Less is more. The phrase most often associated with architect Mies van der Rohe was first written in a poem by Robert Browning which begins “Who strive-you don’t know how the others strive” The Louvre intertwines the spirit of both in La Petite Galerie. The current exhibit Corps en mouvement. La danse au musée infuses the simplicity and clarity of the architectural design with poetic effect.
La Petite Galerie du Louvre
At the core of the Louvre’s mission to make art accessible to all, La Petite Galerie is a space dedicated to education in the arts and culture. It is located in the heart of the museum at the entrance to the Richelieu Wing. As the name implies, it is a small gallery conceived for young visitors and their companions (family, teachers, caretakers) that privileges visitors with special needs. Major works of art are explored from a theme-based point of view, making the museum visit less complicated, better understood, and more appreciated. The Louvre proposes keys to observe visual art akin to how What to Listen for in Music initiates audiences to concerts. The space is accessible to those with reduced mobility and explanations of art are adapted to diverse visitors. Supports such as a tactile book with drawings in relief and descriptions in braille, audio and french sign language are offered. La Petite Galerie is one of the few places in the museum where you will find works ranging from the antiquities to contemporary art in the same room. The Louvre draws from the eight curatorial sections of its own collection as well as masterpieces from other museums that portray the chosen theme. Visual art disciplines (painting, sculpture, drawing…) from different civilisations encounter various art forms (film, literature, theater) to complement the exposition.
The Body in Movement- Dance and the Museum.
The current exhibit, co-curated by the Louvre director Jean-Luc Martinez and choreographer Benjamin Millepied, conveys the challenge for visual artists to represent movement. The museography mirrors the artistic response in four distinct areas compelling visitors to proceed through the exhibit mindful of the sequence of motion. A ballet barre along the wall serves a functional purpose for the visually impaired as well as an aesthetic one as the thread of the exposition. The lighting captures the fluid aspect of each piece similar to a spotlight on stage during a ballet.
The first area, Bringing Matter to Life, shows the paradox between using a medium which by nature is still to represent physical activity. Artists throughout history mastered the techniques and available materials to depict the agility of a human body. The undulation of a flowing garment is just one of the astute methods to suggest corporel movement. The second area explores body language. Codifying Action sheds light on the conventions specific to historical periods from antiquities, with the statue Egyptian Walking Man, to the Renaissance contrapposto- hence the phrase “frozen like a statue”. Gestures reflect emotions and attitudes illustrate an amorous pursuit. Athletic struggle is interpreted from ancient Greece to modern Europe. Continue past a projection of the Lumière brothers’ film Danse Serpentine to the third section. Sequencing Movement highlights the role that 19th century chronophotography played in revolutionizing visual art. Until then, artists sought to express successive movements in a single scene through multi-paneled paintings while classical art strove for unity of time and place. Modern technology permitted avant-garde artists to decompose movement. The exhibit culminates in a space evoking a dance studio with its mirrored wall ballet barre and music. At the center of The Body Dancing, a circular display of sculptures shows that dance has inspired artists since ancient mythology. Ballet, in turn, looked to art history before breaking with classical tradition. Innovative dancers, Nijinski, Loie Fuller and Isadora Duncan directly influenced 20th century artistic expression.
Who strive-you don’t know how the others strive
Throughout my own childhood, as a dancer, I was drawn to visual art depicting ballerinas such as the Degas paintings or Rodin sculptures. It was interesting to consider the difficulty that artists have in capturing a moment that performers work so hard to appear effortless. The various ways artists decompose movement is similar to how seemingly simple tasks are broken down in sequences to teach my son with sensory motor challenges. Due to his autism, we often rely on visuals to understand emotions. The reflection on how a repertory of gestures may be deciphered differently, depending on the time period or culture, was on point.
Corps en mouvement. La danse au musée takes less than one hour to visit. It may leave you wanting more. The exit leads to the glass roofed Cour Marly where a dance workshop for children was recently held among the marble statues. There are several enrichment activities, films and performances related to this exhibit which enhance the experience. The link (and activities) is in French.Unfortunately, none are adapted for special needs as the space is still under renovation. Any event labeled “en famille” is inclusive, however, since the person is accompanied. The preferential pricing (tarif reduit) and priority access are applicable. During the inaugural weekend, we enjoyed a family friendly concert in the auditorium.
La Petite Gallery, opened just last year, is a now a permanent space at the Louvre. A new exhibit every school year will continue to initiate art lovers to the Louvre’s collection. If you can’t get to Paris before next summer, the museum’s website has a virtual tour and videos. There is also a free app for smartphones with commentary by Benjamin Millepied himself. These online tools are helpful in preparing your visit even if you come in person. There are two exhibit catalogues, one specifically intended for young readers or anyone who prefers less text and more visuals. Information concerning the museum (hours, access…) can be found at the bottom of Louvre 101.