July 18, 2008

No room at the exhibition

Back in January, when I first heard about the Camille Claudel exhibition planned for April through July at the Musée Rodin, I knew it was something I had to see. I’ve been fascinated by Claudel ever since I saw the 1988 film Camille Claudel, starring Isabelle Adjani in the title role and Gérard Depardieu as Auguste Rodin. Claudel was a student and one-time lover of Rodin, and her life and work are often associated with him, but she was also a talented artist in her own right. Although the exhibition is housed at the Musée Rodin, it aims to present Claudel on her own terms, and not just in relation to her famous mentor.

For this reason, I was eager to see the exhibition, as it brought together an extensive selection of her works, not just her sculptures, but drawings, engravings, and personal correspondence. But, what with travel, moving, and other responsibilities, I hadn’t managed to carve out a place on my schedule to go see it until yesterday afternoon. Even though there are only a few days remaining in the exhibition’s run (it ends on July 20th), I assumed that I would still be able to get in. Alas, I was sadly mistaken, being told upon my arrival that there were no more tickets to be had, not just for the day, but for the remaining days as well!

I was incredibly disappointed, but knew it was my own fault for leaving it to the last minute. I should have realized that there were many other people out there like me, with time running short, who would also try to get in under the wire. More than that, I hadn’t reckoned with the fact that Parisians attend art exhibitions in record numbers, something not true of many parts of North America, where enthusiasm for museum-going might be considered a troubling quirk.

If there’s any silver lining to my disappointment, it’s that the phenomenal turnout for the exhibition suggests that Claudel’s work is getting the attention and recognition it deserves, and is perhaps emerging from the shadow of her association with Rodin, or at least being seen for its own merits.

Retrospective Camille Claudel Musée Rodin 79, rue de Varenne 75007 Paris

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