Amanda Sardinas: Paris 2022

Art that Mirrors Life

Ligne 12: Porte de la Chapelle ↔ Mairie d’Issy

There’s a popular saying that goes ‘’life imitates art’’. This theory is known as mimesis. With the power to influence social norms, art represents the ever-evolving culture we live in. Art also gives significance to people’s lives and aids in the preservation of cultures and communities across the globe. Every person’s complex identity is manifested in different pieces and being in Paris has shown me how the French culture has progressed because art has reflected their history in different ways.

I have been able to explore Paris like a local and now truly understand the impact art has had on the people and the city. My group and I chose metro line 12 and discovered a handful of hidden gems, as well as the way art has mirrored Paris’s entire story.

Solferino- Musee d’Orsay

Museum of Movement

Once an old train station then converted into a museum, the Musee d’Orsay, was full of bustling surprises. It seemed like a very suitable altercation for this building to go from a train station to a museum because I associate train stations with movement, and the moment I walked into Musee d’Orsay all I could see was the liveness radiating off all the sculptures and paintings that were sprawled out across the building. Filled with rich collections from many different artists, the museums most impressive section was its impressionist gallery. From Manet to Monet, colorful and vibrant pieces popped off the walls and told a story about what Paris was like in the past and how they have painted our future.

Inside the Musee d’Orsay by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)
Picture of painting Rouen Cathedral by Claude Monet in Musee d’Orsay Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

An art movement that started in the late 19th century, impressionism, challenged traditional approaches in art. Those that partook in this movement were known as impressionists and they painted during a time when human rights were on the rise and class equality was occurring. Many artists in the past yearned for the kind of creative independence that the Impressionists championed by creating a paradigm for independence and subjectivity that supported artistic expression. They would intentionally attack the political and artistic views of society by portraying concepts never seen before. The Impressionists disdained the use of classical subject matter and instead embraced modernism in their art. They did this with the intention of producing works that were reflective of the contemporary environment in which they lived. For example, Monet’s Rouen Cathedral, was a series which displayed this one church at different angels throughout various seasons. The outside of a church is a representation of a relevant location that anyone can resonate with because of its accessibility to everyone. The common thread that ran across all of them was an interest in the way light might capture a particular instant in time, with color giving clarity rather than obvious shapes and lines. This movement changed the scale by making art a pass time that everyone can appreciate despite their social class.

A subject matter that was very consistent with the Royal Academy of Arts, an organization that determined which pieces should or shouldn’t be commissioned and approved of, was classical/romanticized versions of divine and submissive women. For instance, The Birth of Venus by Alexandre Cabanel demonstrates Venus lying completely in the nude on top of water, surrounded by angels. She oozes sexuality and submissiveness as she lays sprawled out slightly covering her face. However, this piece didn’t cause controversy. It was Olympia, by Edouard Manet that almost flipped Paris upside down. For Manet, it’s not a matter of paying respect to Greek mythology, but rather capturing the actual beauty of an actual courtesan in a real and natural setting. She isn’t coy, because she is confidently staring at the viewer with no shame or remorse for what she’d done. It’s always moving. In this artwork, the shadows surrounding Olympia are placed in an unconventional way, making her seem raw. For the first time, Manet shows us what it was like to be a woman living that lifestyle during that historical period. He gives us a taste of modernism’s fragility and openness by letting go of the pretenses and pursuing something unique.

Picture of painting The Birth of Venus by Alexander Cabanel in Musee d’Orsay Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)
Picture of painting Olympia by Edouard Manet in Musee d’Orsay Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Another example of an impressionist mirroring life is Gustave Caillebotte, and his piece titled, The Floor Scrapers. This is an early portrayal of the urban working class in the city. The men are sweaty, dirty, and the viewer can assume that they have been in that position for a while because of their swollen hands and lack of shirts. These men are fixing up an apartment in Paris that they unfortunately will never be able to afford to live in. They are enhancing the foundation of the notion that impressionists admired the working class for their strength and discipline to survive. Edgar Degas who was also a very famous impressionist painter has a piece titled Women Ironing, which depicts women working. Realism in life is reflected in Degas’ approach to this subject matter. Women Ironing is an honest look at the working class in Paris, and it allows Degas a chance to show off his keen eye for detail and mastery of observational painting. Degas captures this moment with perfect precision. The first woman yawning seems to be weary and suffering from heat exhaustion. Her coworker, however tired, keeps at her duty. It’s amazing how well Degas picked up on the motions of both women, making the viewer feel like they are peeking through a window and watching them. Impressionism art was affordable, simple enough to interpret, and relatable. Most impressionist paintings centralize on the notion that Paris is the city it is today because of those who maintained it back then, as well as the beautiful sites that inspired many impressionist pieces.  

Picture of painting The Floor Scrapers by Gustave Caillebotte in Musee d’Orsay Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)
Picture of painting Women Ironing by Edgar Degas in Musee d’Orsay Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Pigalle-Moulin Rouge

The Cabaret that Never Sleeps

It is known as ‘’A kingdom of nighttime pleasures’’, with lights, smells, and sounds so profound you become entranced from the moment you enter (Moulin Rouge, Luhrmann, 2001). The Moulin Rouge has served as a vital part of Montmartre’s social fabric for almost a century. Spanish entrepreneur, Joseph Oller and French showman, Charles Zidler created the Moulin Rouge in 1889. On October 10, it opened its doors to the public in the Montmartre area and became a ‘’holy’’ place for women, men, and the dance of the Cancan. Both, Oller and Zidler, wanted to create an ambiance that would appeal to a wide range of people despite social status, and the cabaret’s location in Paris’s 18th district (which was both fashionable and rural at the time) allowed it to quickly build a reputation that would inspire artists like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and dancers from all over the world.

Moulin Rouge Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Moulin Rouge: La Goulue, 1891. Color lithograph. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec established his name and became renowned while roaming around the streets of Place Blanche, which is where Moulin Rouge is located on. It was and still is a progressive and modernist district running on nightlife, sex, and dreams. Unlike the starting impressionists, who preferred to encapsulate depictions of upper-middle-class leisure, Henri represented the new and grittier urban lifestyle in his art. In fact, Moulin Rouge was one of the first buildings in Paris to have electric lights displayed. Hence, the name Moulin which means mill, and rouge which is a dark, and intimate shade of red. Toulouse-Lautrec would seek inspiration for his works by visiting exotic and vivid sites like the Moulin Rouge, the Chat, and the Mirliton. Approximately seventeen of his paintings are directly influenced by Moulin Rouge. He made lithographic posters for the Moulin Rouge that became instant hits due to his eccentric depictions of social and sexual themes. His most popular poster titled, Moulin Rouge: La Goulue, features the sensual and talented dancer, La Goulue, also known as the greedy one, dancing freely on stage. She was famous because of her gymnastic approach and erotic performances of the Cancan. The audience found, with enormous delight, the new dance, the French Cancan, with its dancers, the Chahuteuses (the rowdy girls), and its raucous beat, intoxicating. Due to its emphasis on female leadership, the cancan was one of the first dances to signal a shift toward female independence and empowerment. The Moulin Rouge balls immediately became highly sought occasions because of its extravagant show girls and sensual shows. For example, besides Goulue many other women rose to fame through the prospects of performing at Moulin Rouge. Nini Pattes-en-L’Air (legs in the air) was another great dancer, and she opened a French Cancan school becoming the first person to ever teach this scandalous and upbeat type of dance professionally.

Toulouse-Lautrec respected this group of individuals. He lived with them, represented them, and wished to communicate his appreciation for them via his art. He succeeded in showing his appreciation for this class of individuals, and he did so without judgment. As a result of his physical restrictions, it is said that he had a sympathetic place in his heart for those who were marginalized. He emphasizes how these ladies are treated and how they lived. As sex workers and cabaret workers, they were seen as undesirable in the upper-class Parisian culture. In his honest portrayals of their lives, he doesn’t make people seem to have any specific or obvious emotions like sad or joyful. They’re simply going with the flow and making the most of what they’ve been handed. Toulouse-Lautrec displays the truth and beauty of these women during that time. Their value was not to be demeaned or questioned just because they chose a lifestyle in the arts. Paintings of the artist depict women having fun, dancing, and engaging in acts of passion. A sense of freedom and unity is seen through his paintings of the women doing the Cancan. The people painted in his work, despite their differences, are indulging in the same pleasures of the night. Till this day Moulin Rouge still conjures up images of a Parisian joie de vivre where pleasure, joy, and liberation are always celebrated.

Abbesses-Montmartre (Artist Neighborhood)

Midnight through Montmartre

Artist painting in Montmartre Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Go back in time to when some of the greatest artists in history lived in the charming little village of Montmartre. A quaint district where iconic impressionists such as Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin Lautrec, Picasso, Van Gogh, etc. used to live and would work on their masterpieces. By the turn of the twentieth century, the neighborhood had become a haven for artists of all kinds. Montmartre had become the epicenter of Parisian intellectual and artistic activity. This was also probably because at the end of the nineteenth century, whenever alcohol came into the city of Montmartre, their alcohol wouldn’t get taxed since it was outside of city limits. This made day drinking a very affordable past time. It was a great place to live at, at the time for artists also, because of its picturesque buildings, cheap housing, and natural light for paintings. There are café’s surrounding the entire hill as well as spots where artists can show off and sell their artwork. An area built on community and a love for the arts, Montmartre is living painting. 

The Moulin de la Galette located in Montmartre Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Auguste Renoir was an impressionist painter and one of his most popular paintings, Bal du Moulin De Galette, was inspired by the area/restaurant called The Moulin de la Galette located in Montmartre. Renoir immortalized the ambiance that took place at this location during the late 1800’s. Montmartre is a district built on community and heart, which is reflected in Renoir’s painting despite it being created centuries ago. People are socializing, dancing, and eating together. He created a scene perfect for the style of impressionism because of the movement and casualness of the subjects. Those in this group are embracing the idea of leisure time and friendship. You can tell the subjects are working class by the way they are dressed. The men aren’t wearing top hats, and the women are not in over-the-top gowns. A chaotic element is what makes it a radical piece of art. Just a mixture of vivid color and wedged figures are the only things catching the eye as they are lit from above by rays of sunlight filtering through the trees. The painting’s brushstrokes are clearly visible and unfinished, which contributes to the uproar. To be honest, it’s nice to see how everyone is savoring the company of one other. They seem to be middle-class people, yet they are clearly enjoying the finer things in life like companionship. The author of a book titled “How to Read Literature like a Professor” describes how precious it is when characters dine together in a story, referring to the last supper and how Jesus eats with his fellow disciples as a final act of love. Paintings are like literature in that they both convey a tale with rich symbolism and allusions to self-reflection. This work highlights communion. Everyone in this artwork is forming a temporary community in which we, the spectators, may also feel a part of. It is a composition that honors society and the public that is still being emphasized today in real life.

Picture of painting Bal du Moulin De Galette by Auguste Renoir in Musee d’Orsay Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Pablo Picasso was one of Montmartre’s most notable previous inhabitants. A run-down block of flats known as Bateau Lavoir quickly became a gathering spot for several artists, authors, and performers, who were all living on a budget. When Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in 1907, he did it at his Bateau-Lavoir studio. Picasso’s depiction of prostitutes from Avignon Street, Barcelona’s famed red-light district, features five young prostitutes, naked and sprawled out with African and Iberian inspired heads. This could be interpreted as disrespectful to some due to his exploitation of women and culture. However, the painting does raise awareness for African art and women of that lifestyle being represented in a painting that is unique and incredible. Picasso took influence from African sculptures and had an African period which lasted from 1907 to 1909. The French empire was spreading into Africa at the time, and African antiquities were being returned to Paris museums. Exaggerated and strange tales about the African kingdom of Dahomey dominated the news. In this milieu of African fascination, it was natural for Picasso to turn to African relics for inspiration for some of his work. Picasso was one of the first famous European painters to recognize African art as something to be appreciated and not shunned upon. This was important because it launched the notion that the city of Paris was one of progression. That the people could be open to embracing other cultures and incorporating them in their daily lives making it accessible. Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque also co-founded Cubism, one of the most renowned and significant art movements of the twentieth century, in Montmartre as well!

Assemblee Nationale- Palais Bourbon

Can we Mold a Peaceful Future?

Art not only mirrors life in the moment, but it also reflects how we envision our future. Strolling past the Palais Bourbon, which is where the National Assembly meet to discuss political/global matters, my group and I came across one of the most magnificent monuments I had seen during my time in Paris. The monument stood right alongside the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. It was revealed to the public in 1937. It consisted of a woman topless symbolizing liberty cradling a mother and her child. Behind them are working class citizens listening to Aristide Brian give the message of conciliation in the The Procession of Nations that was led by France. The sculpture was made to honor the great late Aristide Brian who was a statesman in France, and he highly advocated for peace. Paul Lanowski, creator of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, designed the monument and made sure to add plenty of details to emphasize the message of peace. For example, there is a shield behind the two women and the child, symbolizing protection, and virtue not weaponry. There are also more women than men in the monument. Two working class men are shown, and the rest are women and children. This is because men are seen as instigators of war and death, who mistreat women and don’t acknowledge the mythology which goes as far as to say that women should be idolized because they are mothers birth life. The child is the focus and symbol of peace. He is protected on both sides by women because he is fragile. Quotes said by Brian circulate around the monument spreading the word to the people.

Memorial monument for Aristide Brian Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Between 1903 and 1931, he served twenty-five times as a Minister and eleven times as President of the Council. As Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1926 to 1932, he was dubbed “the Pilgrim of Peace” for his efforts to bring France and Germany together. In 1924, he was sent to Geneva to be a delegate to the General Assembly of the League of Nations. From here, he works on his ideas about equal security for all countries to guarantee the safety of each, the procedure and importance of arbitration, and the creation of a true law of international relations. In 1926 in Geneva, he gave a speech advocating for, “No more wars, no more brutal and bloody solutions to our differences! Admittedly, they have not disappeared, but from now on, it is the judge who will say the law. Like individuals, who go to settle their differences before the magistrate, we too will settle ours through peaceful procedures. (…) Put away the guns, the machine guns, the cannons: make way for conciliation, arbitration, peace’’ (Brian, 1926). Because of him Germany is accepted into the League, and he also won the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10th, 1926. On August 27, 1928, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was established, which was an agreement to prevent war. The Pact of Paris was one of numerous worldwide initiatives to avert another World War, however it had little influence in slowing the rise of the Nazi Regime in the 1930s or preventing World War II.

Brian believed in progressive liberation and the unity of the world. His name will forever be associated to this monument because it reflects someone who inspired people to have hope for the development of a world where humanity can live cohesively and resolve global issues peacefully. It also goes to show that even when evil things happen, humanity must never succumb to a level where peace is forgotten. Despite the events that took place after his death in 1932 (World War II), the monument stands tall and proud as a significant piece of art reminding us that we should never stop reaching for unity, peace, and a better future for upcoming generations.

Concorde- Petit Palais

Love in Art

Built in the 1900’s, the Petit Palais is an art museum filled with classic pieces of art history such as a wide array of sculptures, paintings, and even lost artifacts. The museum houses a magnificent collection of furniture and knick knacks from Versailles that were taken and sold by revolutionaries during that time. The museum celebrates the achievements and benefits of art and how they reflect the City of Paris.

Picture of painting The Sleepers by Gustave Courbet in Petit Palais Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Walking through each pavilion I learned that the most exciting thing is connecting the dots when it comes to educating oneself about different artists and the meaning of their pieces. For example, the painting that had really caught my eye was one made in 1866 and titled The Sleepers by Gustave Courbet. Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet was a French painter who pioneered Realism in 19th-century French art. He defied academic tradition and the Romanticism of the preceding generation of visual artists to depict simply what he experienced and believed. The Sleepers was a very erotic painting that displayed two women holding and caressing each other on a bed. It sems like they are resting because they just indulged in sexual intercourse. The broken pearl necklace and hairpin thrown on the bed further prove this theory. The painting clearly reflects lesbianism. I had instantly thought to myself how bold it was of the artist to have displayed this painting in 1866 when open lesbianism was tabooer back then. However, after researching turns out Paris was home to a rising lesbian subculture. The artist was just painting his reality. The hidden reality that was same sex love. The last public execution in France for homosexuality occurred on July 6, 1750, in Paris. As early as 1791, the French Revolution abolished the death penalty for homosexual acts. Despite all this occurring, a lot of artworks that demonstrated these themes were just too raw to be accepted and shown by the academy and would be kept under the rug until recently.

Picture of painting L’Origine du Munde by Gustave Courbet in Petit Palais Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

As with several his other works, including L’Origine du Monde, the artwork was not allowed to be shown publicly until 1988. Both L’Origine du Monde and The Sleepers emphasize themes of challenging the standard and representation of women and not reenforcing traditional views of their desires and purpose in life. With L’Origine du Monde, Courbet intimately displays a woman’s vagina claiming that a woman’s ability to reproduce is how the world started not God. This challenges religion and traditional constructs. The Sleepers is an iconic painting and according to The Encyclopedia of lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures ‘’… created an impact in 19th-century art, because after the public display of Le Sommeil, a number of contemporary artists were influenced by the theme of lesbian couples’’ (Smartify, 2022, par. 3). This motif’s repetition helps reduce the stigmas connected with lesbian relationships.

Courbet defied the world through his artwork, but in doing so he opened the gate for society to be more accepting of these ideals. Because this type of artwork mirrored what was once considered a taboo interpretation of reality, now society can indulge in what is now considered a normal pleasure such as loving whoever you want to love.

Madeleine- Gucci

Museology in Fashion

Gucci Store Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Renowned artist, Andy Warhol, once famously stated that, ‘’When you think about it, department stores are kind of like museums where images of mass advertising and popular culture that everyone can recognize are a form of art’’.  This observation seems highly relevant in this day and age because many high-end fashion brands such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Channel, etc. live off of the exclusive, museum-esq look and don’t touch reputation. The art of fashion and advertising is one that is prominent in Parisian culture. Walking through a lot of different neighborhoods a person could very well tell the City of Paris is thriving from its commercialism and lavishness. Luxury brands are on every corner with extravagant marketing tactics which coerce customers into walking in and indulging in what it’s like to be rich. The mannequins that stand inside the display glass are strategically dressed in the latest trends and fashion. They instantly catch people’s eye’s because of how well put together the outfits look. Mannequins were created to represent the perception of the human body and its beauty and nowadays symbolize commercialism due to the fact that they are used to sell clothing and accessories to the people.

Mannequins Posing Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)
Gucci Accessories Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

My group and I walked into Gucci to get the full ‘’Housewives of Beverly Hills’’ experience. The level of product presentation was at its peak. The luxury items are placed throughout the store to resemble the aesthetic aura of a museum or art show, like a statue of a sacred and holy figure. The moment you enter through the heavy glass door you are greeted by security that is trafficking a line of people who want to walk in and join the spectacle. Once you get the green light to go up the escalators you are welcomed by shelves of accessories such as purses and sunglasses sprawled out on shelves reflecting off a mirror wall. It’s as though the inanimate objects are vain and looking at themselves in the mirror, but you just so happened to interrupt. You are then presented with a guide who follows you through the three stories worth of merchandise. They offer you water and/or champagne. Like a tour guide, she explains to you the quality of the product, the cost, and the process of purchasing such an expensive item. If you decide to purchase anything you are given a certificate of authenticity to prove what you bought is authentic and if you’re traveling to another country, you must present this receipt to the airline for security reasons. It’s like transferring a piece of art. You can take pictures and gawk at the objects like you would in a museum. In fact, I saw one woman staring at a red leather handbag in such a manner it was like she was witnessing Monet paint his water lilies for the first time. All in all, everything we witnessed was stunning and prestigious, but it did feel like we walked through an art museum that had no history or context.

Gucci Mannequins Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Unfortunately, many luxury brands will purposely ruin their merchandise to continue their reputation of exclusivity, which harms the environment due to the waste of materials and lack of sustainability. It really pegs the question ‘’Is luxury worth the demise of our planet?’’.

Turns out the processing of raw materials such as leather creates and emits a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions. However, with the art of advertising many different platforms such as ads, tik tok videos, and Instagram posts have raised awareness on this issue by demanding the need to embrace environmentally suitable methods. So even though a lot of luxury brands have display windows that look like a scene out of a beautiful contemporary painting, maybe we should take a second to really look and make sure they are not only artistically aware but also environmentally conscious.   

Notre-Dame-des-Champs- Café Culture   

Cafe in Nortre-Dame-des-Champs Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

To be Parisian one must acclimate to the café culture that is highly prioritized in Paris. France conjures up images of winding cobblestone alleyways and lovely cafés trapped in time and culture. Whether you have been to France or not, we conjure up this lovely image with desire and melancholy. It was beautiful being able to live out this fantasy walking through the streets of Notre Dame des Champs. There is an art behind the importance of cuisine and café etiquette that I had never seen before. There was a time when cafes were a hub for cultural exchange, but they are now just remnants of an era gone by. It still is lovely seeing people spending time with each other outside instead of on their phones. French coffee etiquette is heavily influenced by Italian coffee customs. Traditionally, milky coffees have only been served in the morning, possibly with a croissant or some type of pastry. As a post-meal kicker or an afternoon one, Espresso is the most prevalent type served throughout the remainder of the day. The time in which you are sitting down and getting served is also part of the process. The French like to engage in ‘’people watching’’ as a pastime. Drinking coffee is considered a lingering leisure where you enjoy the moment. Café’s draw tourists in because of how addicting the lifestyle is. The art of drinking a coffee in France is a huge part of the French culture.

Rennes- Luxemburg Gardens

Great Women Frozen in Time

Statue of Anne Marie Louis d’Orleans in Luxemburg Gardens Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

People come together to create a serene scene. Couples lovingly embrace on the grass, students analyze and observe the sculptures that circulate the garden, and the air smells different in a place of such peace and comradery. It’s like you walked into an impressionism painting. Instead of ‘’A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte’’ it’s liked I walked into a Sunday afternoon in Luxemburg Gardens. There was constant movement and color reflected in the way people communicate with each other in the gardens. For some background history, after Henri IV was assassinated in 1610, the Gardens had been created. Marie de Medici, his wife, was unable to remain at the Louvre because of his lingering memories. In the style of her childhood home, Florence’s Palazzo Pitti, she designed the Palais du Luxembourg and its gardens to replicate the aura of her home. The most significant aspect of the gardens for me was the twenty female statues that surrounded the area. The sculptures were commissioned by Louis-Philippe, who was the king of France from 1830 to 1848. Each monument honors a specific woman who left their mark on France. My favorite was Anne Marie Louis d’Orleans, because in her lifetime she never married or had any children. To develop a monument for a woman who stayed independent because she couldn’t marry her one true love is bold. She initially wanted to marry a man named Antoine Nompar de Caumont, but he was seen as unsuitable. Another statue that inspired me was the one of Marguerite d’Angouleme. She is considered one of the first modern women because she played a significant role in culture during her time. She was an intellectual and loved to learn, which spread throughout the town. Marguerite d’Angouleme also embraced progressiveness and she kept many Protestants safe during that time. Overall, these women are being remembered and honored in a place that symbolizes unification.

Montparnasse-Bievenue- Montparnasse Tower

Ugliest Building in Paris

Paris is known for its classic and historical architecture that has lasted from the Middle Ages till the 21st century. Paris’s unique and distinctive characteristics are seen through the art of their architecture. Haussmann architecture refers to the iconic Parisian style of 19th-century architecture whose everlasting charm and ability to take you back in time has made Paris one of the world’s most visited and beloved cities. However, with tradition comes challenge and as time progressed some were curious as to how Paris’s sophisticated buildings would look in contrast to some modernity.

Montparnasse Tower Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

The impressive Montparnasse tower is the highest skyscraper in the French capital. It is also the third-tallest building in France, despite being often condemned and regarded as the city’s ugliest construction. The 59th-floor terrace of the glass-and-steel office skyscraper, originally designed by Eugène Beaudouin, Urbain Cassan, and Louis Hoym de Marien, offers some of the best views of the city, primarily because you can’t see the tower itself. Its height is at 210 meters form the floor, which is almost 100 meters less than the Eiffel Tower, which is one of the most iconic pieces of architecture in the world. It felt like the people who constructed this building were trying to compete with the Eiffel Tower, which clearly didn’t go as planned because everyone despises it. The Urban landscape which surrounds the monolithic tower makes it seem out of place and obstructively blatant. Unlike the unified cream-colored flats, there is no mystery or beauty behind the tower, just a sense of good ole New York looking capitalism. A building where people go in and never come out. In fact, this tower is so obnoxiously tall that two years after its completion, a law was created that states the construction of buildings over seven stories high were banned in the city center.  

There is a beauty in Paris’s old architecture and cobble stone streets that makes the people who live here feel proud of their strong city. A city that withheld a lot of history and you can see it through the cracks on the walls. Heavy is the head that wears the crown and Paris’s old architecture carries the weight and responsibility of never letting anyone forget what they endured to receive the reputation their city has today. There really is no need for skyscrapers and futuristic buildings to make their way into the streets of Paris. A story of a city whose ideals are filled with art, history, beauty, and life are told through the buildings and streets.

Port de Versailles- Paris Expo Port de Versailles

Transported Between Two Cultures

Piece of Berlin Wall Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Paris Expo Port de Versailles is a pavilion filled with unique and immersive exhibitions. From Dinosaur museums to urban gardens, there is something for everyone here. Something that was interesting to see as well was the fact that a piece of the Berlin Wall stood outside of the pavilion. The Iron Curtain that once divided Europe, stands tall as a piece to be admired and appreciated, which was great to see because there’s also a piece of the Berlin Wall in Miami. We are all connected by the idea of unity and collaboration that was shown the day the wall got taken down and distributed around the world.

Immersive ‘’Japan’’ Documentary Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)
Immersive ‘’Japan’’ Documentary Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

In addition to cultures blending, my group and I were fortunate enough to see a new exhibition that was playing at the expo. It was an immersive cultural experience that allows viewers to experience Japan in a series of 360-degree projections.  It was titled ‘’Japan’’ designed by Pierre Goismier and was produced by GEDEON Programmes. I thought it was so beautiful seeing the emphasis of a different culture being shown in such a creative format. The film shows different examples of local people in Japan cohesively working with nature to uphold the essence of Japan. You’re taking a trip throughout the 3,000-mile Japanese area in what is their four seasons, seeing places like Hokkaido Island in the winter and Okinawa’s crystal-clear waters in the summer. This is a journey into the heart and soul of Japan, following the lives of the people who maintain these traditions, live in peace with the natural world, or have devised their own unique methods. As you sit and watch the show you realize how tranquil the culture is. The people of Japan are extremely in tune with nature and their community. We watched a man who was 90 years old make tea from scratch. He had stated, ‘’We live out our days with nature’’ as if there’s a matrimony between humans and nature. We also witnessed the craftsmanship behind blading. The man stated it’s a spiritual process where you must respect the blade so that it can respect you. The people of Japan learn these talents and with patience and dedication expose future generations to it. The tender, love, and care put into something as simple as making salt in Japan, parallels to the way the French prioritize charcuterie. There are certain things throughout different cultures that are prioritized and seen as a type of art.

I admired the fact that Paris had this exhibition which embraced a completely different culture through film. Some of the finest sources of knowledge, inspiration, and pleasure are documentary films, which reveal vital, often untold tales and draw a broader audience’s attention to them. Seeing local people of Japan unite to tell the story of their ancestors and their traditions to local people of Paris was heartwarming. We are all just trying to learn and accept each other to prevent making the same mistakes made in the past due to prejudice and ignorance. In addition, documentaries have become essential components and initiators of social issue campaigns. My time in Paris has exposed me to so many different cultures and I’m grateful I was able to not only be in Paris, but to then be transported to Japan through this unique artform.

Overall, Paris has taught me how to be an artist. She has taught me how to look at a sculpture and not only appreciate its beauty, but also understand its history. She has also shown me what’s it’s like to stay true to your roots. Buildings upon buildings stay untouched to preserve the art of what was once the most iconic time in history. Streets upon streets are where artists like Monet and Picasso once felt inspired and created some of their most impactful pieces. With every step I take I am following the footsteps of some of the greatest people that have ever lived. The various art forms that are praised here are praised for good reason because it defines the people of Paris and the rights of humanity.

Immersive ‘’Japan’’ Documentary experience Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)


Arnason, H., & Mansfield, E. (2012). History of Modern Art (7th ed.). Pearson.

Foster, T. C. (2014). How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines, Revised Edition (Revised ed.). Harper Perennial.

Gedeon Media Group. (2022, April 25). JAPAN Immersive Experience in Paris Expo Porte de Versailles. – Gedeon Media Group.

The Great Periods. (2022, July 1). Moulin Rouge.

The Met Collection. (2021, March 29). The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Paris Insiders Guide. (2022). The 20 Queens Of Jardin du Luxembourg | Paris Insiders Guide.

Propeace. (2022). Un monument pour Aristide Briand à Paris, l’homme qui voulait faire les « Etats-Unis d’Europe » | Wiki Propeace.

Smartify. (2022). Smartify | The Sleepers – Gustave Courbet.

Author: asardinas0110

Hello, my name is Amanda Sardinas (Yes, I know. My last name sounds like the fish sardines). I am a student at FIU (Florida International University) and I am aiming towards receiving my Bachelors in Communications Performance and Arts. I love my major because I learn a lot about people, their behaviors in the modern work place, culture, and how society has evolved. I have always been a people person and I hope to engage in a career where my daily duty is to help, guide, encourage, and inspire others. I love reading and am a complete movie buff. My two favorite novels are ''Jane Eyre'' by Charlotte Bronte and ''Call Me By Your Name'' by Andre Acliman. If you don't know, both these books are under the genre of romance because I am a hopeless romantic. If a movie has Tom Hanks casted and a book has a meaningful love story involved, I am instantly hooked. I find beauty and romance in the art of traveling. I hope my blog serves as a way to ignite a fire in those who view it. Embracing and learning about other cultures can help us develop a deep and meaningful understanding for the way different cultures juggle universal systems, as well as gain insight into the way in which others handle issues and how it differs from our given culture.

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