Friday, December 16, 2005

passagxxe Vivienne part two

ignoring the fact that rain seems to pass directly through my windowpane into my apartment, as well as literally drip from the uninsulated windows, making this a rather surreal 17 m2 to inhabit, i will tell you more about the passage Vivienne, while sharing what is probably my favorite photograph of it ever:

The Galeries Vivienne did win the period of their face-off with the Galerie Colbert, but it was a short-lived victory since soon all the passages in this area were in trouble.

The Passage Vivienne began to decline during the Second Empire, when the Palais Royale area no longer had the monopoly on luxury and in fact fashion had begun to shift westwards, towards the spanking new Champs Elysees nighborhood. Haussman's urban "revolution" encouraged the exodus. By 1861, Alfred Delvau could write about both the passage Vivienne and Colbert: "ils sont propres, ils sont spacieux, mais ils sont inutiles." By 1887, the Paris Baedeker had cut their entry on Vivienne to only one line, and soon it would disappear altogether.

This after such a bright period: even Berlioz lived there for some time, locked in the buildings of the Institut de France writing his cantata La Mort de Sardanapale for the Prix de Rome of 1830, and incited a mob to sing the Marseillaise in its walls during the July Revolution.

But Colette in the twentieth century compares it to a Venice where Falstaff would never pass: "[les] portes qui soufflent les tenebres, [les] seuils qui trahissent le pas. Songez que le gaz et l'électricité n'ont pas encore rajeuni leur caducité innocente..."

In 1961, the Galerie was in such disrepair that the coupola, in need of some emergency work, fell to pieces under the weight of a worker called to repair it.

In 1965, a psychedelic artist named Huguette Spengler bought five boutiques in "ce palais abandonné." She spent five years, and nearly all her money, trying to revitalize the passage. The Galerie became a theater for happenings and performance art. However, the other merchants began to regret her presence when, in 1970, "elle trouve sa joie dans la découverte des bombes de peinture pour carrosseries de voitures" and began painting other people's walls and facades, as well as her own. Kenzo moved out to the passage Choiseul. Hugette painted over some very beautiful frescos that had been in the old Kenzo space with pink paint. Finally she moved out in 1970.

The passage Vivienne was finally brought back into fashion by the fashion industry, in the late 1980s. Jean-Paul Gaultier and Japanese designer Yoki Tori held fashion shows in its corridors, and images of the passage as a fashion runway were transmitted all over the world by television. The change in the passage's fortunes was abrupt, almost brutal; now completely renovated, it is full of beautiful, luxurious, nearly unattainable goods.

If one regrets that its performance art and fashion run-way selves are definitely past, at least there is some consolation that the passage Vivienne has gone back to its original character, from Marchoux's time: luxury.

Have a look at this panoramic view taken by Arnaud Frich to get a better idea of its cavernous prettiness.


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