There is something about Paris that makes sense to us all. The inimitable city remains one of the most exciting, romantic, culturally and socially rich places to be, irrespective of centuries of change within its boundaries, France and the world itself.
What is it about the French capital? Is there something cosmological about it? Does it have something to do with its soil? Or perhaps it is the air, laced with the ardour and fever of a Midsummer Night’s Dream?
Maybe it is the unknowable atomic sub-culture of life that binds us all together and therefore cannot ever be explained and only felt. It is akin to what the writer Will Self said of the work of the dadaist and surrealist Max Ernst, who lived, worked and dreamed in Paris: “He accessed some kind of collective unconscious.”
As such, century after century, Paris has, more than any other city, attracted artists from all disciplines. They have come for all sorts of reasons, but, conceivably, what they have all shared, as the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once observed, is the sense that they have returned or found home.
Although the city’s artistic and cultural foundations go back towards the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – hugely influenced by Italian painters and sculptors – the catalyst of its growth as a definable centre was the enlightenment. Individualism, in unison with a greater sense of self-awareness, revolutionised human thought.
This, in turn, ruptured the old, prescriptive art of old and, in turn, fostered a cultural landscape in Paris that actively encouraged rebellion against rigid, state-sanctioned (monarchic/church) doctrines about art.
The fermentation of the avant-garde was more acute in this city than anywhere else in the world and by the nineteenth century the city was in the throes of innovative activity. An unplanned settlement had emerged and artists flocked to the city, keen as they were to be in the midst of this vibrant space.
This continued into the early twentieth century, which was characterised by a further shattering of the past. Heir to the legacies of romanticism, impressionism, expressionism, fauvism, modernism (cubism, dadaism, surrealism and so on) triggered a mutiny on the mundane, the ordinary, the conservative.
Again, it was in Paris that this happened. In this city Paul Cezanne was able to shake the establishment with an apple and Pablo Picasso allowed to lead an insurgency against everything with Les Demoiselles D’Avignon.
That impetus to progress, to seek out new ways of presenting, criticising and escaping the world, to frame one’s existence within the constructs of a work of art, continues in Paris today.
The established institutions continue to thrive, new galleries emerge with the kind of energy and spirit that demands real innovation and currency that is worth trading (things worth talking about) and artists, young and old, congregate, literally and otherwise, in the city.
Cadogan Tate, experts in fine art shipping, works with museums, galleries and artists in Paris to deliver fine art logistics solutions.