Paris fetes Marie-Laure de Noailles
Paris feted Marie-Laure de Noailles all day on Tuesday with a day of readings, exhibitions, dance performances and dancing, in a unique French homage to the legendary art patron who financed everyone from Jean Cocteau, Balthus and Alberto Giacometti to Dalí, Jean-Michel Frank and Luis Buñuel.
Kicking off the action, a book signing of "Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles; art patrons of the 20th Century," a brilliantly laid out compendium of the aristocratic patron’s remarkable life and reach by Alexandre Mare and Stéphane Boudin-Lestienne, held inside the Pierre Passebon gallery. In a busy day of activity, the Museum of Decorative Arts in the Louvre devoted all its windows on rue de Rivoli to de Noailles, while in the evening there were readings, dance performances and a piano concert cocktail inside the Maison Baccarat. Marie-Laure’s father, the Quaker Jewish banker Maurice Bischoffsheim, built this superb mansion, where she held the last great artistic salon on the Paris post-war years attended by Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.
“Back when Charles and Marie began collecting there was no such thing as a Ministry of Culture, not just in France, but anywhere. So, in a very real sense, that was the role they both played; culture ministers ahead of their time,” argued Jean-Pierre Blanc, the president of the annual Hyères Festival of fashion and photography. Europe’s most important fashion award for fledgling fashion talent, the festival takes place in the Villa de Noailles, which Marie-Laure and Charles built in the 1920s in the southernmost Provence.
Inside the Passebon gallery, the César Award-nominated actress Amira Casar read letters; poems and prose by de Noailles, who had a wonderfully fluid, if occasionally acidic, prose style.
“I regard her as the absolute summit of sophistication. Her taste, her choice of artists to support, her knowledge of art and architecture. She was unique,” opined Passebon, who staged an exhibition of de Noailles objects. Everything from brilliant black and white portraits of Marie-Laure by Horst, Dora Maar or Man Ray, to abstract pastoral paintings by this unique aristocrat.
“Her own class didn’t treat her very well. They thought of her as an eccentric. But when you consider the caliber of great artists she supported you realize how wrong they were,” added Passebon.
While the day-long homage ended in Silencio, the David Lynch-designed basement nightclub, with screenings of films financed by de Noailles or shot in her villa by Man Ray and Jacques Manuel; a portrait exhibition; DJ sets and more dance performances.
“As we say in French, she was the oil that turned the wheels, in her case many great ones. And, here she is doing it again tonight,” smiled author Mare.
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