Wednesday, 5 March 2014

La Piscine Roubaix-One Of My Favourite Things

You get around a bit and see things and then you think you have seen it all and cant have your socks blown off that easily, and then you come across a little gem like La Piscine.
I had been meaning to go for a decade and it always seemed a little out of the way and in a part of the world that you would not normally go to, unless you were in Brugges and its not far a detour to get there. Its an old industrial town that the world seems to have forgotten about, it seems to be a bit smog stained still from its past. Though it has a bit of your usual French style architecture a lot of it seems heavy and a little overworked. It seems a little like, well I wouldn't say Bradford, oops I just did, but I didn’t mean it. 
What I meant to say is that at one time it was a proud place with Civic pride and then the industry moved out and it fell down the pecking order. What all places with this past history is trying to do, is re-invent itself. Bilbao tried it and won. Liverpool copied the idea and failed with the museum of Liverpool that destroyed some of the cities most cherished views.
Roubaix has got a more difficult job. 
There are no cheap flights there is no tourist industry here and, why would you want to go there?
Well they have quietly created a gem a palace of pride in what appears at first drive, a barren wilderness.
And it is wonderful. After the approach that you take to get there and take in the underwhelming fa├žade of La Piscine, what is after all a swimming baths, you get inside and it has everything.
We only had less than two hours but I wish I had a full day. 
I wish I would have been able to eat in the restaurant with its art Deco wrought iron balustrade that was lit with the sunlight that flooded in to the structure, through modernist style sky lights.
Now I have seen a few bits in my time. Sometimes being at a quality antique fair, I have been able to see thousands of items of beauty. You can sometimes see better, stuff, than what’s in most museums, especially if you discount how curators are like pack animals and follow the leader, and buy things that other curators or art journals say are needed.
There are curators who go out on a limb, but rather a lot of them fail, and they cant be allowed to fail because, curators are clever.....aren’t they?
Well this curator who put all this stuff together was clever. It is one surprise after another. Maybe its because the theme is Art Deco and French, but maybe its because they are just bloody good at their job, and have sewn together some magnificent things that are class, and not too pretentious, but have an unassuming sense of style, of what the period that I love has to offer.
We get the term Art Deco as a reworking of the 1925 Exposition Art Decoratif et Industrial in Paris. 
Someone or other, who may have been Bevis Hillier coined it.

This museum is both entertaining and absorbing.
 I sometimes like to think I know a bit but it was a tantalising, tingling of the senses that ensued that left me amazed. Combined with a sunny day, the sense of surprise that left me hunting for more. I was so disapointed when I had to leave, as I was on a work trip and needed to be somewhere else.
I will have to go back. I need to go back.
 Not just for some of the most amazing sculpture in a beautifully polychrome tiled swimming baths interior that was designed to be reflective and I don't mean looking back reflective I mean jewel like.
What it must have been like with water inside and beautiful French ladies in stylish bathing caps inside and around the pool, in its heyday I can only imagine, and I did.
Here it contains works of art by the likes of Paul Jouve, and the sculptor PomPom and my favourite, Rembrandt Bugatti ( the son of the furniture designer and brother of the car maker). These mix with lesser names that make you question what art means. There is a Jan Martel.
Can art, by a artist you have never had pumped up by a writer, be as good as a work by somebody you have never heard of. I know it can. You cant sell a dud to me.
The ceramics section was encompassing, not huge. 
There were ceramic works designed by the amazing French furniture designer Emile Jaques Rhulman for Sevres. 
Along with works by a ceramicist whose work I bought new a couple of years back in Lille, called Amina Roos.
There's the proof that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
There are Picasso ceramics and a huge 8ft high pot that defies the art of firing.
Bit it is the way it all melts together that is the beauty of this place.
 I believe they were going to knock it down one at one time. It is my pleasurethat the did not.
From an age when swimming baths were palaces designed to be an experience just like cinemas and theatres were.
There were so many ceramics on show I have to go back.
 I used a whole memory stick photographing nearly every piece, but I need to go back and have lunch and take my time.
The whole area that houses the paintings would be worth a trip in itself but the experience of the whole is remarkable.
There are temporary exhibitions that are made to be contemporary and to attract people and give the whole experience a contemporary quality.
Who so ever is running this show has class and is not afraid to challenge.
Unlike the people running my local museums they understand that a museum experience should not be designed to resemble a penny arcade with flashing lights, or a creche were people can dump the noisy kids on to people who are studious in their approach to art and may be a little bit more serious than the “I don't know much about art but I know what I like brigade”
If you ever are within a hundred miles of this place, La Piscine in Roubaix Belgium, make sure you detour.
I guarantee you.
 It will be worth it.

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