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

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living