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In Paris in spring, thoughts turn to ... the art show

Like a business rediscovering its core competency, the city of light has seen the opening of no fewer than 12 major exhibitions in recent weeks.

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That probably translates into great doses of aesthetic meaning for the human soul. But it can also be taken literally: Paris exhibits at the Branly, Orsay, Pompidou, the Petit Palais and Grand Palais, and the Paris Museum of Modern Art, among others, are all clustered within walking distance – something few cities can boast. And in the Paris spring, it’s a nice walk.

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France is also looking to other forms of culture. Attracting Hollywood, shockingly, is one. Pending an EU decision in Brussels, the French government is preparing to subsidize overseas film production and roll back restrictive costs – a stricture once thought to be as much a snub to the Hollywood style as to protecting an industry.

Patrick Lamassoure, managing director of Film France, told The New York Times: “In our world, this is making history…. It will change perceptions of France as defensive about its cultural patrimony.”

The measure will cost about €33 million, but is expected to attract some €240 million in revenue, according to the Times.

The Warhol show, which brings several hundred of the artist's Kodak-induced portraits together in one place, is billed as the first such show since the Whitney in 1979.

This week, among the locals who stood much longer than 15 minutes in line for Warhol, was a Paris senior who brought his two grandsons. He’d seen Warhol, impresario of celebrity art, decades earlier in New York and had a “negative prejudice” against the son of Slovak immigrants, who moved from bohemian to jet-set New York celebrity whose portraits earned him a million dollars a year at a time when that was real money. But this time the Parisian was impressed, seeing “a new side to Warhol. He’s not just commercial, but inherently political and vibrant…. I also find it interesting that the best portraits of Mao and Lenin were done by an American.”

French traditionally love museums, some saying they visit them all over Europe – to find a predominant number of other French also inside. Parisians interviewed at six different exhibits last week said they went as a family activity. At a show on 19th-century early photography of Italy at the Orsay, visits ranged from interest in Italy, to interest in photography, to one elderly man who said, “I see every exhibition I can. I love them.” During interviews, several Parisians spoke of at least three other exhibitions, including on Italian primitive art, not found in the marquee brochures.

Mild breezy and brilliant blue sunny weather also played a role this week, some said. It has been a long winter.

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