One thing I learned about Paris

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Hall of Mirrors
Crowd inside Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors.

Paris is a magnet for tourists over the holidays. Let me say that again in case you’re planning a visit between Christmas and New Year’s: Paris is so full of tourists over the holidays that you will spend hours in line to get into museums; you will be packed like sardines on the subways; you will elbow your way through stores and markets. It’s the New York of Europe. But of course you will have a good time. And depending on your patience for your fellow humans you may have a great time.

Little princess at Versailles gift shop
Little princess in yellow ball gown at Versailles gift shop.

Max and I fell into line at Versailles one sparkling cold day last week. Among the various languages we overheard in our 50-minute wait was a lot of French. French families as tourists in their own museums shouldn’t be a surprise nevertheless it felt surprising. Two French visitors were a mother and daughter–daughter dressed as a princess, her golden dress sweeping the paving stones under her wool coat. We ran into the princess later in the gift shop.

Jeff Koons balloon sculpture at Versailles. I liked that you could get up close to this one. It works as a glass slipper lost at the ball. Mysterious and with a story embedded in it somewhere.
Jeff Koons balloon sculpture at Versailles. I liked that you could get up close to this one. It works as a glass slipper lost at the ball. Mysterious and with a story embedded in it somewhere.

Jeff Koons‘ art is featured through the palace and while it seems a great matchup — the king of sunny, shiny kitsch in the Sun King’s palace — seeing the works inside the King and Queen’s staterooms and the Hall of Mirrors was torture. The big rooms and medium sized sculptures were no match for the huge crowds. We moved in baby steps trapped by people all round us. I saw the tippy tops of some of the Koons’ wares and kept on going.

Jeff Koons silver bunny
Jeff Koons’ Silver Bunny balloon sculpture in a vitrine — a mistake. It might be the vitrines were meant as a joke–how valuable is this really compared with what’s in the room behind it?

Many of the sculptures were in glass vitrines which completely destroyed their playfulness and beauty. I’m guessing that was done for security because I have seen the objects sans vitrines in other museums. Why some were allowed to stand alone and others weren’t is mysterious.

Jeff Koons
Koons’ mirror reflecting back the Hall of Mirrors.

The whole experience reminded me of how spoiled I am as a critic who is invited to see blockbuster shows at press previews where there is no crowd to speak of.  There’s got to be a better way to handle crowds in spaces like these.  Timed tickets?  There was no attempt at crowd management and they really need it.
Jeff Koons red balloon dog
Jeff Koons’ Red Balloon Dog inside Versailles. The crowd was immense.That’s it for this post. More soon. And more pictures from Versailles and Paris at my flickr.

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jeff koons, paris, versailles

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