The Chevalier de la Barre: Akerman and acolytes en prime in Paris; Amélie has two mommies, and they’re concerned (corrected and updated, 11-25, 16h00)

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2016 Paul Ben-Itzak

To the memory of Jill Johnston, my Chantal Akerman. And for Ingrid, her widow, in profound appreciation. And for Chris, roommate sublime. And for Ben, collaborator, friend, and twin. And for Mark Dendy, idol and vector. And for P., friend and counselor. And for Amandine and spouse, voisines parisiennes des jours du 49 rue de Paradis.

I wasn’t going to take this brazenly political approach to writing about the exhibition Chantal Akerman: “Maniac Shadows,” which opened last Saturday at the Ferme du Buisson outside Paris, where it continues through February 19, because much as viewing art in a political and social context has almost existential importance to me as a journalist and citizen — and is, I feel, an honorable way to promote art’s societal relevance and thus potentially garner it a larger audience — I’m hyper-aware that it’s also unfair to impose my worldview, or angle and prism for viewing the world, on the subject I’m writing about. What should prime is capturing, as best I can, his or her expression as he or she intended it. It also didn’t seem fair to enlist Akerman, ipso facto and post-mortem, in a cause some might perceive as narrowly and exclusively centered on the rights of gay people, given that (as far as I can observe — and I might be wrong, because I certainly haven’t seen everything) her work doesn’t seem to focus particularly on the facet of her identity related to her sexual orientation; like all complete artists worth the designation, she’s neither defined nor limited by her own particular identities. (Even though obviously they inform her work, particularly Akerman’s Jewish background, which includes being the child of a Holocaust survivor, a frequent source of inspiration. But so is having lived in Brussels, Paris, and New York….And Godard’s “Pierrot le fou.”) And as a foreigner in these brittle times, I’m not particularly comfortable commenting on local politics, a subject which might justly be seen as none of my onions and a pursuit which thus might seem ungracious.

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On a marché sur le marché: Original Tintin page sells for record-setting $1.6 million


It may represent just one small step for Tintin, Snowy, and Captain Haddock, but the price paid by a European collector Saturday at Artcurial Paris for the original page depicting  the Hergé characters’ landing on the moon from the 1954 “On a marché sur la lune” (We walked on the moon) represented one giant leap for Tintin-kind: 1,553,312 Euros ($1,646,510), doubling Artcurial’s pre-sale estimate of 700,000 – 900,000 Euros and the most ever paid for a single original page by Hergé. An ensemble of the originals for 20 Christmas-themed cards created in 1942-43, meanwhile — pre-sale estimated at 60,000 – 120,000 Euros a pop by the leading auction house for all things Tintin — yielded a total of 1.5 million Euros, or $1.5 million. It’s enough to leave even a life-long Tintin fan… speechless. Above: Hergé (Georges Rémi dit), historic page from the album “On a marché sur la lune,” published in 1954. Copyright Hergé / Moulinsart 2016. — Paul Ben-Itzak


Given the rarity of the oeuvre’s availability at auction as well its renewed currency — notably in a 100-example strong exhibition, Magritte, the Treason of Images, running at the Centre Pompidou in Paris through January 23 before moving in a more limited form to the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt February 10 — one of the best bets in Artcurial’s Paris Impressionism and Modern Art sale today is, above, René Magritte, “Cheval” (Horse), 1947, a 34 x 42.7 cm ink on paper drawing. (Signed lower right by the artist with, on the reverse, the attestation — in French in the original — “This drawing is by my husband René Magritte. / Georgette Magritte.”) Estimated by Artcurial at 12,000 – 15,000 Euros, the work falls during a period, 1946 – 1948, when Magritte was bent on confounding public expectation — as if even his own by then established contrarian image as an artist was not sacred. (Or maybe, after a world war which left 50 million dead and, between the death camps and Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the very notion of civilization in chaos, he felt the need for a return to beauty; witness the seductive 1948 nude “The Pebble.”) In 1946, police seized two pamphlets on which he’d collaborated, “L’Emmerdeur” and “L’Enculeur.” In October of that year, he joined other Belgian surrealists in signing “Le Surréalism in plein soleil, Manifest No. 1,” which opposed the darker Parisian school with a Surréalism inspired by the Provençal light and voluptuous female forms of Renoir and the dazzling primary colors of the Fauves. And it was canvasses guided by these values that he shipped to the Galerie du Faubourg in Paris in 1948, pissing off a public expecting his more typical games of perspective and words to such a degree that nothing sold. Image copyright and courtesy Artcurial. — Paul Ben-Itzak