Breathing The 1920s Parisien Air with Constantin Brancusi
If there is an activity off the beaten rack in Paris that we always recommend, it would definitely be to dive into Romanian born sculptor Mr Constantin Brancusi’s atelier, neatly tucked away on the corner of Place Georges Pompidou. This grey extension compound is almost unnoticeable, yet inside stands a poetic universe of fantasia where we can draw infinite inspirations from.
Mr Brancusi lived, breathed Paris together with the Parisien Avant Garde Crew (Duchamps, Bourgeois, Pierre Roché, Picasso, Man Ray, Guggenheim and all the other cool kids in town) through the 20s-30s, and the love of France made him decide to eventually donate his entire workshop to the French state. That was a time of magic, where everybody simply needed to get to this city of lights to form their artistic views of basically anything. From painters to film makers, from writers to photographers, from aristocrat party-goers to eastern European farmers. And Brancusi was perhaps the one that made the furthest, not geographic distance speaking, but pursues in life. The carver of endless columns and caster of magic birds originated from the village of Hobitza in Romania.
Filled with more than 200 of Brancusi’s most evocative sculptures such as Bird in Space, A Muse and Infinite Columns. He spent his last years grouping and regrouping his past works in order to achieve the most balanced aesthetics, which is why the studio was reconstructed exactly how they were left in Brancusi’s atelier before his decease.
Brancusi’s work always has the magic to take us on a journey, following his endless search for the pure form. The elegant lines, shapes and shadows, act together like a stroke of Chinese calligraphy. Nothing more, nothing less. Direct, unpretentious, and almost like it's from outer space, Brancusi’s modern primitivism approach in sculptor art always have the predilection to evince the real essence of a physical object.
"There are idiots who define my work as abstract; yet what they call abstract is what is most realistic. What is real is not the appearance, but the idea, the essence of things." -- Constantin Brancusi
One of the pieces that gave him a legendary story in the American justice ruling, is “Bird in Space". The famous sculpture that was deemed by US customs that this thin, tall piece of polished bronze was not “art” but “industrial imports”, and wanted to tax this piece 40% of the sale price. Brancusi concentrated on the movement of the bird, rather than its physical appearance. However, in order for sculptures to be classified as “Art” in the US, it would require a much more realistic representation of the object it attempts to depict. Eventually, this case was the first court decision which recognized non-representational sculpture could be considered art in the US.
Brancusi was famously scandalised with his Princess X sculpture, which was meant to depict the French Princess Marie Bonaparte. But the phallic gleaming bronze piece scandalized the Salon and was removed even though Brancusi justified it with the representation of the essence of womanhood. The sculpture was also interpreted by some that it is a symbol of her obsession with the male sex and her lifelong quest to achieve vaginal orgasm, with the help of the famous neurologist Sigmund Freud.
What Brancusi’s sculptures often does is to capture a nebulous idea of movements, desires, personalities, connecting hearts and minds to an essential organic. That’s where the magic of Paris in the early 20th century and the folklores from Romania worked in tandem. That’s where we got lost and regained the inspirations in life.