To The French, Art Trumps Economy


On my way out of the French embassy in DC a few weeks ago (I took part in an annual embassy tour), I picked up “France magazine No. 90″ from a gorgeous ($$$) breakfront in the marbled lobby. Just one of many marketing tools in Washington, one would think that a magazine such as this would focus on a country’s economic entrees. But no this one. The French embassy’s magazine focuses on “the best of culture, travel, and art de vivre.”

But now that I think about this, how better to push your economy by playing the hand that you are dealt… and France has been blessed with great art and great beauty over the centuries (rather than technical or commercial innovation). This is, after all, how everyone views France, so I agree, French embassy, show it off to the nth degree!

The magazine’s feature articles include:

  • Arles Goes Gehry
  • The Art of Christian Boltanski
  • Artisanal Beer

Fabulous. The graphics-infused magazine is a tromp through high-end stores in Paris, all aflurry with radical new designs in furniture. And exposes on small towns in France feature, guess what? The art. This tiny town has X-number of theaters, X-number of galleries, X-number of artists-in-residence. And the article on artisanal beers — who would think art would come into play with beer? — is complete with an Art Nouveau poster of a drinking hall by Alphonse Mucha, created in 1897. The article on the tiny town of Arles makes the case that it could become the next Bilbao as Frank Gehry is “sketching its future.”

French embassy, I’m sold! I’m on the first plane to Arles. Or pretty much to ANY tiny town in France, for that matter, as I would surely be surrounded by art.



  1. Hi

    Yes tell everyone to come to Hendaye it’s going to be the next cultural centre. OK I’m only joking.
    You made me smile though with small French towns being surrounded by art. Many years ago I was doing a cycling tour & was desperate to get to Provence for everything I’d read about it & all those artistic connections etc.
    I ended up a little dissapointed because the areas I’d been through on my way there actually seemed less touristic & prettified , were still beautiful & yet didn’t have so much fame.

  2. Sonya, hi, thanks for commenting! I think Arles — among all small towns on the continuum of artistic success — may be at the extreme end. Not many small towns have Gehry working on it’s future iteration. 🙂 Go Hendaye! BTW, do you have a gallery there?

  3. Hi there
    That’s true for sure about Arles.
    The galleries round here are found mostly in San Sebastian, Bayonne, Biarritz & St Jean de Luz. Slightly further away of course there’s Bilbao, Bordeaux, Toulouse…
    I have noticed a tiny gallery that has opened in the centre of Hendaye just this summer. I shall keep an eye on it!
    I suppose a lack of galleries is one of the cons as opposed to the pros, of living in such an unpretentious place as Hendaye!

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