What do you think of when Paris springs to mind? The most beautiful city in the world, romance, sitting outside a cafe and watching the stylish go by, art or all of the above? Now how about if you could do all those things and throw in your own personal art expert who will guide you around the best art galleries, show you the best kept art secrets in Paris and introduce you to the curators and artists too. This is the exclusive way to find the next French art phenomenon for the true collector to treasure and make a profitable future investment. Furthermore, it’s a free service offered up by Le Royal Monceau Raffles Hotel in Paris for their guests!
Paris manages to stay the same decade after decade, like the language it is held static in time, beautiful, passionate and exciting. The same wonderful restaurants, boutiques and cafe’s are still there like old friends. Unlike London which is fluid, chaotic and truly international with it’s different cultures, bars, restaurants and arcades changing every five minutes.
I took the Eurostar which is my favourite way to travel. In fact I wish they went everywhere, it really is the only form of public transport that is just as enjoyable as the destination. The holiday starts the moment you get on board. I used to take it every other weekend for a year, but that’s another story. Could Eurostar please take over the rest of Britain’s rail and airlines immediately?
First stop the Royal Monceau Raffles on the Avenue Hoche, a stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysées. Recently refurbished and completely redesigned by Philippe Starck, the great French product and interior designer. In 2008 he also designed the $300 million ‘A’ Yacht owned by Russion billionaire Andrey Melnichenko. Raffles is a daring and adventurous masterpiece, fusing a modern retro art deco design liberally dashed with a plethora of glass and mirrors. Starck has successfully created a magnificent and visually impressive space whilst retaining a delightful luxury and comfort. They sacrificed the maximum possible number of rooms to achieve this which is very much to their credit in a city where space is such a premium and shoebox apartments sell for a fortune. My suite came equipped a guitar, three giant mirrored tv’s, and a bathroom that gave the Palais de Versailles a run for it’s glass plus a walk in wardrobe you could swing a large tiger in. Check out the pool and Clarins Spa in the basement which are immensely peaceful and relaxing.
Le Royal Monceau also runs Privé, the best private address in Paris discreetly nestled next-door on the Avenue Hoche above the art gallery. The largest Presidential Suites also have a private Hammam and gym (with a personal trainer) and a home cinema with next-generation technology. If price is no object this is home away from home with a complete luxury bespoke 24 hour service.
Raffles is offering this art concierge service free, apparently the only Hotel in Paris to do so. The art expert, with a Masters from the Sorbonne, Domoina De Brantes will take you on a wild lustful art tour of Paris, including personal meetings with the curators and artists. This is unique access to the Parisian art world and first view of new up and coming artists and their work.
On my trip I was whisked off to see the gallery Revue Noir in the 14th, which was a delight, mixing modern African sculpture and photography. I have a well grounded history of both but was excited to discover new work by many great artists. I took away a couple of stunning rare edition photography books with exceptionally glorious prints. The gallery owner Jean Loup Pivin is a true art aficionado and collector, travelling extensively to discover new talent and then sponsoring them to exhibit whilst producing beautiful bound tomes of their work. See for yourselves here: http://www.revuenoire.com/
Another favourite was the Cartier Foundation in the 15th on the Bvd Raspail, with a new exhibition of mostly South American contemporary artists ranging from sculptures of large pottery dolls, indigenous traditional paintings of native fauna, Jaguar masks, Haitian voodoo hangings to Japanese classical satire. The Cartier foundation is sponsoring both new undiscovered talent and established famous names to exhibit in this marvellous building designed by the architect Jean Nouvel. The Foundation was established by Alain Dominique Perrin, then president of Cartier to initiate a policy of corporate philanthropy and is presently curated by Hérve Chandèz. The pieces that hit first and stayed with me last were the Jaguar Masks made of pearls on wood by Gregorio Barrio, the full size painted ceramic ladies by Isabel Mendes de Cunha and ‘Il Cavaliere de Dürer’ by Alessandro Mendini. The whole display abounded with fresh richly coloured new ideas as well as indigenous art redolent of the cultures that produced it.
After such an art enriched day it was fitting to return to the Raffles Hotel and dine in the exquisite restaurant surrounded by more great contemporary artworks. The chef in the open plan kitchen is the legendary Gabriel Grapin (alliteration is perfect for chefs and super heroes) and the deserts are conjured by the exquisite pastry chef Pierre Hermé. I shared this gourmet feast with the famous artist/photographer/musician Robert Mann and we wisely plumped for the Discovery menu and our trust was amply rewarded. What followed was sheer ecstasy: Foie Gras, John Dory in a robe of “Roseval” potatoes, Beef fillet from Normandy sprinkled with farm Bacon, Baked potatoes, Romaine salad, Soufflée Potatoes. The wines were perfectly chosen to accompany each course, it was a balance made in heaven. This restaurant and the hotel get our highest recommendation.