All over Europe one extraordinary night is devoted to exciting the populace with the opportunity to enter the museums for free all eventing until midnight. Since 2005 yearly this event has pushed open the doors of culture, encouraging people to get out and visit their city museums. Many of the museums have special events for everyone to enjoy which are especially enticing to children, and also available at other normal opening times – like the light dancing wildly through the gardens of the Musee Branly and hands-on writing with light at the Arts and Metier. The night is a real family affaire. Paris weather was perfect for a promenade and that alone was something to get out and enjoy!
We tried not to be too ambitious but still managed to stay out until the wee hours, just after midnight. At that time the Eiffel Tower sparkled on the hour and spread its beacon across the city; on the bridges sleepy children were rolled to the metro for the late ride home and raucous revelers joined the crowds having a last call or two in the crowded sidewalk cafes. It was like a vernal New Year’s eve, with happy, warmish, lively fun.
Our first stop was the small, fascinating Curie Museum, the old “Radium Institute” in the Latin Quarter. So much daring work was done in this humble little lab with beautiful hand made tools and equipment. Their innovative work and discoveries would change the world in startling ways and garner the Curie family, over their lifetimes, 5 Nobel Prizes for their work. And for Marie and her illustrious daughter, Irene, would cause their deaths.
This work below was the most amazing, beautiful and easiest to relate it to the science. Cells with stuff inside all bouncing around, bumping into each other and multiplying. Very understandable.
“At night, unaware of the peril, they admired the fruit of their work as it lay on a pine table: tubes of radium fragments that exuded a pretty bluish “fairy-like glow,” in Marie’s words. Even today, the notebooks in which they recorded their work from 1897-1900 are so radioactive that any scholar who wishes to consult them at France’s National Library has to sign a certificate that he or she is doing so at their own risk.”
In the small garden in the back yard behind the old laboratory is an exhibit of how artists view what scientists see through their microscopes. The scientists posed the question: What can we learn from this vision? Not sure they have an answer yet . . .
Next stop was a bizarre exhibit at La Monnaie . . . all about eagles, a “Museum of Modern Art – Department of Eagles”. The artist, Marcel Broodthaers, is something other than an artist it seems to me. His idea is supposed to be “a reflection on the imaginary museum as institution, fixed idea, principle of order or temple of artists.” The exhibit contains many objects, all of which relate somehow to the eagle and some to money which the artist considered inseparable from art.
According to the literature “Exploring the mind of an iconoclastic artist, this exhibition is the gigantic achievement of an aesthetic and spiritual fantasy “. Stranger things have been called art but one feature throughout this exhibit is a sign beside each object, written in German, French or English that states “This is not art”. Strange.
After a walk across the Pont Neuf and a quick metro ride, we arrived at our last venue: the Musee des Arts et Metier. Placed high in the deconsecrated Saint-Martin-des-Champs church, the 1909 Bleriot XI plane, just 8 meters long, seems to float in the vaulted ceiling. Starting with that plane, when it crossed the English channel, England would no longer by an isle unto itself, and would be linked more easily, if not more completely, to the continent.
Below that plane, a symbol of such daring technology a century ago, would-be graffiti artists had a chance to “paint” with water and light, using new technology of today, the uses of which are somewhere out there in an exciting future dream.
The queue was long to try one’s hand, but it was fun to watch while waiting . . .
And finally, about midnight, another bridge…another metro ride and very tired, we’re back to the boat!