Americans in Paris Exhibition Review:
“The Lure of the City of Light”
The Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2024

A painting by Ellsworth Kelly depicting green abstract shapes on a white background.

Exhibitions examine how artists before and after World War II found inspiration and artistic freedom in the French capital

by Willard Spiegelman

‘WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS,” Bogart said to Bergman in “Casablanca” (1943). Now, two current art exhibitions explore the powerful appeal of the City of Light to generations of 20th-century Americans. At New York University’s Grey Art Museum, “Americans in Paris: Artists Working in Postwar France, 1946-1962” (through July 20) begins with the premise that although New York had become the acknowledged center of post-World War II energy in the visual arts, Paris retained its eternal magnetism. Having capitulated to the Nazis in 1940, Paris was never bombed. Streets on both its banks offered ample housing opportunities to artists, especially to American veterans who took advantage of their $75 monthly stipend from the GI Bill of Rights. Cold-water flats with sketchy plumbing and electricity could be had for a song. Mostly, the painters didn’t mind. This show is a long moment frozen in time and, also, a smorgasbord. It features some 130 objects—paintings, sculptures, textiles, photographs, works on paper—by nearly 70 artists.

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