Category Archives: Europe 2005

April in Paris

It was ten years ago today that little Puffles and Honey started their big adventures, landing in Paris for a 3-week holiday. Back then, they were still shy little bears, not the fashion trend setters and big adventurers they are today 🙂 We will be celebrating this 10th anniversary in beary style, of course. Today we celebrate Bunny’s birthday and tomorrow morning we take off for another beary adventure. Stay tuned…

Eiffel Tower, April 2005
Eiffel Tower, April 2005

One thing has remained constant, their taste for the good things in life 🙂 Ten years ago they sampled some of Paris’ best.

Fauchon, Place de la Madeleine
Fauchon, Place de la Madeleine

At Place de la Madeleine stands one of the city’s most popular sights – not the church, but Fauchon, a hyperupscale megadelicatessen that thrives within a city famous for its finicky eaters. It’s divided into three divisions that include an épicerie (for jams, crackers, pastas, and exotic canned goods); a pâtissier (for breads, pastries, and chocolates); and a traiteur (for cheeses, terrines, pâtés, caviar, and fruits). Prices are expensive, but the inventories are fascinating. Among its rare delights is Romanian rose petal jelly, which we eventually found on the shelf. We did not buy it, but we did buy the Cherry Cinnamon coffee 🙂 Yummy!

Hediard, Place de la Madeleine
Hédiard, Place de la Madeleine

Also at Place de la Madeleine, and in the opposite corner, is Hédiard. Opened in 1850, this temple of haute gastronomie sells similar treats as Fauchon, as well as caviar, truffles and spirits. Hédiard is rich in coffees, teas, jams, and spices. The decor changes with whatever holiday (Halloween, Easter, Bastille Day) or special promotion (the coffees of Brazil, the teas of Ceylon) are in effect at the time. Hédiard is the place to buy tea or thé. The variety of flavours was overwhelming and more so as they were obviously in French. Eventually we settled on the exotic name of Melange of Printemps.

Poilane, 8 rue du Cherche-Midi, 6e
Poilane, 8 rue du Cherche-Midi, 6e

Boulangerie Poilâne is considered by many to be Paris’ best bakery. It certainly is one of Paris’s best-loved bakeries. We visited several times and each time, the shop was full of women carrying bags full of designer clothes! Poilâne hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1932. You can go to taste and admire the beautiful loaves of bread decorated with simple designs of leaves and flowers that’ll make you yearn for an all-but-vanished Paris. The specialty is a chewy sourdough loaf cooked in a wood-burning oven that can be specially wrapped to stay fresh during your journey home. The bread is huge, but you can buy slices of it. Other specialties include apple tarts and butter cookies.

La Maison du Chocolat, 19 Rue de Sèvres, 6e
La Maison du Chocolat, 19 Rue de Sèvres, 6e

At its several Paris locations, La Maison du Chocolat offers racks of marvellous chocolates priced individually or by the kilo, at absolutely exorbitant prices. We found ourselves in chocolate heaven, a very expensive chocolate heaven. After the initial shock, we selected a bag of champagne truffles. For making a purchase, we were rewarded with a sample of caramel truffle, and it was so divine, it could have converted us to liking caramel. But it didn’t 🙂 The store offers a variety of chocolates as well as chocolate-based products, including chocolate pastries and various chocolate cakes. These are usually more affordable than the chocolates and noticing them in the window on the way out of the store, we promptly went back inside for some cakes and got rewarded with another caramel truffle! Still no conversion…

Jadis et Gourmande, 27 rue Boissy d'Anglas, 8e
Jadis et Gourmande, 27 rue Boissy d’Anglas, 8e

After the shock over the prices at Maison du Chocolat, we decided to not go to Christian Constant, another chain of apparently renown (and how renown can they be if we haven’t heard of them?!?) and expensive chocolatiers and instead we went to Jadis and Gourmande. This chain of chocolatiers has a less lofty reputation than Christian Constant and more reasonable prices. They’re best known for their alphabetical chocolate blocks, which allow you to spell out any message (well… almost), in any language. We were more fascinated with the boxes of chocolates with different fillings. As the boxes didn’t come with guidelines, the delight was in guessing what the chocolate fillings were. It took repeated tasting 🙂

Dalloyau, 5 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 4e
Dalloyau, 5 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 4e

Dalloyau is one of Paris’ landmark patisseries. It has been making its own chocolates and pastries since 1802, or before Napoleon became emperor, and everything is luxury personified. The pastries are works of art, each tasting even better than it looks. You must forget the calories that you may be downing for one of those divine treats and enjoy the indulgence. It supplies pastries to the Elysée Palace and to the Paris rich society. If it’s good enough for them… Of the sweet delights, the Opera is legendary – layer upon layer of divine taste – almond flavoured biscuit layered with butter cream, chocolate, coffee and cashews… It just melts in your mouth.

Stohrer, 51 rue Montorgueil, 2e
Stohrer, 51 rue Montorgueil, 2e

One of Paris’ oldest bakeries, Stohrer has been on rue Montorgueil for over 270 years. Stohrer, who is credited with inventing the baba au rhum, was a pastry chef who travelled to France with Polish princess Marie Leczinska when she married King Louis XV. After serving in the kitchens at Versailles, Stohrer opened this store in 1730! We bought an Ali Baba, an even more decadent version of baba au rhum – and it was drowning in rum! It is a very small cake, very siropy and incredibly filling. They have pastries, cakes and chocolates.

Catherine Perfums, 6-7, rue de Castiglione, 1e
Catherine Perfums, 6-7, rue de Castiglione, 1e

For delights of a different kind, we went to Catherine Perfums. This family owned shop sells an impressive stock of all the big-name perfumes and cosmetics at discounts of 20% to 25%. In addition, their paperwork is extremely well organized, allowing refunds of the value-added tax (VAT) to be cleared quickly through Customs. Many on the staff, ie the family, speak English. We met the father, the mother and two daughters. The service was excellent; the daughters in particular know their stuff and recommend the right products. Except for the colour of the foundation. Stand your ground, if you can (I couldn’t back then), and don’t accept the much darker shade than your skin colour. You know that French habit of looking tanned by using a dark foundation colour, that the rest of the world finds so ridiculous. We compared their prices (after the discount) to duty-free in airports and their prices were the same or generally lower and you are getting the VAT refund on top of that as well.

Hermes, 24 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris
Hermes, 24 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris

The best shopping experience was at Hermes where we found exactly what we wanted resulting in squeals of delight in the store 🙂 and all the staff were delightful, while the most ridiculous shopping experience was at Louis Vuitton where we had to deal with a particularly stuffy Frenchman. To think of it, the recent experience at Louis Vuitton last October wasn’t the best either. Hmmm… Evidently a certain type of attitude is part of the job description.

Mother Ship on Avenue des Champs-Élysées
Mother Ship on Avenue des Champs-Élysées

During the last visit to Paris, all grown up, wearing French chic and standing on their own 🙂

Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower, October 2014

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

LV Cerises

This is the limited edition Cerises collection for Louis Vuitton designed by Takashi Murakami.

It was a very special collection that was a collaboration between the contemporary artist Murakami and LV Creative Director Marc Jacobs.

Takashi Murakami
Takashi Murakami

It was launched in the spring of 2005, the first time we visited Paris 🙂 Such an important event had to be celebrated in style!

Paris, April 2005, Champs-Élysées
Paris, April 2005, Champs-Élysées

A remarkable number of the cherry bags, and some scarves for good measure, found their way to our place…

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

This one doesn’t have any cherries, let’s draw some on it!

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

Not satisfied with just the cherry bags, we got the display cherries too! If nothing else, they distract Isabelle from any drawing activities 🙂

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

Seriously, they were display cherries in the LV shop!

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

Murakami began his long-lasting collaboration with the fashion brand Louis Vuitton in 2002 at the invitation of designer Marc Jacobs. It was also a particularly savvy business move to use a cult Japanese artist, as an astonishing 94 per cent of Tokyo women in their twenties own at least one Louis Vuitton bag – and are always on the lookout to buy another!

Takashi Murakami injected a shot of youthfulness and color into Louis Vuitton when he began collaborating with the design house. He began by contributing artwork which was used in the design of a series of handbags. The series re-envisioned the fashion house’s signature monogram and was a huge commercial success. Though he had previously collaborated with fashion designers such as Issey Miyake Men by Naoki Takizawa, his work with Louis Vuitton won him widespread fame and notoriety as an artist who blurs the line between ‘high art’ and commercialism. It also elevated him to celebrity status in his home country of Japan. And likely increased LV sales even more.

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

In 2009, 6 years after the beginning of the collaboration, Louis Vuitton celebrated spring with the release of a colorful new design for small items, called Multicolore Spring Palette. At the same time, Murakami released the short video “Superflat First Love”. Murakami had founded the “Superflat” art movement to be representative of the shallowness of post-War Japanese culture. In this video, the style’s Japanese animation and graphic prints are front and center, along with a magical LV trunk that doubles as a portal into Murakami’s psychedelic dreamworld.

Born in Tokyo in 1962, Murakami is one of the most influential and acclaimed artists to have emerged from Asia in the late twentieth century, creating a wide-ranging body of work that consciously bridges fine art, design, animation, fashion and popular culture. He received a Ph.D. from the prestigious Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, where he was trained in the school of traditional Japanese painting known as Nihonga, a nineteenth-century mixture of Western and Eastern styles. However, the prevailing popularity of anime (animation) and manga (comic books) directed his interest toward the art of animation because, as he has said, “it was more representative of modern-day Japanese life”. American popular culture in the form of animation, comics, and fashion are among the influences on his work, which includes painting, sculpture, installation, and animation, as well as a wide range of collectibles, multiples and commercial products.

He founded the Hiropon factory in Tokyo in 1996, which later evolved into Kaikai Kiki, an art production and art management corporation. In addition to the production and marketing of Murakami’s art and related work, Kaikai Kiki functions as a supportive environment for the fostering of emerging artists. If we find ourselves in the neighbourhood, we’ll check out the Kaikai Kiki goodies at Roppongi Hills Art and Design Store (Roppongi, Tokyo).

Murakami is also a curator, a cultural entrepreneur and a critical observer of contemporary Japanese society. In 2000, he organized a paradigmatic exhibition of Japanese art titled “Superflat”, which traced the origins of contemporary Japanese visual pop culture in historical Japanese art. He has continued this work in subsequent impactful exhibitions such as “Coloriage” (Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, 2002) and “Little Boy: The Art of Japan’s Exploding Subcultures” (Japan Society, New York, 2005). In 2011, he organized the “New Day: Artists for Japan” international charity auction at Christie’s New York in response to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.

In September 2010, “Murakami at Versailles” was the third exhibition of contemporary art at the famed 17th-century palace. The museum’s president Jean-Jacques Aillagon expressed a desire to stage “a confrontation between the ancient and the new”, rather than pleasing the palace bureaucracy. What he managed to do was to create a clash between France’s blue-blood traditionalists and the cultural avant-garde. Ultimately, the hype doubled the show’s press coverage, and thus the public’s interest.

The exhibition consisted of 22 works, including 11 newly created works, and followed the tour through the royal apartments. Missing from show were Murakami’s “body fluid” sculptures. They will also be missing from our story. Those works would have given a collective stroke to France’s blue-blood traditionalists, led by Prince Sixte-Henri de Bourbon-Parme, a descendant of the French king Louis XIV. And they are not suitable for a beary nice blog.

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

The Oval Buddha Gold, a 6-meter-tall gold-leafed bronze work placed between the garden’s fountains, a portrait neither of the artist nor of Louis XIV, was certainly a most convincing collaboration between old and new royalty. And future shows at Versailles will be held on the palace grounds alone as organizers cowed to the pressure from palace bureaucracy.

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

The controversy didn’t phase Murakami one bit. If anything, he probably thrived on it. He said “I am the Cheshire Cat who greets Alice in Wonderland with his devilish grin, and chatters on as she wanders around the chateau.”

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

Bears also feature in his work…

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

Japanese style cute…

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

These are several of Murakami’s signature themes, series, and characters…

Flowers
Flowers

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

Perhaps Murakami’s most emblematic motif, these candy-colored, smiling flora came into the artist’s work when he was preparing for his entrance exams for the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts, and he embraced the form over nine years teaching prep-school students to draw flowers (even though, as he once said, “I didn’t like flowers”).

Mr Dob
Mr Dob

Murakami’s recurring characters each represent a different part of his psyche, and Mr. DOB, whose name plays on the slang expression “dobojite”, meaning “why?”, was originally created as a statement that Japanese art doesn’t need to imitate American art, and should find its own means of expression (a point somewhat complicated by those Mickey Mouse ears).

Kaikai Kiki
Kaikai Kiki

With names that translate roughly as “bizarre, yet refined”, an homage to the famed style of a 16th-century Japanese artist, these two impish characters reappear again and again in Murakami’s work as the artist’s spiritual guardians as well as the official mascots of his production company.

Jellyfish Eyes
Jellyfish Eyes

A trippy creature modeled after a Japanese monster called Hyakume (or Hundred Eyes) combined with elements of Humpty Dumpty, this character also lends its name to Murakami’s first feature-length movie, a CGI-powered extravaganza that brings the artist’s fantastical characters to life as the main attractions of an environmentally conscious monster movie.

Miss KO2
Miss Ko2

Inspired by anime and manga characters, Miss Ko2 is based on a “fighting ‘bisyoujo’ (Japanese slang for beautiful young girl) character from the game Viable Geo. Depicting an attractive blonde girl, the sculpture alludes to the eroticized figures in Japanese cartoon culture. Miss Ko2 was the first of Murakami’s characters to appear as a three-dimensional work, serving as a point of departure for the rest of his sculptures, referred to above as “body fluid” sculptures. One of these sculptures, the 1998 My Lonesome Cowboy, sold at Sotheby’s for $US15.2 million in 2008. The sculpture wasn’t displayed at Versailles, but Murakami still laughed all the way to the bank.

Mushrooms
Mushrooms

Anthropomorphized mushrooms, their caps dotted with blinking eyes, are another signature motif in Murakami’s work. As the artist has stated, “For me they seem both erotic and cute while evoking, especially for the Western imagination, the fantastic world of fairy tale. I thought that, by uniting the eroticism and the magic side of mushrooms, I could use them as motifs in my work.”

The Creatures From Planet 66
The Creatures From Planet 66

In 2003, Murakami was commissioned to design characters for Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills real-estate development. Known collectively as “The Creatures From Planet 66”, these smiling characters travel throughout the world on a mission to spread happiness and knowledge. More incentive to visit the Roppongi Hills Art and Design Store.