It’s been over five months since the museums of Paris were last open. There had been hope that they would re-open this past weekend, but instead, a new lockdown was announced on Wednesday. Now, no one knows when they will finally re-open, but it’s not all bad news for art lovers. The Mona Lisa may be stuck indoors, but that’s not stopping other artworks from coming to the streets. On March 26th, Philippe Geluck à Paris! opened on the Champs-Élysées, and I cannot begin to overstate my excitement that a new exposition was available to be seen. Naturally, I checked it out the first chance I had.
Philippe Geluck is a Belgian artist, comedian, and cartoonist who is most well known for his daily comic strip Le Chat. This comic ran for 30 years in the Belgian daily newspaper Le Soir, and depicted the many absurdist moments in the life of a large, anthropomorphic cat. Le Chat is one of the top-selling Franco-Belgian comics, and it has been translated into numerous languages in order to be distributed worldwide. And now, 20 bronze sculptures of the titular cat adorn the Champs-Élysées, giving culture-starved Parisians something new to experience while we wait for the museums to re-open.
I will admit that I was not familiar with Philippe Geluck prior to seeing this exposition. I’m sure I’ve encountered Le Chat at some point in my life, but I’ve certainly never taken the time to read the comic. Thankfully, you don’t need to be well-versed in the source material to enjoy this exhibit. The sculptures are impressive all on their own, and they are all quite entertaining. I heard more than a few chuckles from those (socially distanced) around me as we made our way down the “catwalk”. Each sculpture stands two metres high, and it took Geluck over two years to create all 20 of them.
My personal favourite sculpture was the one pictured above. Like most art that I love, I couldn’t tell you precisely why it was my favourite. But I will say that there is something about a gaggle of birds holding up a meditating cat that my brain finds hilarious. Perhaps that says something about me more than the art. Or maybe I’ve just spent too long cooped up in my tiny apartment. What I do know for sure is that it felt absolutely amazing to be experiencing an exhibit like this once more. On the day that I visited, the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and a street filled with art made my heart soar to behold. I can only hope that more exhibits like this begin to appear on the streets of Paris as this lockdown continues.
Philippe Geluck à Paris! runs until June 12th, and it is free for the public to visit. It is also free for the city of Paris. Geluck generously didn’t charge the city for his work, instead choosing to fund the exhibition through the sales of the sculptures. Each one costs 300,000 Euros, and to date, there are only four remaining unsold. So if you’re a Geluck fan with deep pockets, time is running out to purchase yours. And for the rest of us, the exhibition will go on tour once it closes in Paris. These sculptures will visit other French cities, as well as Italy, Switzerland, and Luxembourg, before ultimately finding a permanent home in a Brussels museum in 2024. But until June, this catwalk will be calling Paris home, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.