Picasso fever keeps Parisians up all night

Art fans queue in freezing temperatures as museum stays open to satisfy demand

Parisians, who are legendarily allergic to queuing, waited patiently into the early hours over the weekend to see the final, all-night sessions of a triumphantly successful exhibition of Picasso paintings.

Despite sub-zero temperatures, crowds besieged the Grand Palais, just off the Champs Elysées, until 3am on Friday and Saturday nights – part of a recessionary boom in demand for cultural activities which is puzzling, and delighting, the French arts industry.

There has been a similar surge in ticket sales for musical events, ranging from a high-brow Bach festival in Nantes to a low-brow, all-singing and dancing pop musical based on the life of Cleopatra.

Sociologists explain the cultural boom as partly a search for distraction from the miseries of the headlines, and partly a tribute to the fact that art exhibitions and concerts are cheaper than eating out.

The French political guru and writer Jacques Attali offered a more existential explanation. "Periods of crisis encourage people to consider the meaning of life," he told the Journal du Dimanche. "We are torn, at present, between despair, anguish and rebellion but we also yearn for the beauty which comes only from works of art."

By the time it closes at 8pm tonight, over 750,000 people will have seen Picasso et les Maîtres at the Grand Palais. The show, which opened four months ago, is the first to exhibit a large number of Picasso paintings alongside canvasses by painters who influenced him, from Velasquez and Poussin to the Impressionists.

The show has become one of the most fashionable events, not just in Paris, but in the world. Visitors who managed to book tickets in the final weeks have included Nicole Kidman, Woody Allen and – on the same day – Mick Jagger and Jacques Chirac.

To satisfy those who failed to buy the limited number of reserved places, the French national museum service extended the show and opened the Grand Palais all night for the last three nights. Queues were expected to form once again for last night's final all-night session. "We didn't want to miss out," said Eric Bonsergent, who queued into the early hours of Sunday. "They say people don't go to museums, but for a wonderful exhibition like this there is huge demand. It was a brilliant idea to open all night."

Others admitted that they were there against their will. "We booked for 2.30am, thinking that they meant 2.30pm," Gerard Sainton, a 59-year-old computer expert, said ruefully.

The runaway triumph of the Picasso exhibition has been mirrored by the success of other cultural events in France in recent months. A new Cleopatra musical, which began last Thursday, is already a sellout and has been extended for two weeks. An exhibition on the life of the pop musician Serge Gainsbourg, due to end last month, has also been prolonged until 15 March.

The Folle Journée de Nantes, a music festival which has run for the past 15 years and is devoted to Bach this year, has sold 96 per cent of its tickets.

News
Food blogger and Guardian writer Jack Monroe with her young son
people
News
people
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Life and Style
The racy marketing to entice consumers to buy Fairlife, which launches in the US next month
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital