Friday, May 30, 2014

Spotlight-The Coolrator: Scott Allan

When I was recently back at the J. Paul Getty Museum, I had the opportunity for a quick coffee and catch up with my friend and Associate Curator of the Paintings Dept. at J. Paul Getty Museum, Scott Allan. Scott specializes in European, and particularly French, painting after 1800. Although he is wicked smart with a doctorate degree in both Philosophy and Art History from Princeton, he is also one of the most approachable, witty, sincere and genuinely kind persons I have met (well...he is Canadian so I guess it all makes sense eh?! ;) Because of his special line of work, he often is in Paris and I have been able to catch up with him a hand full of times since moving there. Although, one of my favorite memories of Scott was back in Venice Beach at my Cinco de Mayo farewell fiesta. At one point in the festivities I remember seeing Scott and another fellow Getty curator alternating between tequila and jell-o shots and I thought to myself, "man art curators really know how to have a good time!" So cheers to Scott Allan, one of the coolest curators I know! Santé!
KG: What are you currently working on at the Getty?

SA: We are doing a big James Ensor exhibition this summer. It is the big summer show here at the museum and we will be showcasing the Getty painting called Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889 which is his master piece. We have had the painting here at the Getty since the 80's, but we haven’t had much context for it. A couple of years ago the Royal Museum in Antwerp closed and we had an opportunity to borrow basically their whole core collection of Ensor. It is the biggest collection in Europe and includes a lot of his early work which you can only see in Belgium. So, we are bringing it all here and we will be able to show the 10 years leading up to the Getty painting. We will be able to show how all the different strands of his art (political and social satire, unorthodox interpretation of biblical stories etc.) and how they converge and culminate to our Getty painting. We will be able to give it a chronological biographical context.

There are going to be about a hundred objects in the show-paintings, drawing prints and a lot of this stuff is totally outrageous. There is a lot of bodily humor in his works. There are a lot of fart jokes, a lot of vomiting, and there is a lot of defecation. A lot of it is political and social satire and he is kind of eviscerating contemporary bourgeois Belgium society. It’s going to be some art that we haven’t really seen here at the Getty before. It’s not your traditional fine art, although the way he starts out is as a sort of a naturalist painter in the tradition of Courbet and Manet. He was very much in the avant-garde mainstream and then he kind of goes…off the deep end. He goes off into this eccentric direction. So we are going to show that development in the exhibition.

It’s going to be a really fun and I had a lot fun writing all the wall panels/labels. You can’t be too didactic and academic about some of this stuff when you have wizards on broomsticks farting in the air propelling themselves with their farts.

KG: When is the exhibition on view?

SA: June 10-Sept 7th.  It’s going to be a fun summertime show to introduce the crazy variety of this artist. All of the 12 year old boys of Los Angeles are going to love this show

Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889, James Ensor 
Belgian, Ostend, 1888. Oil on canvas  © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SABAM, Brussels

KG: When you are in Paris, what are your "must-do's"?

SA: Well, my trips to Paris are usually work trips so I am kind of focused on art. During the day its museums, museums and…museums. Because I do 19th century French, automatically I go and see whatever is happening at the Musée d'Orsay. I also go through the French galleries at the Louvre on a regular basis and I think the first half of the 19th century is well represented in the Sully wing on the second floor. Those galleries are beautiful and I just love the permanent collection there. Sometimes I will go for just an hour and do a couple of galleries and leave because the place can be so overwhelming. I remember one time I went to the Louvre in the evening when the museum had its nocturnal hours, and went straight to the Poussin gallery. I was surrounded by all these amazing Poussin’s and it was the best 45 minutes. There are also oddball places like Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature which are really fun to visit. Or places like the Gustave Moreau Museum, I did my dissertation on Moreau. The museum is located by Boulevard Haussmann near the grands magasins. The museum is like this time capsule circa 1900. 10 years before Moreau died, he turned his house into a museum and he worked with an assistant on the arrangement of everything, he even designed this cool spiral staircase. You can see thousands of works around everywhere and he was just a very bizarre painter. So, those are the cool little painter house museums that I like visiting too. The Rodin Museum is another good example.

I obviously love to eat in Paris and there is one restaurant that I go to. I am sort of a creature of habit, so if there is one place I have a nice experience in, I like to go back. In the past ten trips back to Paris, there is this one restaurant that I always go back to as it is reliably excellent every time (and it’s very charming). It is located up in Montmartre, and it is called Au Virage Lepic. It is just north of Rue des Abbesses.

Au Virage Lepic is on this little bend of Rue Lepic with little traffic so its tucked away in this quiet corner. Although, I think there are now fancy modern wine bars springing up around there so it’s a little less quiet these days. 

Bend of Rue Lepic
The food is traditional French but the décor is all 60’s American pop music. The walls are covered in Motown memorabilia and there always classic pop from the 60’s and early 70’s playing. The same guys have been running it for years and are very nice. There are probably only 8 tables in the place so it’s always good to make a reservation. 

Cozy atmosphere and you can't help but feel happy with 60's/70's pop playing in the background

The meals are pretty economical. I always get the magret de canard with the foie gras and the little roast potatoes on the side are just about the most perfect little roast potatoes you have ever had in your life. I usually start with an escargot dish and get a little pichet of vin rouge and whatever for desert (maybe a crème brulée or something like that). It is just a delightful dinner- and it is just so charming. I love meeting friends there. 

Magret de canard with foie gras and the little roast potatoes (that are perfect) not forgetting the pichet of vin rouge

The almond crème brulée is devine!

KG: Do you have a favorite neighborhood of Paris?

SA: The very first time I went to Paris I stayed in a little crappy hostel up in Montmartre, so I like that part of town. Since then I have stayed in different parts of Paris but there is something nice and pleasant about the hills of Montmartre, the stairways, the narrow streets, being above the city, walking up to Sacré Cœur and looking out over everything. It’s just a special and charming place. 

No comments:

Post a Comment


design + development by fabulous k