Letter from Paris: January 31, 2024 News Digest

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Letter from Paris: January 31, 2024 News Digest

French farmers have continued their protests this week, moving hundreds of tractors to create blockades on major roads. On Monday, the farmers set out to encircle Paris in what they’ve called “Operation Paris Siege,” to protest low salaries, unfair competition, EU environmental regulations, and the general hardships of working in agriculture. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced the mobilization of police and gendarmes to keep the tractors from entering Paris, and to ensure access to the airports and Rungis food market. The government has been planning more concessions to appease the fed-up farmers. To quote The Washington Post, “France, of course, is deeply familiar with protests. But as Paris prepares to host the Olympics this summer, and as the country’s ruling political centrists gird for a challenge from the far right in European Parliament elections, the farmer protests have the potential to be particularly destabilizing.”

Speaking of protests, environmental activists from Riposte Alimentaire (Food Retaliation) threw soup on the bulletproof glass protecting Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” painting in the Louvre on Sunday. This was the latest in a string of such high-profile attacks on major artwork in museums around the world, including Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” at the National Gallery in London, Monet’s “Les Meules” (Haystacks) at the Barberini Museum in Potsdam, Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, and the “Horse and Rider” sculpture situated in front of the Bourse de Commerce-Pinault Collection in Paris. As reported by France 24: “ The Riposte Alimentaire (Food Retaliation) group describes itself as a collective dedicated to advocating for action on climate change and sustainable agriculture. On its website, the group said the French government is breaking its climate commitments and called for the equivalent of France’s state-sponsored healthcare system to be put in place to give people better access to food while providing farmers a decent income.”

Have you heard the news about La Tour d’Argent? We wish we were talking about the grand reopening after the renovation. (Because that was big news, unveiling all kinds of new treats including a rooftop overlooking the Seine.) But non, we’re talking about the robbery from the wine cellar. The legendary restaurant, one of the oldest in Paris, is known for its extraordinary cave stacked with grands crus. It’s thought that the thieves broke into the cellar during the renovation, making off with 80 bottles. One of the stolen wines? A 1999 bottle of Romanée Conti, sold for 31,200 euros. The total value of the theft is estimated at 1.5 million euros.

A new exhibit opens today at the Crypte archéologique de l’île de la Cité (beneath Notre Dame). Called “Dans la Seine. Objets trouvés de la Préhistoire à nos jours,” the exhibit showcases more than 100 objects, from prehistory to the present day, that have been recovered from the Seine river by archeologists. From medieval statues to World War II weapons, the finds are extraordinary and tell the story of the city. Open every day except for Monday. The full-price ticket is 9 euros. Free for those under 18 years of age.

The year 2024 isn’t just about the Summer Olympics. The city of Paris has also declared it a year of celebration of architect Hector Guimard (1867 – 1942), a major figure of the Art Nouveau movement. To quote the city: “Master of decorative arts in France, he is the one who dared to use curves, arabesques, flowers and new materials in architecture. A great admirer of Viollet-le-Duc, his meeting with Victor Horta in Brussels in 1895 would be decisive in his architectural and artistic writing.” To kick off this celebratory year, an inaugural conference is being held today in the Hôtel de Ville’s salle des fêtes. Read our comprehensive article about the Art Nouveau pioneer here.

“Dragonfly” Art Nouveau entrance designed by Hector Guimard. Photo credit: Peter Clericuzio/ Wikimedia commons

Lead photo credit : Cows in France. Photo credit: isamiga76 / Flickr

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