Alexander Calder: The Parisian Years, Pompidou Centre, Paris
William Eggleston, Cartier Foundation, Paris
Andy Warhol in Paris, Grand Palais, Paris

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Three Parisian exhibitions lend a distinctively Gallic flavour to three artists from the US

The Obamas may have left Paris off their European tour, but a trio of US blockbusters in the city makes it clear where world power lies even so. At the Pompidou, a two-floor exhibition of early Alexander Calders is spawning round-the-block queues. Westward, the Grand Palais' show of Warhol portraits is full of mystified Parisians scratching their heads over Edie Sedgwick. And on the Left Bank, the Cartier Foundation is packing them in with a show of new work by William Eggleston, a photographer even more lionised in France than in his native Tennessee. If proof were needed of the Pax Americanum, then Paris this spring is it.

Or sort of. Actually, as often here, the take on these American giants seems noticeably Francocentric. As with Tocqueville on US democracy, the view is that all genius is merely a quaint variant of French genius, anything clever by definition originating in France.

Thus the Calder exhibition is subtitled Les années Parisiennes and focuses on the seven years the artist spent in the city. Annoyingly, the chauvinistic belief that his genius was shaped by exposure to things French is amply proven by the works on show.

Arriving in Paris in 1926 as a 28-year-old engineer, Calder was soon rubbing shoulders with Mondrian, Miró and Duchamp. Le tout Montparnasse fell under the spell of Sandy's Circus, a Little Top of mechanical marionettes which tumbled clownishly or flew through the air with the greatest of ease. From these, Calder moved on to an energetically wiggling Josephine Baker – then taking Paris by storm in La Revue Nègre – and thence to wire drawings-in-space of the banana'd dancer and others. By 1931, these air sculptures had already transmogrified into the mobiles and stabiles we think of as Calder's, the artist's mechanical aptitude married to the wit of Duchamp, the organic forms of Miró and the red-yellow-blue palette of Mondrian. This show may be the most revealing you'll ever see about what made Calder Calder, and see it you should.

William Eggleston hasn't gripped the British imagination as he has the French, this being in part a result of the 69-year-old American's long association with the Cartier Foundation. Eggleston is best known as a chronicler of life in the Deep South, a man who uses his trademark saturated colours to evoke a mood of wordless unease. The Cartier being Parisian, it has commissioned the photographer to turn his talents to Paris – Eggleston is currently three years into chronicling the city, and the Cartier's show is of his Parisian first fruits.

The first thing to strike you about is that they reveal an odd fact: Paris is green. In Eggleston's quasi-liturgical palette, Memphis is blood-red and Mississippi big-sky blue. You might have thought his colourist eye would see the French capital as Impressionist grey or haute couture pink, but no. Eggleston's Paris is green – the bilious turquoise of RATP buses, the sharp tint of neon crosses outside chemists' shops, the ectoplasmic green of lights reflected on a wet pavement. The idea of being sent out to wander Paris seems Baudelaireanly old fashioned, but Eggleston the flâneur has come home with something entirely new and yet entirely known. I suppose the measure of good photography is that it makes you see familiar things as alien, and these photographs do just that. Paris will always be green for me now. As to the Kandinsky-ish drawings Eggleston has chosen to show alongside his new photographs: we must forgive great men their foibles.

And the Warhol? The Gallicism here lies in the po-facedness of its curating, an abiding sense that the French don't really get Andy. Warhol was not so much a great artist as a great moralist: he saw the world as a dark joke. The joke included the market for his own portraits of rich men – the millions of dollars they queued up to pay for a square of cheap canvas onto which some Factory drone had silkscreened a Polaroid. The cleverness of a Warhol lies in the sense that it is itself part of the world's corruption; but unlike, say, the Disaster multiples, the portraits take this empathy too far, being too obviously slick and cynical. Herding a great many of them into one space, as here, breaks the Warholian spell. And trying to analyse the portraits via the tenets of art history is like explaining Benny Hill through Cicero. Still, this is a pretty show and it's springtime in Paris: so go anyway.



Calder to 20 Jul; William Eggleston to 21 Jun; Andy Warhol to 13 Jul

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
    France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

    Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

    Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser