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In a moment in time when many in the mainstream media portray the urban ‘jungle’ as a place of menace where no one — concert-goers, cafe terrace denizens, sports fans, demonstrators, even policemen and women — is safe, so-called ‘street artists’ play an increasingly crucial role in reminding us that not just death but delight might be lurking on the corner. One of the modern miracle workers who has left his mark on the walls of Berlin, Bruxelles, Athens,  and Paris, the appropriately monikered Fred Le Chevalier is currently being feted in the more formal settings of le Bon Marché in the toney 6eme arrondissement of Paris, the Cité des sciences et de l’industrie in the Park la Villette and, in the upper reaches of Belleville on the rue Cascades (#57), the gallery Eko Sato, where his solo exhibition We’ll Dance until the World Turns Around runs through Saturday. For the artist, one of the charms of his work created on more exposed urban surfaces is “the idea that one never knows if the collages are going to last five minutes or a year. This conciousness that they might disappear is part of the game. The idea of the ephemeral is part of the beauty of the action; that’s the paradox.” Taking Le Chevalier’s point, we’d dispute that for anyone who’s ever had his sensibility singed by ‘street art’ these admittedly impermanent tableaux are so ephemeral que ca. Above: “On dansera jusqu’à ce que le monde tourne rond,” Fred Le Chevalier, 35 x 35 cm. Ink on paper. Copyright Fred Le Chevalier and courtesy Galerie Eko Sato. — Paul Ben-Itzak 

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faro-fixedTop: Estelle Babut-Gay, mixed media. Copyright Estelle Babut-Gay. Below: Judith Farro, mixed techniques. Copyright Judith Farrow.

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

Nous les filles artistes de Ménilmontant: If it’s neither as numerous nor as ambitious as the neighboring Open Studios of Belleville which has become a Spring ritual in Paris, this weekend’s Portes Ouvertes de Ménilmontant at least serves as a much-needed Fall fix, and mirrors its larger confrere as an excuse to take a promenade through a classic, hilly Paris neighborhood that offers equally thrilling vistas of typical Parisian rooftops. It also gives you carte blanche to enter the intimate worlds of the unheralded upholders of the French artistic tradition. We recommend two longtime favorites from the Belleville event, Estelle Babut-Gay, who combines artisanal ingenuity with artistic elan (top), working with the detrius of household objects in her studio at 61, rue des Cascades, bridging Belleville and Memilmon’; and Judith Farro (bottom), whose studio is off a typical rue Ménilmontant courtyard (#36). We propose starting at the base of rue Ménilmontant off the boulevard of the same name and heading upwards (perhaps you can catch a lift with a benevolent Red Balloon), then turning left on Cascades. Ask Farro for directions to the alt-bookstore with a nice selection of ‘zines and small press marvels off the train tracks further up Ménilmon’, and when you think you’ve overstayed your welcome taking in the overview of Belleville from Babut-Gay’s deck, have her point you towards the parc Belleville, with the best view of the Eiffel Tower in town. En route mounting Ménilmon’, be sure to chant Trenet’s lyrics:

Ménilmontant, mais oui madame:
C’est la que j’ai a laissé mon coeur.
C’est la que je vient retrouvée mon ame.
… Suis pas poete
mais….dans mon tete
il y a des souvenirs jamais perdu.

The Open Studios of Menilmontant run through from Friday Sunday from 2 to 8 p.m., with some of the 85 studios remaining open until 10 p.m. Saturday, a perfect amuse-bouche for the city-wide Nuit Blanche. For more information, including a map, click here.

PS: Encore un mot pour nos lecteurs françaises (with apologies to our anglophone readers et excuses pour les fauts orth. et gram.): Au contraire aux Intermittents du Spectacle, en France les artistes visuels — plasticiens, peintres, photographes, et ceux et celles qui travaillé dans les estampes et gravures, sans parle de le reliure — n’ont aucun droit a un regime d’assurance/chomage d’exception. A ca adjoute l’augmentation des loyers a Paris, surtout — justement — dans les quartieres comme Belleville et Ménilmontant devenu plus et plus branché, et le plupart entre eux vivre dans le precarité. Encore une raison que c’est vraiment importante que vous les soutein. Et en esperant que dans l’augmentation dans le budget culturel pour 2017, un part du gateau sera reservé pour engagé les artistes a enseigner leurs metiers dans les écoles….