I am in Paris to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Pompidou Centre where last November 22nd, we held the very moving memorial to Arman. Before an invited audience of 500, President Jacques Chirac gives an eloquent speech about what the Center has meant to the people of Paris, France, and the rest of the world. In the spotlight, too, is Madame Claude Pompidou, the widow of the man for whom the Center is named, and who has been a good and solid friend to me and Arman for many years. : At the ceremony, I also run into our old friend, the artist Jean-Pierre Renaud, whom I hadn't seen since Arman's passing. He extends his condolences.
My children Yasmine and Philippe-Alexandre rejoin me in Taiwan for the unveiling of Arman's sculpture, “Stop, Look, Listen”, which is one of several projects he worked on before he passed away. We are received by Pierre Martin and his wife Wang Y8-Ling. He is ,the director of Blue Dragon, a privately owned art consulting company which commissioned the work in 2004. At the unveiling itself we are joined by the Mayor of Taiwan, the minister of Transportation and other dignitaries closely involved wit the project as well as many local artists. During our stay, we take in an exhibition of celadon pottery and I marvel at all the treasures at the National Museum, many of which were spirited out of the country during the 1949 revolution by Chiang Kai-Shek. By some miracle, the trains and ships carrying the priceless art and artifacts repeatedly escaped the bombings on their long trek as though some guardian angel were protecting them.
The dynamic city of Shanghai now looks like a futuristic world out of the Jetsons—a huge change from when Arman and I visited in 1978 not too long after it opened up to the West. Then everyone was uniformly dressed in blue or green Mao military jackets, trousers and hats, though you could get a glimpse of color garb underneath and the children were dressed in the brightest floral-patterned clothing. Now the throngs are fashionably dressed and cars throttle streets which were once jammed with “flying pigeons”--bicycles. Arman took numerous “accumulation” photos of store windows of colorful enamel plates and cups. I remember that one day the guides, who were escorting us through the city on that trip, informed us that there was to be a change in the schedule. Instead of a promised tour of well-regarded ancient site, we were going some other place which they didn't immediately identify. We were disappointed until we discovered we were on our way to Xian, which had recently made international headlines due to a major archaeological find. Suddenly we were in the midst of the excavation, surrounded by hundreds of clay soldiers, the appointed guardians of the tombs of Xian. Although photography was not allowed, Arman had hidden a camera beneath his jacket and surreptitiously began snapping pictures. He was like a kid in candy store and we were privileged to have been among the first to lay eyes on these human life size statues, down to the etched sole of the kneeling archer. While in Shanghai, we also make a point of visiting three of Arman's public sculptures on view: a representation of Venus located inside the Shanghai Opera house, a sliced and welded cello at the Music Hall, and “Cavalleria Eroica”, an accumulation of horses cast in bronze on a busy thoroughfare which I can see from my window on the 29th floor of the Shanghai Ritz-Carlton.
SAN FRANCISCO :
While Yasmine and Philippe return to New York, I travel on to San Francisco for the gala opening of exhibition of “The Masters of French Jewelry” at the Legion of Honor Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. This exhibition, first shown in New York at the Forbes Gallery before Chicago and San Francisco, has been organized by my good friend Judy Price, who authored the book accompanying the exhibition and who is an internationally renowned jewelry historian and aficionado. Included is Arman's gold cuff bracelet encrusted with diamonds, one of the several different designs of his jewelry. He enjoyed working with various mediums and working with precious stones was just one of them. His creations had flare, elegant wit, and whimsy. And I am a proud model for Arman's jewelry at the gala dinner where I am pleased to be placed at the table with Judy and John Buchanan, the director of the museum, and his wife lucy. He graciously mentions in his opening speech, my arrival from Shanghai and Taiwan for the unveiling of Arman's "Stop, Look, Listen."