URBAN ART GETS ITS FAIR

Parisians like street art. The President of the Republic has a Shephard Fairey behind his desk. Urban artists just designed a new hotel, the Ibis Style Paris Bercy. Even the ring road around the city has contributed.

One arrondissement, the 13th, has made itself an “open-air museum”. Fashion designer Agnès B collects urban art. And, in the past few years, street artists have helped new  galleries open.

Last week, all  of them launched the Paris Urban Art Fair.

It took place at Les Docks en Seine, a concrete complex which snakes along the river. From what we saw, it all went swimmingly. Artists, booksellers and galleries – and a museum of street art” – came from the UK, Amsterdam, Tunisia and Tokyo. They brought private offerings, DJs, videos and improvisations.

A lot of the best stuff came from faves like Shoof, El Seed and Bault. But there was inspiring art from Brooklyn, Tunisia and the Netherlands.

Kudos to the organisers; now for 2018.

ART ALL NIGHT

Last weekend was the annual Paris Nuit Blanche. It’s that special, all-night art event that takes over bridges, museums, churches, parks, etc. Everything is open from dusk to dawn and everything is free.

No one can make it all over town. But the things you stumble across can be the best. This time there were fabulous installations in churches, many from the in-progress Fondation François Pinault.

They loaned and projected a lots of art video. We saw some outdoors and in my favorite Paris church, St. Eustache.

All photos except the last one by Steve Sampson; final photo Guillaume Bontemps/Mairie de Paris

• View fifteen years of Nuit Blanche here

FROM SEAM TO SHINING SEAM

Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949) is famous for slinky, shiny dresses little bigger than a scarf. Even more surprisingly, he made them all in Venice, Italy. But the artist was Spanish and born into a family of Catalonian artists.

A new Paris show of his ground-breaking fashion highlights this. It also takes the time to detail his other talents – which included painting, photography and theatre.

Mariano Fortuny y Marsal was only three when his father died. His widowed mother then moved their family to a Venetian palazzo. At nineteen, Fortuny moved again – to Paris. Here, his assortment of abilities soon gained notice. He designed innovative stage lighting schemes and then expanded to producing plays and opera.

When he took up fashion at 35, however, he did it from Venice.

Fashion was an adventure shared with his wife, Henriette. The pair turned their giant, Gothic palace into a workshop and started off by printing delicate, classical scarves. Their sources  were Greek antiquities, Oriental tapestries and, eventually, the medieval art around them. Along the way they evolved dyes and patterns of their own.

In Europe, it was an era infatuated with Antiquity. So Fortuny adopted pure, Hellenic lines and silhouettes. Before long, he and Henriette employed a hundred workers, catering to names such as Isadora Duncan, Serge Diaghilev and the couturière Madeleine Vionnet.

In 1909, the Greek craze led the Fortunys to invent a fabric. They had it patented as “an undulating silk in pleats”. Their delicate, fantastic textile still seems utterly magical – partly because a layer of albumin heightens its shine.

Despite the details in its patent – which is on exhibit – their exact technique remains a secret to this day. What is clear, however, is that Henriette was its architect.

In 1909, using his new textile, Fortuny premiered a robe he baptised the “Delphos”. Svelte and shimmering, this clinched the maison‘s future. The figure-hugging garment become fashion’s epitome and it famously appears in Proust’s La Prisonnière.

Isadora Duncan ordered versions for her children; actresses (including Bernhardt) bought the dress in multiples. Socialites of every stripe came swarming into the showrooms. Like Proust, who also visited, they revelled in the colours and textures, the “cerise brocade” and “green damask”.

The exposition shows how cunningly the Delphos was merchandised – and just how many different versions were made. Equally impressive are the prints, jackets, capes and coats created especially to enhance it.

In pillaging the past, patterns and luscious light of his home, Fortuny forged an art all his own. But, every bit as Venetian, he also made sure it would sell.

Fortuny runs at the Palais Galliera until 7 January 2018