On July 14, 1789, French revolutionaries overran the Bastille, a medieval prison fortress in Paris that had come to symbolize the royal classes' abuses of power and oppression of the citizenry. We tend to call it Bastille Day, but they just call it “the 14th of July” or “French National Day” — not unlike how Americans call Independence Day “July 4th” in both a literal and symbolic manner.
Like July 4th, France's citizen-instigated overthrow of an unjust government was inspired by a regime of both economic and social injustice; and also like July 4th, it is commemorated with parades, fireworks and flag-waving. Notably, it was directly inspired by the then-recent example set here in America, where France's support of our revolutionary cause against its rival, England, had caused both political and economic volatility back home.
For all these reasons and more, Americans have acquired an appreciation for Bastille Day over the years. In honor of the spirit of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity our sister holidays represent, we thought we'd take a moment to appreciate the presence of French-owned galleries that are currently helping make the L.A. art world the vibrant international place we know and love. Salut, nos amis!
5 Art Gallery/Art de Rue, West Hollywood
Not only dedicated to the support and proliferation of French art generally, 5 Art is specifically interested in the evolving scene of street art in France — and street art made by French artists across the planet. It has been open in the West Hollywood design district only since May of this year, but already it is one of the most popular and beloved new voices in this global conversation. Founders Julie and Jean-Jacques Darmon (a power couple established in the related realms of international events promotion and sports marketing) have long been supporters of the French street art scene, but discovered in L.A. a much more fertile territory of critical, popular, collection and even civic support for the genre than in Europe where, as Julie explains, the people are ahead of the government in their appreciation for the art form. It was, however, easier and much more enjoyable to storm L.A. than the bastions of European legalities. As part of the gallery's ongoing housewarming celebrations, and in furtherance of its mission of bringing French street artists to the attention of Los Angeles audiences (art de rue means art of the street, or street art), it opens an explosive Bastille Day–keyed group show with a free public party on Thursday, July 12, 6-9 p.m. 5-art.com.
Avenue des Arts, downtown
Since June 2017, urban and contemporary gallery Avenue des Arts has occupied a 6,000-square-foot space in downtown's historic core — the perfect counterpart to founder Dimitri Lorin's top-notch Hong Kong headquarters. Since 2013, this Paris native and tennis pro turned art collector turned gallerist has worked to promote and exhibit the most elevated international street and otherwise “urban” voices, staging shows with JR, Invader and other major talents in the flourishing and increasingly globalized genre. The gallery's current exhibition is something of a departure from the street art aesthetic: a solo show by the masterfully eccentric, conceptualism-inflected interdisciplinary work of French-born, L.A.-based artist Reine Paradis. The complex, witty and at times poignant work in this interdisciplinary, performative, photography-based and sculptural video installation offers elements of immersive optical impact. The elusively comical chic of “Midnight” is on view through July 30. avenuedesarts.org.
Praz-Delavallade, Miracle Mile
A forceful presence in the Paris art scene since its founding there in 1995, Praz-Delavallade has from the start expressed a deep love and appreciation for the contributions of Los Angeles artists. Long before its Miracle Mile outpost opened in storied gallery complex 6150 Wilshire — in fact starting from its very first exhibition — its program has included the works of L.A.-based figures such as Paul McCarthy, Mike Kelley, Richard Pettibone, Jim Shaw, Marnie Weber, Analia Saban, Joel Kyack, Nathan Mabry and Brian Wills. So when it opened here in 2017, it was kind of a big deal. Its current exhibition is a suitably subversive look at the manner in which a cadre of contemporary artists take on the theme of Nature. “As You Like It/C'est Comme Vous Voulez” is open through Aug. 18 and includes even more L.A. luminaries in its Midsummer Night's Dream-inspired cast, including Doug Aitken, Whitney Bedford, Kirsten Everberg, Francesca Gabbiani, Charles Gaines and more. praz-delavallade.com.
Simard-Bilodeau Contemporary, downtown
Co-owners Guy Simard and Eve-Marie Bilodeau's other gallery is on the 14th floor of Shanghai's Peninsula Hotel. And as newish denizens on the southern edge of the downtown Arts District, the spirit of engaging hospitality has clearly rubbed off on them. French-Canadian nationals, and committed art collectors themselves, their eclectic program reflects a spirit of curiosity and community that includes voices as diverse as Juan Carlos Muñoz Hernandez's street-inflected geometric abstract canvases and Harmonia Rosales' art historical reimagining of a Renaissance that might have honored and featured women and people of color. simardbilodeau.com.
François Ghebaly, downtown
Long a fixture garnering critical acclaim for an international contemporary fine art program inclusive of photography, video, painting, sculpture, installation and all the high-concept in-betweens, this Friday the 13th, Ghebaly Gallery opens a new solo show by painter Dan Bayles as well as a wide-ranging group show drawing heavily on the gallery's stable, including Kelly Akashi, Neil Beloufa, Sayre Gomez, Candice Lin, Gina Osterloh and Joel Kyack, with an opening reception from 7 to 10 p.m. ghebaly.com.
Please Do Not Enter & The Lab, downtown
Founders Nicolas Libert and Emmanuel Renoird operate more than just a luxury store. Please Do Not Enter is a curated design, art and lifestyle boutique in which a revolving assortment of unique objects of desire is presented — curated in fact — on a single aesthetic plane. It's quite common to see the main floor and walls occupied by visual art including sculpture and painting, along with garments, accessories, books and small editions — by a mix of local and European makers. Their spot on Pershing Square has been open since 2014, but earlier this year they opened up a second nearby location, as curators/programmers of the Lab, an exceptionally sophisticated, art-centric boutique space inside the impossibly hip NoMad Hotel. A recent exhibition at the Lab showcased elaborate large-scale human-hair wig sculptures by French stylist Charlie Le Mindu; a new exhibition, “Brutal Beauty,” is open from July 11 through the summer months, featuring design objects by France's Atelier Polyhedre and Oakland-based UMÉ Studio. pleasedonotenter.com. New show: facebook.com/events/1992569294389164/