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Paris: Ten must-see art exhibitions in 2017

You can always count on the City of Light for good art exhibitions, and Jessie Williams has selected ten you shouldn't miss this year.

Paris: Ten must-see art exhibitions in 2017
Photo: Movement by Nature at the Art Ludique Museum
Open now – 24 April 2017 
 
The first retrospective of the American artist since his death in 2011 is a riot of colour, twisted shapes, scribbles and paint splatters. Loud and visceral, yet soft and poignant, Twombly’s gigantic canvases convey death, gore, sex and love. Located on the top floor of the Centre Pompidou, they look out over the Parisian rooftops, so you can marvel at both the view and Twombly's brutal depictions. 
 
 
Open now – 3 July 2017
 
Dance has long been depicted by artists, from Degas’ ballerinas to Picasso’s Three Dancers. This exhibition, co-curated by Benjamin Millepied, the choreographer behind the psychological thriller Black Swan, delves deeper into dance, looking at body movement in all its forms. With over 70 artworks from antiques to the 20th Century, this is a match made in heaven between the worlds of choreography and visual art.
 
 
22 March – 31 July 2017
 
Today he is renowned as the father of modern sculpture, but during the 19th Century, Auguste Rodin was viewed as an artistic rebel. Eschewing the traditional themes of sculpture based on mythology, Rodin’s work was focused on realism and portrayed physicality and emotion – epitomized in one of his most famous sculptures, The Thinker. This exhibition celebrates the artist on the centenary of his death, as well as work by those influenced by him, such as Bourdelle, Matisse, Giacometti, and Gormley. 
 
 
1 April – 31 October 2017
 
Situated at the base of Montmartre, the Museum of Romantics lives up to its name; a 19th century mansion with pale green shutters and a small garden filled with roses. Perhaps the perfect setting for Pierre-Joseph Redouté’s watercolours. The Belgian painter and botanist, known as the ‘Raphael of Flowers’ gained success working as the official court artist of Marie Antoinette, before being appointed to paint the flowers of Malmaison by Joséphine Bonaparte. 
 
26 April – 28 August 2017
 
The African art scene has long been overlooked, despite the influence the continent has had on the work of many western artists, including Van Gogh and Modigliani. But that is about to change with a major exhibition of African art across the Foundation’s galleries. Work by Fifteen artists from Jean Pigozzi’s collection will display the diversity and richness of the artistic landscape – each drawing on traditional techniques from their own country of origin. Alongside this will be a display of art from South Africa, from installations to textiles, which seek to define a specific black South-African identity.
 
 
8 March – 16 July 2017
 
It was Christian Dior who said a “little black frock” is essential to a woman’s wardrobe. This exhibition, organised by Palais Galliera as part of its Spanish season, celebrates the colour black in all its guises, but more importantly serves as a tribute to Cristóbal Balenciaga, the esteemed couturier. For the designer black was a vibrant colour (or non-colour) which highlighted the simplicity of a garment’s cut and the sumptuousness of the fabric.
 
 
14 March – 16 June 2017
 
The natural world has been a key source of inspiration for countless artists, as this exhibition demonstrates. However, this show aims to look at some of Western art’s most famous works – by Gauguin, O’Keefe, Munch and more – from a spiritual viewpoint. With around 90 paintings created by artists from 15 different countries, it explores how nature and mysticism interlink in paintings like Van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhone, and how Monet’s interest in Buddhism paved the way to his Water Lilies series.
 
Open now – 5 March 2017
 
Disney animations have captured the minds of children ever since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs waltzed on to our screens in 1937. Now viewers have the chance to rediscover that Disney magic with an exhibition of 350 original artworks from the Walt Disney Animation Research Library. It will chart the development of animation, including how the studio was influenced by artistic movements such as surrealism and cubism. As well as never seen before drawings of animals which helped the animators to capture the movement and expression of characters like Bambi.
 
 
8 March – 17 September 2017
 
In the 19th Century, Arts and crafts were seen as feminine activities which women were obliged to do. But those activities also gave them an outlet of self-expression and contributed to their emancipation. From Sonia Delaunay to Elsa Schiaparelli, Hélène Henry to Kristin McKirdy, this exhibition charts the success of women designers, artists and photographers from the early 20th Century to the present. But also highlights their struggle to be seen as artists in their own right.
 
 
6 January – 9 April 2017
 
The French photographer, Stéphane Duroy, mixes both documentary and conceptual styles to produce an alluring yet questioning look at society in the 20th Century. A continent scarred by two brutal wars, British punks in the 80’s, the fall of the Berlin wall, and European migrants in the US have all been subjects of his lens. This exhibition depicts significant moments in European history through the eyes of ordinary people, as well as explores the illusion of the American Dream. 
 
 
By Jessie Williams

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HISTORY

‘Lost’ manuscript of pro-Nazi French author published 78 years later

A book by one of France's most celebrated and controversial literary figures arrives in bookstores this week, 78 years after the manuscript disappeared

'Lost' manuscript of pro-Nazi French author published 78 years later

It is a rare thing when the story of a book’s publication is even more mysterious than the plot of the novel itself.

But that might be said of Guerre (War) by one of France’s most celebrated and controversial literary figures, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, which arrives in bookstores on Thursday, some 78 years after its manuscript disappeared.

Celine’s reputation has somehow survived the fact that he was one of France’s most eager collaborators with the Nazis.

Already a superstar thanks to his debut novel Journey to the End of the Night (1932), Celine became one of the most ardent anti-Semitic propagandists even before France’s occupation.

In June 1944, with the Allies advancing on Paris, the writer abandoned a pile of his manuscripts in his Montmartre apartment.

Celine feared rough treatment from authorities in liberated France, having spent the war carousing with the Gestapo, and giving up Jews and foreigners to the Nazi regime and publishing racist pamphlets about Jewish world conspiracies.

For decades, no one knew what happened to his papers, and he accused resistance fighters of burning them. But at some point in the 2000s, they ended up with retired journalist Jean-Pierre Thibaudat, who passed them – completely out of the blue – to Celine’s heirs last summer.

‘A miracle’
Despite the author’s history, reviews of the 150-page novel, published by Gallimard, have been unanimous in their praise.

“The end of a mystery, the discovery of a great text,” writes Le Point; a “miracle,” says Le Monde; “breathtaking,” gushes Journal du Dimanche.

Gallimard has yet to say whether the novel will be translated.

Like much of Celine’s work, Guerre is deeply autobiographical, recounting his experiences during World War I.

It opens with 20-year-old Brigadier Ferdinand finding himself miraculously alive after waking up on a Belgian battlefield, follows his treatment and hasty departure for England – all based on Celine’s real experiences.

His time across the Channel is the subject of another newly discovered novel, Londres (London), to be published this autumn.

If French reviewers seem reluctant to focus on Celine’s rampant World War II anti-Semitism, it is partly because his early writings (Guerre is thought to date from 1934) show little sign of it.

Journey to the End of the Night was a hit among progressives for its anti-war message, as well as a raw, slang-filled style that stuck two fingers up at bourgeois sensibilities.

Celine’s attitude to the Jews only revealed itself in 1937 with the publication of a pamphlet, Trifles for a Massacre, which set him on a new path of racial hatred and conspiracy-mongering.

He never back-tracked. After the war, he launched a campaign of Holocaust-denial and sought to muddy the waters around his own war-time exploits – allowing him to worm his way back into France without repercussions.

‘Divine surprise’
Many in the French literary scene seem keen to separate early and late Celine.

“These manuscripts come at the right time – they are a divine surprise – for Celine to become a writer again: the one who matters, from 1932 to 1936,” literary historian Philippe Roussin told AFP.

Other critics say the early Celine was just hiding his true feelings.

They highlight a quote that may explain the gap between his progressive novels and reactionary feelings: “Knowing what the reader wants, following fashions like a shopgirl, is the job of any writer who is very financially constrained,” Celine wrote to a friend.

Despite his descent into Nazism, he was one of the great chroniclers of the trauma of World War I and the malaise of the inter-war years.

An exhibition about the discovery of the manuscripts opens on Thursday at the Gallimard Gallery and includes the original, hand-written sheets of Guerre.

They end with a line that is typical of Celine: “I caught the war in my head. It is locked in my head.”

In the final years before his death in 1961, Celine endlessly bemoaned the loss of his manuscripts.

The exhibition has a quote from him on the wall: “They burned them, almost three manuscripts, the pest-purging vigilantes!”

This was one occasion – not the only one – where he was proved wrong.

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