Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Passion for African Art

Each month, our Paris Insights newsletter presents the hidden jewels that comprise the "real" Paris – the people and places that are the true heart and soul of the city. Click here to sign up for our newsletter announcements and to receive our complementary guide called "Practical Paris”!


Aude Minart
Photo courtesy of Aude Minart

Aude Minart is passionate about art and all other expressions of creativity. Originally from a town near Lille in northern France, she lives and breathes to promote African art in her native France. For her, art is a means to slowly erode the perceptions that her compatriots have of Africa—to demonstrate that there is a modern Africa, and that contemporary artists abide and thrive there.

Aude granted me an interview during the last days of her latest art exposition in Paris: Tout est Possible Tous les Possibles. The show was marvelous! Every medium except photography was displayed there, including video.

We first discussed and dispensed with the subject of primitive arts. Primitive arts (now called arts premiers, or first arts, in France) consist of masks and carvings such as those displayed at the Musée du Quai Branly and the Musée Dapper in Paris. Aude says that this is the first thing that springs to a French person’s mind in thinking of art from Africa. She firmly believes this view of Africa’s art is too restrictive, and stated that this form or art is not at all what she promotes.

Likewise, she says that all African art is not art brut, which she defines as works made from materials recuperated from other items (such as the throne pictured below). Relatively few of the works that she promotes fall into this category.

Le Trône
César Dogbo
2004, Mixed media
© Discover Paris!

Aude seeks to promote the most modern image of Africa possible. Living on the continent for seven years, and visiting fifteen countries as a journalist for USA Today and Paris Match fueled this desire. The artists that she represents are city dwellers; they constitute part of the urban fabric of Africa. They are generally well known in their homelands, and can benefit from active promotion in Europe. Aude works to build strong relationships with these artists, because it is difficult to market their works successfully unless she can show the same artists’ works repeatedly to potential clients over a period of months to years.

After having chosen the name La Galerie Africaine for her business, Aude discovered that it was too limiting. Because there are artists in Brazil, the French Caribbean, and other areas of the world who also merit the attention of the French art world, she added the words Visibilité Noire—Black Visibility—to the gallery’s name, so that it would be more inclusive.

The works of two artists in Aude’s latest show, Camara Gueye from Senegal and Marie B from Guadeloupe, particularly attracted my attention. Photographs of some of their works are below.

Details of a Marie B sculpture and a Camara Gueye painting
© Discover Paris!

Camara Gueye
2008, Mixed media
© Discover Paris!

Marie B
2005, Composite
© Discover Paris!

Adolescents sur un banc public
Camara Gueye
2006, Mixed media drawing on cardboard
© Discover Paris!

Le Baiser
Marie B
2008, Composite (sold)
© Discover Paris!

Aude is a “galeriste nomade,” meaning that she does not have a permanent exhibition space in which to show her artists’ works. She therefore has to be very careful when selecting venues for her shows. “Location, location, location,” is what she says is important. The environment in which the art is shown has to “make people dream.”

Two of her favorite venues in Paris accomplish just that. The recent Tout est Possible Tous les Possibles exposition was held in the medieval cloister of the Paroisse des Billettes in the Marais! Aude also likes the Hôtel Mezzara, an art nouveau mansion in the 16th arrondissement built by Hector Guimard. These beautiful, if incongruous, backdrops accentuate the power and originality of the works displayed there.

 Views of the cloister enlivened with art
© Discover Paris!

La Galerie Africaine – Visibilité Noire
Contact: Aude Minart –


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Montparnasse Unveiled

Each month, our Paris Insights newsletter presents the hidden jewels that comprise the "real" Paris – the people and places that are the true heart and soul of the city. Click here to sign up for our newsletter announcements and to receive our free guide called "Practical Paris”!


Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of conducting a private, guided walking tour with Dr. Celeste Hart. She engaged Discover Paris! for several activities and products (as you will read in her testimonial below), one of which was a walk through Montparnasse. We spent two hours wending our way through the streets, conjuring up the spirits of the African-American and Bohemian past that made the district unique and famous.

Monique and Dr. Celeste Hart catching a glimpse of the courtyard
of an old artists’ studio complex from the early 20th century.
© Discover Paris!

Dr. Hart’s testimonial:

I recently engaged Discover Paris! to provide private, guided Afrocentric tours of the Louvre Museum and the Montparnasse district of Paris. I also purchased two of their downloadable walks – one on Richard Wright’s Paris and one on Josephine Baker’s Paris (The Black Pearl Walk).

I enjoyed both private tours immensely. They were filled with information and perspective that I couldn’t have gotten elsewhere, and I was able to engage the guides with questions and discussion that would not have been possible in a group tour. The guide for the Louvre tour provided a lively commentary which drew on her broad understanding of art history to provide fascinating insights into the significance of the inclusion of blacks in works of art spanning 3 centuries.

A special highlight of the Montparnasse tour was a dossier of rare photographs that the guide used to illustrate her discussion. Being able to see photos of the artists and their works as we passed their studios and favorite haunts added greatly to this experience. It was surprising to see how little some of their studios have changed over the years.

The downloadable walks contained remarkable detail about the places that Richard Wright and Josephine Baker frequented during their time in Paris.

Celeste B. Hart, M.D.
Tallahassee, FL

The beauty of Montparnasse does not lie in its architecture – the city razed the vast majority of the district during an urban renewal project in the 60s and 70s to construct mostly character-less buildings. The beauty of Montparnasse lies in its history, much of which is unknown to the average traveler. It teems with stories of artists and writers who came to Paris for a better life, beginning at the turn of the 20th century. African-American artists such as Henry Ossawa Tanner, Hale Woodruff, and Loïs Mailou Jones contribute as much to this history as do European artists such as Picasso, Pascin, and Modigliani.

Beauford Delaney, whose memory we recently honored by inaugurating his new tombstone, called Montparnasse home for the majority of the roughly twenty-six years that he lived in Paris. African-American writers James Baldwin and Chester Himes spent time there as did white American writers Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Herb Gentry and his wife Honey Johnson operated a business near the Carrefour Vavin that was an art gallery by day and a jazz club by night. And we can’t forget that Josephine Baker performed for the final time of her life in Montparnasse…

Funeral procession for Josephine Baker
in front of the Bobino Theater, Montparnasse

Take Discover Paris!’ Entrée to Black Paris™ tour of Montparnasse and feel the artistic and literary pulse of this quartier beat again! For more information, contact us at info(at)discoverparis(dot)net.


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Remembering Eugene Bullard

Each month, our Paris Insights newsletter presents the hidden jewels that comprise the "real" Paris – the people and places that are the true heart and soul of the city.  Click here to sign up for our newsletter announcements and to receive our free guide called "Practical Paris”!


Eugene Bullard (1895-1961) was an African-American expat whose life in Paris spanned World War I, the interwar years, and the early part of World War II. He was a boxer, vaudeville performer, drummer, and entrepreneur. He owned and operated night clubs, and even owned an athletic club. Here is a brief overview of his remarkable life.

At the tender age of twelve, Bullard sailed for Europe on the German ship Matherus. He debarked in Scotland, where he worked at odd jobs to make ends meet. He soon moved to Liverpool, England, where he found himself attracted to the world of boxing and began training for the sport. He then went to London as the protegé of Aaron Lester Brown, the "Dixie Kid," who eventually arranged for Bullard's first fight in Paris. After that first taste of the city, Bullard knew that he didn't want to live anywhere else.

Back in London, Bullard joined the traveling vaudeville troupe Freedman's Pickanninies as a performer. He reasoned that when the troupe got to Paris, he would not move on with them. Once in the City of Light, he returned to boxing, learning French and German during his first several months in town. With the outbreak of World War I, he joined the French Foreign Legion.

As a member of the Foreign Legion, Bullard was wounded in battle at Verdun during World War I and was awarded the Croix de Guerre with a bronze star for heroism. He then became the first ever African-American fighter pilot—training with the French and then joining the Lafayette Escadrille, an American flying corps under French command. (At that time, the U.S. armed forces did not permit blacks to fly.) Bullard flew at least twenty missions with two squadrons in the Lafayette Escadrille before Dr. Edmund Gros of the American Hospital arranged to have him permanently grounded because of Gros’ own race prejudice.

Bullard next to his plane with his pet monkey Jimmy

Bullard's Military Medals

Bullard capitalized on the jazz craze that swept France after the war, learning to play the drums and then going to work as the drummer, manager, and artistic director at Zelli’s night club in Montmartre (in the area that is now called Pigalle). He continued to box during this time, and fought his last professional bout in Egypt in 1922. Returning to Paris, he married his French girlfriend and continued to work at Zelli’s. Sometime later, he went on to manage the night club called Le Grand Duc. He would eventually buy this club, and another called l’Escadrille just a few meters away. Ada “Bricktop” Smith and Langston Hughes worked at the Grand Duc while Bullard was manager there.

Bullard in a boxing pose

In addition to Le Grand Duc and L’Escadrille, Gene Bullard owned and operated Bullard’s Athletic Club in the same neighborhood. Professionals such as “Panama” Al Brown trained there, but the club was primarily a place for everyday residents to exercise—including women and children! His businesses continued to do well in the 1930s despite the Great Depression because of his ability to speak fluent French. He eventually sold Le Grand Duc, but kept the Escadrille and the gym.

Ad for Bullard's Athletic Club

In 1939, Bullard was recruited by French military intelligence to become a part of the counterintelligence network formed to identify and watch German agents operating on behalf of the Nazis. He would spy on Germans who frequented his establishments.

Just before the Germans advanced into Paris in 1940, Americans began leaving France. Bullard opened his establishments to friends in need of assistance during the evacuation. In 1940, he closed his businesses and sought to join his old World War I regiment. He left Paris on foot, marching south. He joined a unit in Orléans several days later, and was injured by an artillery shell on June 18. He was forced to flee France and return to the U.S., where he was once again subjected to daily humiliation and discrimination because of his race.

Bullard died forty-nine years ago today, in New York City. He was buried in a French Foreign Legion uniform, and received a military funeral service. Per his request, a French flag was draped over his coffin. Members of the Federation of French War Veterans, France Forever, and the Verdun Society attended the service. Afterward, the French War Veterans led the procession of cars to his final resting place the French War Veterans Cemetery in Flushing, NY.


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sunshine Award for Entrée to Black Paris™!

Entrée to Black Paris™ has received the Sunshine Award from Adrianne George and the Black Women in Europe blog! The Sunshine Award is awarded to bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspire others in the blogging world.

Thanks, Adrianne!

The rules:
• You must post the award’s logo in a post or on your blog
• Nominate 10-12 other fabulous bloggers
• Link your nominees to the post
• Comment on their blogs, letting them know they’ve been nominated
• Share the love and link the person who nominated you.

Here are my nominees:
52 Martinis
Courtney's Paris Travel Blog ( Paris Travel)
Girl Cook in Paris
Girls' Guide to Paris
HIP Paris
Kiratiana Travels
Parisien Salon
Paris Notebook
The Paris Blog
Weekend in Paris

Each month, our Paris Insights newsletter presents the hidden jewels that comprise the "real" Paris – the people and places that are the true heart and soul of the city. Click here to sign up for our newsletter announcements and to receive our free guide called "Practical Paris”!

Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.