Paris | Photography Focus – Campana d’Orsay
The last post of my recent Parisian adventure, and the fourth set of photographs emanating from the trip pulls something of a sharp focus on a particular place in Paris, and not one that is all that well known either. In the insuperably brilliant Musee d’Orsay, behind one of the two huge round glass windows which double as the prominent clock faces which characterise the building’s impressive riverside façade, is a super chic new café opened following the major renovations of the museum in 2011. The café, which was designed by the Campana brothers, and now carries their name, is very different from the typical bistros and brasseries which are so characteristic of Paris. Ultra modern in its design, throwing diners into something of an undersea aquarium-come-fairy tale palace with its waving lines, bubble like round-patterned chairs, and striking aquamarine backdrop, this café is nothing if not eccentric, but therefore perfectly placed in its location next to the galleries containing France’s foremost collection of impressionist art – after all, these were the artists who challenged all of the art which had gone before them. As a café, the food isn’t all that great, and the selection is even worse, but the design is such a winner that I couldn’t help but give this genius of café design its own little space on The Daily Norm.
The photos which follow focus mainly on the various unique features of the Café Campana, but also include some cheeky shots of fellow diners. I’m not even sure that I’m really allowed to take photos of people without their permission, and still less publish them online. But if that’s the case, it’s a real shame, because there is nothing quite like a voyeuristic glance at fellow dinners to really capture the essence of a place. In fact like the Impressionists before me, these photos represent my way of doing what those artists did best: representing real life, and recognising reality as a thing of beauty in itself. Surely no activity could be more appropriate at the d’Orsay’s café, where only rooms away, Degas’ famous painting of desolate drinkers staring into their glasses of Absinthe in a Paris bar (l’Absinthe) hangs amongst the masterpieces on show.
Admittedly the diners in my photos are enhanced by their surroundings, and in particular the glittering gold lights which are by far my favourite aspect of the design. Hanging in their multitudes, these lights give the feeling of being in a kind of Olympian paradise, where over-sized golden blue bells hang abundantly above. Their splendid shiny gold surface, and their installation, hung from great steel joists also painted gold, makes for a lavish spectacle in a way that only gold can; a spectacle which is all the more enhanced by the sheer abundance of it – when you have gold, why not have plenty of it? And hung as they are, all at different lengths, in irregular groupings, these lights seem so unplanned as to be a natural phenomenon; the kind of visionary wonder that makes you appreciate the glory of the world all around.
In short, the Musee d’Orsay is well worth visiting for the Café Campana alone. Not necessarily to anticipate a gastronomic revolution – it is only a café after all, and a museum café at that – but to gaze in wonder at what must be one of the most impressive contemporary restaurant designs in Paris. I leave you with my photos – which include a few inevitable shots of the impressive d’Orsay itself – a former left bank station which has more than found its own as a bastion of 19th and 20th century art. Until next time Paris…
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