Commercialization of Culture: Paris

Just back from Paris, I am left wondering about the peculiar culture that I experienced there. Our hotel wasn’t far from Montmartre; the hill in Paris that used to be the epicentre of the bohemians. Artists such as Picasso and Van Gogh lived there at the end of the 19th century. It was a place of creativity, criticism and artistic collaboration. Works of, for example, André Gill, Suzanne Valadon and Renoir that came about ín Montmartre remind us of this. There are multiple places there, such as the Moulin de la Galette, the Montmartre vineyard and small cabaret theaters that you can still visit. You can imagine that, even being unaware to much of this information at that moment, I was excited to visist the hill.

After a day on the Montmartre hill I felt inspired, well-informed and surprised by everything we had seen. We had visited the Musée de Montmartre et Jardins Renoir; a really nice museum definitely worth a visit when you’re there. You learn about the history of Montmartre, everything about Le Chat noir and the artists that resided there in the bohemian era. Also, it is a quite place and it has beautifull gardens with a great view on Paris and the Montmartre vineyard.

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Montmartre Vineyard

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View on Paris 

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Really nice zinc bar that (supposedly) Renoir drank quite some liquor at. It was hidden in a cellar during the first world war so it wouldn’t be molded into munition or guns.

Apart from the nice things the museum offers, its tranquillity and peace in the middle of Montmartre are also a great asset. Namely, the thing that I should have known – and mentally prepare for in advance –  was the enormous amount of tourists we encountered.I felt like an ant in an anthill. Masses of people that seemed to come mainly from the US, Germany and the Netherlands and that all wanted to take a selfie with the Sacre Coeur in the back.

My imagination is well-developed so I can imagine that 130 years ago Montmartre must have been a fascinating, murmurring and, to me probably, excitingly scary place and there are still some hints to this when you really look for it. In all honesty though, the Place du Tetre, which was once a square where painters worked in peace, is now a place where two tourists per square meter are stocked and made a profile sketch of. The cute little bistro on the corner is now occupied by Starbucks and the small restaurants play Rihanna in the back ground.

As I said, I am left wondering. I myself was one of the ants on the hill. However, this commercialization of culture pained me somewhat. It seemed to me that most tourists were there ‘to have been there’ instead of to learn about the place and give meaning to their visit. The excessive amount of selfies contrasting with the quieteness of the museum directed me to believe so. The artists were there to profit from the tourists as much as possible, definitely not to drink absinth and discuss global problems. It made me think of why I wanted to go there myself. I guess the area fascinated me because of my theater- and arthistory lessons, the stories I had heard and – of course – the movies I had seen. I wanted to see it, experience it for myself and learn about what actually went on there. However, the Montmartre of today seems to be a tourist attraction more than an artistic epicentre. I would still recommend everybody to visit it; it is a nice place full of history. Moreover; I was only there for a day and could only háve a tourist experience. But in this experience I felt that the transistion of such an important area for Modern art to the commercialism it copes with today leaves only that; history.

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