Featuring worldwide places known for their art, sculptures, monuments, landmarks, travel articles

Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Paris – Montmartre

Posted in Europe  by admin on October 5th, 2009

Montmartre is a fascinating mixture of old and new, seedy and sacred, bizarre and blasé. Within this section of Paris, technically the 18th arrondissement, there is everything from Moulin Rouge and Musée d’Erotisme to the Sacré Coeur Basilica. There are several art shops, a Dali museum and even a winery.

(Note: An ‘arrondissement’ is a district, laid out around Paris clockwise, with the 1st at the center of the clock face.)

There are steep hills in parts, so be prepared for a hike, particularly up to the Basilica. But there are cobblestoned streets, too, with antique shops and ‘bistros’.

The word ‘bistro’ comes from the Russian meaning ‘quick’. It was first imported in the early 19th century by Cossack occupiers who wanted to be fed immediately. Everything from frogs legs to Tarte Tatin is served at spots as old as 1793 in the Place du Tertre.

At the Espace Montmartre one can view an original Dali etching and browse to the glares of the staff. The museum houses Dali sculpture, lithographs, drawings and even some furniture pieces.

For a different art experience visit the Musée de Montmartre. This 17th century house holds apartments once occupied by Renoir, Utrillo and other famous names. Renoir’s Galette, sold at auction in 1990 for $78 million, was finished here. Among other works, there are several original Toulouse-Lautrec posters on display.

And while you’re thinking of Lautrec, don’t forget to visit (at least the outside of) Moulin Rouge. Very pricey ($100 or more), with a floor show garnering mixed reviews, the windmill on the exterior is a photo-op not to be bypassed.

About 20 minutes walk from the Sacré Coeur Basilica, there are several other nightclubs in the area, as well. Beware the Pigalle neighborhood, though. It constitutes one of the seedier areas around.

By contrast, the Montmartre cemetery located in the eastern part of the district, is a pleasant park nearby. Tree-lined and festooned with flowers and dotted with benches, there are tombs and mausoleums galore.

And if you visit in mid-October you might even be able to catch the Grape Festival not far away. Hosting the only vineyard in Paris, Clos Montmartre (at 12 Rue Cortot) was planted in 1933 and has 2,000 vines under cultivation. Most varieties grown in France are represented and the wine lover won’t be disappointed.

For those who like a hike, start at the Abbesses Metro. Take a few minutes to enjoy the Art Nouveau awning and the mosaics around the door of the Eglise St Jean l’Evangéliste.

While you’re nearby, visit the crypt in the Chappelle du Martyre (at 9 Rue Yvonne-Le-Tac). The first Bishop of Paris, St Denys, is laid to rest here at the site where Loyala, the founder of the Jesuits, took his vows. (Open only on Friday.)

Most will want to finish their visit with a trip to the Sacré Coeur Basilica at the top of the hill. Whether standing on the white steps or up in the dome, the views are spectacular. Go early to avoid the crowds and the heat.

Montmartre is accessible via several metro (subway) lines. M12 (Lamarck-Caulaincourt) or M4 (Chateau-Rouge), Blanche station, etc. Anything which leads to the 18th arrondissement.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mount Rushmore

Posted in Sculptures & Monuments, United States  by admin on March 27th, 2009

In 1927, workmen with lively nicknames like “Whiskey Art”, “Palooka”, and “Hoot” quit their regular jobs. They were among the 400 people invited to create Mount Rushmore, a massive mountainside carving of four United States presidents in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The work would be on-and-off labor lasting fourteen years.

Mount Rushmore was conceived by the South Dakota state historian Doane Robinson in 1923. He had learned of a similar project underway in the southern US. Just east of Atlanta, the sculptor Gutzon Borglum had been commissioned to carve into Stone Mountain the likeness of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and a column of soldiers. The historian thought a similar undertaking by Borglum could draw tourists’ dollars to the Black Hills region.

To help maximize tourism interest, Borglum suggested that South Dakota choose a theme of national significance. The men settled upon the first 150 years of United States history, with four presidents being selected to represent the nation’s development. These include George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. Collectively, these men symbolized the country’s founding, expansion, and unity. The project received approval from Congress and President Calvin Coolidge.

As the project began in 1927, Lakota Sioux people and their supporters opposed the undertaking. Traditionally, they had called the mountain Six Grandfathers Mountain and traveled it for spiritual journeys. Following the Black Hills War of 1876-1877, the Treaty of Fort Laramie granted the land to the Lakota in perpetuity. Now, the land had again been taken. Furthermore, the creation of 60-foot faces of United States presidents, symbols of their oppression, would forever mar the sacred landscape. The fact that Borglum was a Ku Klux Klan member added to the insult! Six Grandfathers was first informally called Mount Rushmore during an 1885 expedition. Charles Rushmore, a wealthy New York lawyer and prospector, suggested giving the mountain his name. However, it was also known to white Americans as Cougar Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, Slaughterhouse Mountain, and Keystone Cliffs.

The United States Board of Geographic Names officially named Mount Rushmore in 1930. Borglum chose this particular mountain for two reasons. First, its face met with sunlight for most of the day. Second, it was composed of smooth granite. The rock would be conducive to carving, and the material erodes very slowly (about an inch every 10,000 years). Nonetheless, over fourteen years of labor the faces suffered minor cracks. Fractures were sealed with pegmatite and are evident in lighter streaks on the presidents’ foreheads.

As the project went on, some people continued to question what the faces were symbolizing, and whether the monument should be considered racist given the history of US expansion through native lands. In 1937, before the project was finished, a bill in US Congress proposed adding the face of Susan B. Anthony, a symbol for civil rights. However, federal funds were ultimately refused.
Members of the American Indian Movement occupied the monument in 1971. The Lakota holy man John Fire Lame Deer said that the protestors formed a symbolic shroud over the presidents’ faces, “which shall remain dirty until the treaties concerning the Black Hills are fulfilled”. (A monument to the Native American leader Crazy Horse, first proposed in 1939, is being constructed eight miles away. It is also controversial.) Of some solace to opponents is that the monument, already six stories tall, was intended to be much larger but lacked funding. The original project cost just under $1 million
during the Great Depression. (The largest single donation came from Charles Rushmore
himself, who gave $5,000.) Borglum had hoped to depict the presidents from head to waist. The artist also intended to chisel an expansive panel in the shape of the Louisiana Purchase. This would include gilded words commemorating founding documents and territorial expansion; imagine the golden 8-foot tall letters “U. S. Constitution” carved into a mountainside. Instead, similar information is now engraved on porcelain panels inside a vault installed behind the faces in 1998. The engravings include the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, biographies of the four presidents, and a history of the United States.

A 1998 update to the Visitor Center cost $58 million. The renovation added the porcelain panels, expanded visitor parking, and created a Lincoln Borglum Museum.

Tags: , , , , ,