Letter from Paris: June 21, 2023 News Digest

Letter from Paris: June 21, 2023 News Digest

Happy Summer Solstice! Today is the Fête de la Musique in Paris, which brings a party vibe to the city streets. There are concerts all over the place — from neighborhood bistros and landmark museums to street corners and the quays of the Seine. The hot, humid weather has been punctuated by thunderstorms of remarkable intensity — let’s hope the dramatic weather doesn’t disrupt the festivities.

Fête de la musique. Photo: Sylvain Naudin/ Flickr

Five rare icons evacuated from Ukraine have gone on display at the Louvre Museum, in order to protect them from the war. As reported by Reuters, “The icons, on display from Wednesday, are from a group of 16 extremely fragile works from Kyiv’s Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko Museum that were secretly evacuated in May to be safeguarded by the Paris museum. They travelled to France via Poland and Germany in a special convoy. Icons are stylized painted portraits, usually of saints, that are considered sacred in Eastern Orthodox churches. Four of the icons – encaustic paintings on wood from Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt’s Sinai desert – date from the 6th and early 7th centuries.” The Russian invasion has been as devastating for Ukraine’s cultural heritage as it has been for the population. This special exhibit at the Louvre will take place until November 6.


Did you know that the Tour Montparnasse is about to turn 50? CNN Style notes that many Parisians still hate it. “There is an old joke in Paris that the top of Montparnasse Tower has the prettiest view in the French capital. Not because of its breathtaking views of the Eiffel Tower or the Sacre-Coeur Basilica perched atop Montmartre, but because it is the only place where you do not have to see the skyscraper itself.”

Saint Sulpice as seen from the Tour Montparnasse. Credit: David McSpadden / Wikimedia commons

In a photo essay, BP’s own Meredith Mullins wrote, “It’s a secular example of omnipresence. It epitomizes the “Mona Lisa Effect,” as it seems to follow you everywhere you go, just as Mona’s magnetic gaze stays with you as you move around the gallery in the Louvre. It barges into almost every Paris scene, like a drunk party guest, whether you want it there or not. Wherever you go, if you look over your shoulder, it’s there . . . lurking. Am I talking about the iconic Eiffel Tower, the structural symbol of Paris? I wish. Mais non. I am speaking of the monolithic monster that breaches the Paris city center skyline: the Montparnasse Tower (or Maine-Montparnasse Tower to be precise).”

The monolithic Montparnasse Tower © PxHere

Speaking of monstrous skyscrapers, don’t miss this recent Guardian article: “A tale of two cities: Paris proves that you don’t need skyscrapers to thrive.” The French capital strives to be a sustainable metropolis by following the “15-minute city” model, where inhabitants can find all essentials and services close to home. Correspondent Rowan Moore writes: “Paris, after a flirtation with tall buildings that has led to two or three controversial projects scattered about the edge of its centre, last week reimposed old rules that ban buildings above 37 metres (121ft).” The ban was reimposed after the notorious, contested Tour Triangle project in the 15th.

View from the rooftop at Galeries Lafayette/ Kasia Dietz

The seventh edition of VivaTech, the big tech show, recently took place at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center in Paris— hosting 2,400 start-ups and 2000 investors. Euronews noted that there was one topic that was unavoidable: artificial intelligence. Other trending topics included cybersecurity, climate tech, sport, and femtech. To quote: “French president Emmanuel Macron, who officially opened the event and has been a champion of the event in the past, also used the occasion to announce new investment in the development of AI in France.”


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The media was abuzz about the related meeting between two of the world’s people: Bernard Arnault, Chairman of LVMH, and Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter. The lunch took place— where else?— at the Cheval Blanc, the luxury Seine-side hotel owned by LVMH.

Speaking of LVMH, organizers of the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics are trying to get the luxury conglomerate to sponsor the Games. As reported by Quartz, “Paris 2024 CEO Tony Estanguet has said discussions are ongoing with LVMH… The luxury brand was one of a dozen of backers of the Paris bid for the Olympics in 2016, providing $2.3 million toward the city’s campaign. The company, the only one in Europe with a market value above $500 billion, is no stranger to sports deals. In 2020, it signed a deal to help sponsor the NBA game in Paris between Charlotte Hornets and the Milwaukee Bucks. If an Olympic partnership happened, it might not involve some of the brands in the LVMH portfolio. Watches, in particular, could be awkward: Omega, the official Olympic Games timekeeper, is a brand owned by Switzerland’s watchmaker Swatch Group.”

Olympics. Photo credit: Bryan Turner/ Unsplash

We’ll leave you with a Today Show segment, reported by Keir Simmons, about how the Paris Olympics aims to go green and reduce carbon emissions. “The Paris Olympics is promising to be an environmentally stable event by using its world famous landmarks as venues to lessen the carbon footprint, employing green taxis, and a commitment to recycle 100% of non-consumed food.”

Lead photo credit : ©Shutterstock

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