Freud, Monet, Basquiat on View in Paris in 2010

PARIS ~ The Paris art scene spotlights giants Lucian Freud, Claude Monet and even Yves Saint Laurent in 2010, but a chill air of death and destruction peppers many of this year’s shows.

Opening a crammed winter season in the French capital is a high-profile two-part show by Christian Boltanski, a French artist of 65 obsessed with death who this week unveiled a large dark work at the prestigious Grand Palais before opening a separate but equally eerie show in the Paris suburbs.

His sculpture titled Personnes (People) features a giant crane – “the hand of God” – picking through mounds of old clothes to the noisy sound of heartbeats in a metaphor on destiny and death.

“It will be very cold, I hope. I asked them to turn the heating off,” he said. “The body must feel lost. It’s part of the work.”

His show at the Mac/Val arthouse titled Apres (After) “is more joyous,” he said, taking place in the afterlife, where ghostlike creatures ask the visitor “How did you die?” or “Did you suffer?”

Much-awaited also by critics and art-buffs is another edgy show labelled in Dostoevsky-style Crime and Punishment, which opens in March at the 19th century Orsay art museum to explore the aesthetics of violence.

Co-curated by Robert Badinter, the French politician who as justice minister abolished the guillotine, the exhibition will feature works from the heady post-revolutionary days of 1791 through to 1981, when France banned capital punishment.

The inspiration behind some 60 works by Sigmund Freud’s British-bred grandson, now 87, including both his emblematic and unsettling portraits and nudes, as well as lesser-known works, go on view in March at the Pompidou art centre – the first major Lucian Freud show in Paris in more than two decades.

Other contemporary figures spotlighted this year include US street and graffiti art icon Jean-Michel Basquiat, and French fashion king Yves Saint-Laurent.

Some 100 works by Basquiat, the New York artist and friend of Andy Warhol’s who died aged only 28 in 1988, will be on show from October at the Paris Modern Art Museum in the first major retrospective of his work in the French capital.

Yves Saint-Laurent, who died in 2008, too gets his first ever retrospective from March at the Petit Palais, featuring 300 models, drawings, documents and films at a show curated by two of the country’s top fashion historians.

And Hungarian photographer Andre Kertesz, who died in 1985, is offered his first retrospective in Europe at the Jeu de Paume museum in October.

With France and Russia celebrating a year of friendship in 2010, the Louvre museum has a March to May exhibit titled “Sainte Russie” gathering more than 400 works, most on loan, to recount Russia’s Christian history from the ninth to the 18th century.

Flying in from London for those who missed it there is an exhibition that sets paintings by 19th century artist JMW Turner alongside older master works by the likes of Canaletto and Rembrandt that partly inspired them.

Turner and the Masters, also featuring works by Watteau, Titian, Poussin and Rubens, opens in February at the Grand Palais before going to the Museo del Prado in Madrid from June.

The Grand Palais later in the year stages the first big show in 30 years dedicated to Impressionist master Claude Monet – bringing together more than 200 oils by the grand French 19th century painter known for his water lilies and home at Giverny, outside Paris.

But the 2010 bad boy factor on the arts scene may be left to leading Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, who is being offered a two-month retrospective at the Versailles Palace from September.

It will be his first major retrospective in France, but comes after controversial shows at the palace by American Jeff Koons in 2008 and Frenchman Xavier Veilhan last year.

Murakami, born in Tokyo in 1962, has a global cult following, but his brash and colourful style – not to mention sometimes gleefully obscene subject matter – may raise the hackles of more traditionalist French gallery visitors.

The equivalent exhibition by pop artist Koons faced a legal challenge from a French aristocrat and heir of the palace’s original resident, Louis XIV.

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