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Dance Insider & Arts Voyager editor and publisher Paul Ben-Itzak, who has also written for Reuters, the New York Times, and many others and also publishes the Art Investment News, is looking for work in France, where he lived and worked for 10 years. He is ready to include his magazines in any deal. Interested parties can e-mail Paul.

Call for Artists, 2-17: Revivifying a Monument
The Bateau-Lavoir is looking for a new visage

Cradle of Cubism, and much more: The Bateau-Lavoir, at 13 rue Ravignon in Montmartre, Paris.

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2013 Paul Ben-Itzak

Lest you think that the Musée de Montmartre, under its new stewards the Kleber Rossillon Group, is only concerned with glorifying artists of the past, as its first exhibition, on the Chat Noir, does, the museum has also organized a competition to revivify the neighborhood's other storied cradle of art in a way that encourages living artists: The concourse to design a new vitrine for the Bateau-Lavoir -- best known as the place where Picasso and Braque essentially invented Cubism -- invites scenographers, designers, graphistes and sculptors to submit their proposals (by March 1!) to re-make the storefront (which for years has contained just a spare, lightly illustrated recounting of the site's history) that is the only remnant of the original building.

"The Bateau-Lavoir remains a site that is emblematic of Montmartre as well as the history of art, not only because it was the cradle of Cubism, but also because of all the artistic effervescence which developed there," explains Musée de Montmartre conservateur Francoise Kunzi. "It owes its renown to the number and quality of those artists who lived or regularly came there."

The first to install himself in the building at 13, rue Ravignan, in what is now the place Emile Goudreau, was the painter Maxime Maufra, in 1892. The building "rapidly became a place of encounters," says Kunzi, "where one would remark notably the presence of Paul Gaugin." Between 1900 and 1904, the Bateau-Lavoir was occupied by two groups of artists: Italians, including Ardengo Soffici, and Spaniards, at the center of which was Paco Durrio. Picasso arrived in April 1904 and lived there until the autumn of 1909, maintaining a studio until 1912. He met his first companion Fernande Olivier at the Bateau-Lavoir in 1905, executed "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" (currently on view at the Museum of Modern Art; see below) there in 1906-1907, and in 1908 hosted a legendary banquet for the Douanier (Henri) Rousseau whose guests included Apollinaire and Marie Laurencin, among others. Juan Gris lived there from 1906 to 1922, as well as the artist Van Dongen and the writer (and Rousseau biographer) André Salmon and fellow scribes Pierre Mac Orlan and Max Jacob, who gave the building its ironic name (apparently because it only had one faucet), and who would later be deported to the death camps by the Germans despite the intervention of Jean Cocteau. "Innumerable were those who visited there regularly," says Kunzi. In addition to Apollinaire and Laurencin, there were the painters Braque, Derain, Vlaminck, Metzinger, and Modigliani; the sculptors Manolo, Agero, Laurens, and Lipchitz; the writers Alfred Jarry, Paul Fort, Francis Carco, Roland Dorgeles, Maurice Raynal, André Warnod, Maurice Cremnitz, and Eugenio d'Ors; collectors including Gertrude and Leo Stein, H. P. Roché, and Franck Haviland; art merchants like Berthe Weill, the Pere Soulié, Clovis Sagot, Vollard, Wilhelm Uhde, and Kahnweiler; and actors like Charles Dullin (another Montmartre institution) and Harry Baur.

The Bateau-Lavoir in Montmartre.

Even if most of the building was destroyed by fire in 1970, says Kunzi, "this site remains emblematic, and just the name 'Bateau-Lavoir' is identified with the art of Montmartre. It's therefore more than necessary that this vitrine recalls the intellectual innovation and the artistic avant-gardes which made Paris shine... at the debut of the 20th century. We put our trust in a 'young talent' to bring a new regard (to the site), while at the same time exploiting the memories of this site."

Where will that talent come from? Is there an equivalent to the artistic fermentation that cloistered in Montmartre at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th in contemporary Paris? I suggested to Kunzi that it might be centered in another high plain of Paris, Belleville, which annually charms visitors with a week-end of open studios. She disagreed. "In effect, the history of art (in this instance, the artists) migrated from Montmartre to Montparnasse, then to New York. To say that today Belleville resembles (this scene), personally I don't believe so, even if there are numerous artist studios in the neighborhood; it doesn't have this ambiance of artistic phalanstere (that Montmartre had), as did la Ruche in Montparnasse. Numerous are the artists who reside in the suburbs, for financial reasons obviously, but without this atmosphere so particular to Montmartre."

Artists who dream to make themselves part of that atmosphere can find out more about the concourse to design the vitrine at the Bateau-Lavoir, including the required dimensions of the project, by opening this PDF, or by visiting the website of the Musee de Montmartre.

And to see how the Bateau-Lavoir inspired an earlier artist, a certain Pablo Picasso, visit the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where 'Les Demoiselles' is currently on view.

Entoured and influenced by his fellow artist-residents at the Bateau-Lavoir, Pablo Picasso unleashed "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" on the world and altered not just art but the way art would be created and viewed for the next century. Acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in 1939, the painting is among the many landscape-shifting and paradigm-pushing works on view in the Alfred H. Barr Painting and Sculpture Galleries on MOMA's fifth floor. Pablo Picasso, "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon," 1907. Oil on canvas, 8' x 7' 8" (243.9 x 233.7 cm). Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest. © 2011 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

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