor of the Denon Wing. 

The red galleries

Overlooking the pyramid, these galleries on the first floor of the Denon Wing are behind the Mona Lisa room and are my absolute favourite because of the sheer size of the works located in them.

Despite being a popular spot for artists and tour groups, these vast galleries are never too busy and are definitely a must-see. The height of the ceilings and the unbelievable size of the paintings will have you utilizing the many leather benches located in the centre of the galleries so you can take it all in. If you have studied Art History, you will recognize many famous pieces by French Artists including La Grande Odalisque by Ingres pictured above. 

The second floor of the Sully Wing

Another area that is a must-see are the galleries on the second floor of the Sully Wing. They are filled with French paintings, many of which you will recognize, but they are lovely mostly because it is so quiet and people-free. 

There is also a fantastic view of the inner courtyard on one side (see image below), and of the main Louvre pyramid from the other. If you are looking for a respite from the crowds, or really enjoy getting up close to paintings in order to examine the artist's process, I would definitely pay a visit to this spot. 

Near-Eastern Antiquities

On level 0 of Richelieu and Sully Wings, the Near-Eastern Antiquities are really impressive. The collection of mosaics and artifacts are huge in scale and I would even go so far as to say that the collection is more impressive than the Egyptian collection.

There is a lot to see in a relatively small space, and of all the galleries on this floor, this tends to be the area that is overlooked for the flashier Roman, Greek and Italian sculpture galleries. 

The Angelina Tea Room 

Overlooking the central courtyard, this tea room is a charming spot to rest your legs, enjoy a view, and indulge in a coffee, tea, pastry, or light lunch. The coffee is amazing, the view lovely, and the atmosphere slightly royal (who doesn't like feeling pampered?!).

There is also a terrace that is open when weather permits for dining al fresco. The tea room is located on the first floor of the Richelieu Wing and so doesn't get as crowded as some of the other dining or grab-and-go spots as it is in a lower-trafficked part of the museum. 

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What to see at the Louvre
What to see at the Louvre



15 Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit The Centre Pompidou in Paris

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,


There are A LOT of museums in Paris, and it is impossible to see them all on your first, second, or even third visit to the city.

In fact, I didn't make it to the Centre Pompidou until my third time to the city — and was that ever a mistake! Not only is the exterior of the building a must-see, the museum is home to over 100,000 works created in the 20th and 21st centuries, and an INCREDIBLE view. 

A brief history of the museum

In 1969, the French president, Georges Pompidou, decided that there needed to be a new building to host the national modern art museum, a public reading library, and new music concerts.

The site for the new museum was chosen, and a worldwide architectural competition was announced attracting 681 competitors from 49 different countries!

Architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers won the competition for their “evolving spatial diagram” design allowing the whole of each 7,500 m2 floor to be used to display art and be organized however the curators see fit. According to the museum website, “[i]ts innovative, even revolutionary character has made the Centre Pompidou one of the most emblematic buildings of the 20th century.”

The museum opened on February 2, 1977, and since then has been one of the most visited monuments in France.  

What you are going to see 

Considered to be Europe’s leading collection of modern and contemporary art (from 1905 until the present day), there are some seriously big names housed in this museum — Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, and Yves Klein to name just a few.

You’ll see all forms of media: paintings, drawing, photography, new media, experimental film, architecture, design, industrial work, and more! (Check out the photos below for some seriously cool pieces.)

Getting there and getting in

Location: The museum is located in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, in the Beaubourg area. It is within walking distance to the river, Les Halles, rue Montorgueil, and the Marais. 
You can get there easily by metro, RER, bus, car, bicycle, foot, and however else you like to move!

Opening Hours: The museum is open every day (except Tuesdays when it is closed all day) from 11 am to 10 pm, but the exhibitions close at 9 pm.

Admission: A single ticket for admission to all galleries and the "View of Paris" is €14; a ticket just to see the "View of Paris" (no access to the galleries) is €5.
Admission is FREE to all areas of the museum on the first Sunday of every month. 

It's impossible to miss the building that houses the Centre Pompidou. Covered in colorful pipes on one side (in blue, red, green, and yellow), and the zig-zag of elevators on the other there is no mistaking it. 

This is the view (above) of the building from Rue Beaubourg, where you can enter the public reading library. The public entrance to the museum is located on the other side of the building. 

You don't have to actually buy a ticket to enter the main floor of the building, which gives you access to the cafe, fantastic museum shops, public washrooms (for those of you who just need a bathroom break), and some fun art installations, like the sculpture pictured above. 

There is always at least one visiting exhibition at the gallery, like the works of André Derain, who was a French artist, painter, sculptor and co-founder of the Fauvism movement with Henri Matisse. 

The work pictured above by Derain seemed to glow from inside the canvas (and no, it wasn't just because of the light shining on it). 

Called the Tete blanche et rose, this work by Henri Matisse looks deceptively like a Picasso. 

And then there is the Femmes deviant la mer, a gorgeous piece by Picasso.

The Centre Pompidou actually has an incredible collection of works by Picasso, even more impressive than the Picasso Museum located only a few blocks away! 

This piece by Frantisek Kupka, Plans par couleurs, was located in one of my favourite sub-rooms in the gallery that was filled with portraits of women from the most abstract to the most detailed. 

I am so in love with any black and white piece that looks like the artist moved his hand back and forth in one big flourish and then called it a day.

I'm not kidding.

This is seriously one of my favorites. 

There is just something about this work.

It is like a mix between Girl With A Pearl Earring and Grand Odalisque, which is probably why artist Martial Raysse called it Made In Japan - la grande odalisque.  

No contemporary art collection would be complete without a work by Andy Warhol. This black and white version of Elizabeth Taylor is so long that it covered an entire wall! 

The floor filled with sculptural art installations like the one above is an Instagram dream! 

See-through cubes against a black and white wall — yup.

I love modern art. 

So, from this side, this sculpture looks like an emotional, heartfelt embrace. On the other side, however, the woman is making out with another man. 

Yup. 

Modern art. 

I had to stop myself from taking too many photos on this floor, as ever piece had a huge impact, including this work of colorful subway-tile-style squares. 

The one thing that I did not expect to see at this world-renowned museum was the incredible view!

As a visitor, you travel from floor-to-floor through a series of exterior escalators and corridors that are surrounded by clear plastic tubes — kind of like hamster tubes but human-sized. 

The higher you go, the more incredible the view — the Notre Dame towers, the Eiffel Tower, and the Sacre Coeur all come into your line of sight, not to mention the beautiful Parisian buildings that surround the museum. 

If you are hoping to get some really amazing photos, wait until you get to the very top and you can check out the view unobstructed by the plastic tube.

No photo that I took does it justice, but the one above comes close! 

NOTE: I learned after the fact that you can buy a ticket just to access the view for 5 Euros if you like! 

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photos that will make you want to visit the Centre Pompidou museum in Paris
photos that will make you want to visit the Centre Pompidou museum in Paris



Your Guide To The Berlin Wall's East Side Gallery

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,


The Berlin Wall cut through the center of Berlin from August of 1961 to November of 1989, separating the Soviet Union from Western powers. More than just a wall though, it was a complex military system that rose more than 12 feet high and had 302 towers, 12,000 guards and countless kilometers of barbed wire. 

 The Location of the Berlin Wall  IEG-MAPS, Institute of European History, Mainz / © A. Kunz, 2004

The Location of the Berlin Wall
IEG-MAPS, Institute of European History, Mainz / © A. Kunz, 2004

Countless numbers of people attempted to cross the wall in the 28 years that it stood, trying to escape Soviet soldiers, many of which were shot before they could even scale it's sturdy, gray, concrete facade. 

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, 118 artists from 21 different countries came to create spontaneous works of art on a remaining, still-standing section of it. It officially opened as an open-air gallery in September of 1990. 

This section is now the longest surviving stretch of the wall and its 1.3 kilometers located on the banks of the Spree in Friedrichshain, are covered in approximately 106 paintings, making it the largest outdoor gallery in the world.

Becuase it is exposed to the elements, and vandals, there have been many efforts over the years to restore the artworks.

According to the tourist information website for the gallery, "In 1996, Kani Alavi founded East Side Gallery e. V., an artists’ initiative to preserve and restore the works. By 2000, a 300-metre stretch of the wall had already been restored and 33 pictures repainted, and in 2009 the whole East Side Gallery was restored. 87 artists took part and 100 paintings were restored."

Location

 

Admission

None! The Gallery is open-air and open to the public for FREE! 

Opening Hours

The gallery is always open, as it is just a part of the street. Visit whenever you like! 

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Berlin Wall's East Side Art Gallery
Berlin Wall's East Side Art Gallery



Creating David: The Story Of Michelangelo's Famous Statue of David

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,


In 1501, Michelangelo (yes, the same guy who painted the famous Sistine Chapel located in the Vatican in Rome) accepted a commission to carve a marble sculpture of the biblical David to be placed high atop a buttress on the Florentine Cathedral

Interestingly, the commission was originally offered to Leonardo da Vinci who rejected it on the grounds that he despised marble sculpture as an inferior art, good only for artisans —(shockingly) he and Michelangelo were NOT best friends.

He scampered up and down the ladder as lightly as a cat, working the stout neck, heroic head and mass of curls from the top of the scaffold, carving the spine with great care to indicate that it carried and directed the whole body and was the mainspring of all movement. There could be no part of the David that was not palpable, and perfect.
— From "The Agony and the Ecstasy" by Irving Stone

It took four years for Michelangelo to carve the famous sculpture out of an 18-foot-tall marble block that had been damaged by another sculptor during the 1460s. Upon its completion in 1504, it was so admired by the people of Florence that they decided to place it in the square next to the Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of the Florentine government, instead of on top the Cathedral. 

The MAIN reason behind this relocation decision, however, was because of what the statue represented to the citizens of Florence.

If you are not familiar with the David and Goliath story, it is from the Bible and tells a tale of the power of "right over might". This sculpture represents the character David who by slinging a rock at the giant Goliath, kills him and, in doing so, saves his people.

Though David had been sculpted by many other artists (Donatello and Bernini both carved the subject) he is usually represented after the fight, with David being depicted as a triumphant hero.

For the first time, Michelangelo depicted his David pre-battle.

With a slingshot over his shoulder, a rock in his hand, tense muscles, and a concentrated gaze, this David seems to be psychologically preparing for the danger ahead. 

Why was this so meaningful to Florence at the time? 

Italy was not a peaceful, united country in this era. The main cities were ruled by powerful families that were always trying to come up with new ways to conquer each other.

At the time that the David was completed, the Florentines had recently fought a war (and won) against the combined forces of Milan, Siena, and Pisa — the little guy conquered a larger foe!

It took FOUR days to move the statue (VERY CAREFULLY!!!) on tree trunks down the narrow streets of Florence, from Michelangelo’s workshop to the Palazzo Vecchio. And there it sat until 1837 when it was replaced by a copy and moved into the Galleria dell’ Accademia to protect it from the elements.

It is said that when carving David, Michelangelo wanted to ensure that the sculpture would convey beauty and emotion from every angle.

As someone who has seen this famous work, in person from ALL angles (ahem…) I can tell you that this goal was not only achieved, it was surpassed. 

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10 Reasons Why I Love The Met In NYC and You Will Too

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,


If you’ve never been to New York before, The Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art) might seem like it’s just another museum in the longgggg list of museums and art galleries that are on must-see lists for the city. But it is not just like the others, ohhhhhhh no my friend, it is not. 

Here are 10 reasons why you need to add visiting The Met to your New York travel list.

1. Visit The Met for three days on ONE ticket! 
Admission is free or "pay as you wish" for New York State residents. For all other visitors: $25 for adults, $17 for seniors, and $12 for students. Admission for all children under 12 and Members and Patrons is free. Note that any full-priced admission ticket is valid for three consecutive days at The Met Fifth AvenueThe Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters.

2. The Location
This sprawling, massive white building is perched on the edge of Central Park on Fifth Avenue in the Upper East Side. That means that views from its many windows are of the beautiful green space, and there are lots of paths for you to stroll if you need to take a break from a full day of wandering through galleries. 

3. The Quality of The Collection
The quality and diversity of the pieces at The Met are as good as, or arguably better than, those at The Louvre and The British Museum. Founded in 1870, it actually is home to one of the largest permanent collections in the world — more than 2 million objects, many of which are different than anything I have seen anywhere else.  

4. The Layout
The galleries cover an astonishing 17 acres! What I found incredible about the layout though, was how I never felt cramped or overwhelmed by the collection. Though the vast number of objects is staggering, they are displayed in a way that allows you to take everything in. As you wander through the different rooms, you will also find that each one is designed to reflect the antiquities that are inside it. Whether it is a Greek sculpture garden with soaring ceilings, a cozy Egyptian tomb, or a portrait gallery that feels like it's in the hall of a grand palace, you will feel completely transported. 

5. You Can Take Photos
Just like the art galleries and museums in Europe, photos are allowed as long as you don't use a flash. As an added bonus, a lot of the rooms have natural light, so taking photos without a flash doesn't pose as much of a problem as it does in the museums in Europe. 

6. The Egyptian Art
This wing was one of my favourites to walk through. There was an unrivalled collection of jewellery and adornments — necklaces, toe covers, hair decoration — and I loved the way it was displayed. The Temple of Dendur in this wing is an exhibit that is often used for special events, and you will recognize it from its appearance in multiple films. 

7. The Sculptures
I don't know about you, but I could sit and look at Greek and Roman sculptures for days. The way that bodies were carved out of marble to look so supple and soft that you imagine that it would feel like human skin if you touched them (don't touch them) is mesmerizing. And the multiple sculpture galleries at The Met do not disappoint. Make sure you spend some time in the European Sculpture Court and the gallery in the Greek and Roman Art wing.  

8. The Arts of Africa, Oceania & The Americas Collection
Spectacularly displayed, this is an unbelievable collection of work by Indigenous groups from all over the world. Artifacts vary from Mayan gold and carved Native American masks to ceramics from New Mexico and ceremonial ceilings from the tribes of New Guinea.   

9. The Restaurants
Not only is the food spectacular at the museum's many restaurants, but it is accompanied by stunning views overlooking Central Park. Don't miss the Great Hall Balcony Bar that is essentially a pop-up bar open only on Friday and Saturday nights from 4:30 pm – 8 pm. There are wine flights, cocktails, appetizers, and live music all set in the opulence of the Great Hall. 

10. There is More Than One Met! 
Yes, you read that right. The Met on Fifth is just one part (the largest part), of the collection. The Met Breuer houses a collection of art from the 20th and 21st centuries, and The Met Cloisters is dedicated to the art, architecture, and gardens of medieval Europe.  

HOT TIPS TO MAKE YOUR VISIT EVEN BETTER! 
–If you want to see the entire collection without feeling rushed or overwhelmed, you will need more than one day.
–Don't miss the gift shop! Especially if you are a lover of art books — there is a fantastic collection to peruse.

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When An Edmonton Art Gallery Turns Into A Lake: One of The Most Incredible Art Exhibits I've Ever Seen!

by Lindsay Shapka in ,


When the Peter Robertson Gallery described Canadian artist Steve Driscoll's show, And a Dark Wind Blows, to me as "a water installation that would reflect his paintings" and an unusual art exhibit, I wasn't sure what to expect. Maybe a few oversized tubs of water placed under the works? 

What I didn't expect was what I saw when I went to the preview — the entire gallery had been turned into a lake. 

Specifically, the floor of the gallery, and a few inches up the wall, had been lined with a heavy plastic that was then filled with water and dyed black. On top of this water, a wooden walkway, a dock, and huge rocks were placed to give viewers a way to enter, and walk through, the space. The walkway and dock were built so that they move slightly as you walk over them, causing ripples. The art, reflecting in the ripples, seems to move along the surface of the water. 

Visitors to the gallery must walk along a wooden walkway that leads to a dock

The works were all inspired by the night sky, and the show cumulated in a stunning three panelled painting of the aurora borealis, or northern lights (image below). Though the paintings are hung on the wall like they would be in any show, the viewer can not actually get close to the pieces in the same way that you could in a more typical space. Instead, you must stay on the walkway that guides you from work to work at a distance.

These Are Truly the Last Days by Steve Driscoll 




Spotlight On Swedish Artist Kent Lindfors

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,


I was transfixed by the complex, layered, collage-like work by contemporary Swedish artist Kent Lindfors when I came upon it in a light-filled gallery at the Gothenburg Museum of Art in Sweden. The collection on display was a retrospective of the artist's work from the 1970s until 2016. Kent Lindfors was born and works in the city of Gothenburg, Sweden.

According to the gallery, "his paintings resemble parts of an ongoing life-project, a never-ending journey in which the outflow of the river Göta Älv in the western sea blends together with Santiago de Compostela, and the sheds in Gothenburg harbour cross over into Catholic mysticism."

From afar, each works looks like it contains a singular image — from something as mundane as a rail car to a more complex religious motif — but the image is actually made up of words, smaller images, and layer upon layer of paint and collage. He spends years on each piece, reworking it, adding to it. His works are never really complete, but always a work-in-progress. 

The result is stunning. I could have stood in front of each piece for hours and still have not absorbed every detail, every nuance. 

Image Above: La Fuente, 2001-2013; The Well, 2000-2016; La Fuente II 2000-2016
Image Below: A massive wall collage showing a breakdown of the artist's process

The paintings were accompanied by snippets of the artist's writing. The excerpt above was my favourite. It's amazing how just a few lines of poetry can set a mode or evoke a vibrant image in your mind.

While no photograph can show the all of the intense detail that is in these works, you can see some elements in the image above titled The Wagon V, 1978-1979. 

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