plastrer, engraving

La Monnaie de Paris:
showcase of art

Restaurant Drukarnia Sklad Wine & Chleba, situé dans une ancienne manufacture, à Lodz.

Drukarnia Sklab Wine & Chleba restaurant, in a former factory, Lodz.

coin, engraving
In France, the art of coin engraving is taught and practiced only in the Monnaie de Paris workshops.

Now an offbeat venue for contemporary art, the ancient Paris Mint, which still turns out coins and precious objects, has opened up its workshops to the public.

This is a place that’s always been iconic for lovers of old medals and collector coins. Located on the Quai de Conti in Paris, it’s an ideal spot for a break from the hurly-burly of life. The oldest French institution, the Monnaie de Paris (Paris Mint) was created in 864, during the reign of Charles II, following the Edict of Pîtres. Its hugely important mission was to mint coins. Nothing has changed: euros are now minted here, as well as collector’s items (including the recent series by Jean Paul Gaultier), several foreign currencies, and medals and decorations. After Thailand and the Comoro Islands, the Paris Mint won the tender for Uruguay, and has been entrusted with striking Saudia Arabia’s coins. For 12 centuries, this little-known enterprise has maintained a tradition of producing artistic works in metal, and it is for this reason that it is a member of the Comité Colbert (an association made up of firms and institutions from the luxury sector). Many Parisians are unaware that, since 2009, this vast Neoclassical building (covering an area of one hectare) has been hosting contemporary art exhibitions, amid a decor of wood paneling, mirrors, soaring ceilings, baroque galleries and herringbone parquet floors that creak delightfully. It was an immediate hit with the public. Standout events include the “Chocolate Factory” (nearly 60,000 visitors in 2014), the installation by the American Paul McCarthy, a kind of mad factory that mass-produced chocolate Father Christmases; and that of Maurizio Cattelan, no less amusing and irreverent (100,000 visitors in 2016). The exhibition “A Pied d’œuvre(s),” which ended in early July, juxtaposed works from the Centre Pompidou by Marcel Duchamp, Pipilotti Rist, Yves Klein, Robert Smithson and Alberto Giacometti. They abandoned their usual plinths and elevated positions “to embrace the horizontality of the floor,” as Camille Morineau, director of exhibitions and collections, put it.

A rare glimpse of an ancient craft

Contrary to appearances, this place thumbs it nose at the solemnity of museums. The Hôtel de la Monnaie may be a small player on the contemporary art scene, but it is a free spirit, intent on pleasing visitors who are happy to accept an element of unpredictability, adventure and even surprise (you can enter the Hôtel de la Monnaie and suddenly find yourself sitting in the three-star restaurant of Guy Savoy, who moved his operations here). The kind of people who, fired with enthusiasm, seek to escape the beaten track leading from the Palais de Tokyo to Beaubourg. In addition to opening the place up to art, the aim was also to return to its original purpose, or rather its ancestral craft: metalworking. So this autumn, the Monnaie de Paris, the only manufactory still active in Paris intra muros, will be opening its metalwork, jewelry and chasing workshops to the public. Interested visitors can follow a path taking them down indoor passages and into small courtyards where they can observe the beautiful techniques of more than 150 artistic artisans at work, and also chat with them. This project was inspired by the approach taken by the island of Murano and its traditional glassblowers: bringing together, on the same site, production and exhibition, craftsmanship and artistic ambition.

Women of art Works by Louise Bourgeois, Niki de Saint Phalle and Carla Accardi rub shoulders with those by Nil Yalter, Birgit Jürgenssen, Laure Tixier and Elsa Sahal. The next exhibition pays homage to femininity and feminism by looking at the everyday rituals of domestic life. The name “Women House” is a tribute to the “Womanhouse” exhibition organized in 1972 by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro, co-founders of the Feminist Art Program at the California Institute of the Arts. This first group show will be supplemented by events devoted to women in the art space.

Women House

Du 20 octobre au 28 janvier 18. Monnaie de Paris. 11, quai de Conti.


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