Philadelphia Meets Paris With Léger
IF THE POST-CUBIST ARTIST FERNAND LÉGER TIME TRAVELED TO PHILADELPHIA TODAY, HE WOULD FEEL RIGHT AT HOME.
By Beth D’Addono
Philadelphia is a city with many Gallic influences, a place with a fondness for France that dates all the way back to General Lafayette’s rousing role in the American Revolution.
Besides noticing Philadelphia’s many French cultural, gastronomic and architectural influences, Léger would be pleased to find himself in the spotlight, the inspiration for the vibrant new exhibition Léger: Modern Art and the Metropolis, running through January 5 for its only American showing at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Léger’s powerful role in redefining modern art by bringing it into synch with the urban environment and mass media inspires the show, which borrowed paintings, sculptures and drawings by Léger and contemporaries including Le Corbusier, Man Ray and Piet Mondrian from such Paris museums as the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and the Centre Georges Pompidou.
The exhibit, curated by Anna Vallye, showcases 179 works centered on Léger’s masterful The City (1919), a frenetic, oversized oil painting in bold primary colors and graphic shapes — curving smokestacks and the zig and zag of an electrical charge. It’s a roiling canvas that captures a city in motion, with figures in the background eclipsed by the modern metropolis. Léger experimented in film, theater set design and print and advertising graphics, all mediums that were thriving in post War Paris, a city on fire with the Jazz Age in the 1920s.
At the Philadelphia Museum of Art and around town, Léger’s take on the metropolis is inspiring a full menu of special events, from music and film to themed feasting and splashes of bright Léger colors on subways, buses, kiosks, airport dioramas, and street banners.
A Taste of Léger
There are also special Léger packages that include untimed tickets to the exhibition and other extras offered at Four Seasons on the Parkway, The Alexander Inn, The Inn at Penn – A Hilton Hotel, and the Rittenhouse Hotel, which is also home to renowned French restaurant La Croix.
At the Museum’s Granite Hill by Starr Restaurants, executive chef Gerald Drummond brings Paris to the table with delectables like roasted Moulard duck breast and La Femme en Bleu Soufflé, an airy pillow of hot bitter chocolate drizzled with crème anglaise. The Museum’s Great Stair Hall Balcony is transformed Oct. 27 for Bon Appétit! Brunch in the City, a buffet of patisseries, gravlax, entrees and sweets accompanied by a Bloody Mary and mimosa bar. Parc (227 South 18th Street, 215-545-2262) has created a special supplement menu in celebration of Léger, including a themed drink, the Léger French 75, and the Léger Chocolate Gateaux dessert.
At nearby Rembrandt’s Restaurant and Bar (741 N. 23rd Street, 215-763-2228) cross the French border with a chocolate Léger soufflé served with a strawberry gelée and Nutella powder.
Show your Léger ticket stub at Brigid’s (726 N. 24th Street, 215-232-3232) and Rose Tattoo Café (1847 Callowhill Street – 19th and Callowhill Streets, 215-569-8939 ) for 10 percent off your meal. Receive a complimentary botana (snack) along with $5 margaritas at La Calaca Feliz (2321 Fairmount Avenue 267-687-1286).
Friday’s Art After 5 at the Museum adds Fernand Léger and the Paris avant-garde into the music and entertainment mix. October 25 sees a tribute to silent film star Charlie Chaplin accompanied by Brian Carpenter’s Ghost Train Orchestra and the Give and Take Jugglers. On November 1 Drew Nugent and The Midnight Society serves up jazz and dance by flappers Gin Minsky and the Dandy Wellington. Americans in Paris sets the tone November 22 with music by Warren Oree, and on November 29 hear jazz and swing by the Avalon Jazz Band along with a dance tribute to Josephine Baker.