A few days in Paris are a real tonic. One of my favourite places. Streets and streets of rather nice buildings, proper big – nay, grand – department stores, old-fashioned small shops, great people-watching, macaroons, good new architecture and rather bloody good exhibitions.
I never enjoy London decorative arts exhibitions like I enjoy Parisian ones. Seems to me they curate in an old fashioned style over there and display objects in a really refined way, giving them a bit of space. It works for me. The exhibition of Vilac toys at the Museum of Decorative Art in the Louvre (I have never yet made it as far as the art) was a major port of call for me.
I know a few Vilac toys. The pull-along dogs are often seen looking winsome in toy shop windows. The exhibition was a simple chronological run through 100 years of the Vilac toy company. Not heavy on text but with a hefty catalogue to buy, should you want to read up afterwards. And a nice section of online games and vitrine-cased toys (like the cross looking dog here) made up the ubiquitous interactive area.
The children’s exhibitions at the Museum of Decorative Art are always interesting to me. They really flag-up how far the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood has to go to even catch up. I always want to get my hands on the Museum of Childhood exhibitions. They are often quite, erm, chaotic in terms of narrative and design, although full of delicious content. I get distracted by the urge to tweak, dust and re-display.
Whereas in Parisian exhibitions, I relax, enjoy and take pictures. Over there they know how to tell stories through display alone. It was something learnt, perhaps, along with the art of shop display as the grand museums and Grand Magasins grew up together.