Stereotypically, the French (with a few exceptions, such as Alexis de Tocqueville) hate America, or at least much of America (with a few exceptions, such as jazz music and old B movies).
You can now add something else American that the French like. It’s li’l ol’ us.
And not the standard tourist-cliché Seattle of fish-throwin’ and whale-watchin’, either.
It’s the arts scene.
Yes, the Seattle visual-art world some of us oldsters remember as an intimate milieu of four or five museums, a couple dozen private galleries, some warehouse studio spaces, and CoCA.
This scene has now grown to finally become, as so many Seattle institutions aspire to become, “world class.”
At least, that’s what writer Paola Genone says, in Madame Figaro, a weekly magazine section of the major Paris daily Le Figaro.
The online version of her article is titled “Seattle, la nouvelle escale (“stopover”) arty américaine.”
The article’s print title is even more portentious, proclaiming Seattle to be a “Tete (head) de l’art.” (It’s a phrase with multiple historic meanings, which I don’t have room here to delineate. But it basically means something aesthetically significant.)
The story begins with a quick intro. Yes, it skims past many of your standard Seattle tourist/media reference points—Hendrix, Nirvana, Twin Peaks, Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, rain.
But Genone then quickly segues into her principal theme, Seattle as “a capital of artistic renewal that loves mixing genres” and as “the hub of a new contemporary art and music…. Cool, eco-friendly, rock and high-tech, Seattle is astonishing by its freedom and eclecticism.”
Genone’s verbal tour of the local scene starts with two legacies of “the great geek” Paul Allen, the Seattle Art Fair and the Museum of Popular Culture (née EMP).
But Genone doesn’t stay in the realm of billionaires for long. Instead, she next calls Seattle “the city of women,” for the female directors of so many local institutions (SAM, TAM, the Frye, the Henry).
That’s followed by short photo-profiles of six local art n’ music movers n’ shakers:
- Martyr Space gallery owner Tariqa Waters (“La galeriste underground”). She creates self-portraits “with sharp colors, constantly transforming: aggressive, myserious, transgender, pop art.”
- Tacocat singer Emily Nokes (“L’égérie (muse) pop punk”). She’s the “worthy heiress to the pop punk of Courtney Love,” fronting a band whose music combines the Beach Boys’ surf guitar with “the burning hymns of Bikini Kill.”
- Collage artist Joe Rudko (“Le reveur aux ciseaux” (“the dreamer with scissors”)). His compositions, while “apparently abstract,” turn out to reveal “itineraries of thought, mysterious architectures, imaginary family albums,” and dreams of “an America open to diveristy and solidarity.”
- Photographer and multimedia artist Jennifer Zwick (“La photographe de l’étrange’). Her images appear “comme le caustic The Stranger” and elsewhere; while her installations explore “a fantastic universe of children, books, and everyday objects hijacked: installations inspired as much by the writings of WIlliam Blake and Jorge Juis Borges as by the comics of ‘Calvin and Hobbes.'”
- Hideout bar owner and Out of Sight festical curator Greg Lundgren (“Le Warhol de Seattle”). He’s called “a visionary at the head of utopian, committed, and large-scale projects,” which are all intended to support “galleries and artists of the city and to push them to flourish there. Successful bet.”
- Frye Art Museum director Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker (“La directrice de musée qui ose…” (“who dares”)). She “gave a voice to the artists of Seattle and encouraged experimentation,” along with “a lively dialogue between creators of all disciplines bringing their vision to the stakes of the contemporary world. “
The article doesn’t mention the hyper-inflating rents currently driving many artists and small-scale galleries out of town. Nor does it discuss the local “new money” techies who aren’t collecting much art (yet); or the local “old money” collectors who, for the longest time, preferred to do their art buying out of town.
But face it: it’s hard to bring up the harsher realities of a place when you’re hyping it as a global Next Big Thing.
(Translations by Google. Cross-posted with City Living Seattle.)