HERE KITTY, KITTY

Théophile Steinlen‘s Art Nouveau posters are famous. But his wordless cat comic strips are are less well-known. Last week, 31 graphic stars tried to change that. As part of the annual So BD comics festival, the Galerie Cecilia F hosted their tribute to his feline comics.

“Cats” featured work by 31 artists. Some are from the artist’s native Switzerland; others hail from France, Britain, Japan, etc. All shared Steinlen’s fascination for cat proclivities.

Steinlen was not only an artist; he was an anarchist. Born in Lausanne, he moved to Montmartre in 1881. Then known as “the Butte”, this was Paris’s Wild West. It was an art scene but also a was a hotbed of left-wing politics, racy nightclubs and radical publishing. The cat-lover soon fitted in.

Caught up in this vie Montmartroise, he became one of its most popular poster artists. Work for magazines like Le Rire (“Laughter“) and Gil Blas also immersed him in the era’s caricature boom.

If the show proved cats-and-cartooning goes way back, it was a nice update. Like the rest of SoBD, it was clever and seductive…even to the allergic.

So BD, the Paris Salon de la Bande Dessinée takes place every year in the centre of Paris. The festival and all its events, expositions, panel talks, and author signings (over 150) is free.

Uncredited drawing at top: Blutch; final two drawings, Nicolas Nemiri; photos Steve Sampson

DIOR + THE ARTS

The Christian Dior show at the Museum of Decorative Arts is more than a blockbuster. It goes on for room after room after room. There are color-coded displays, giant scenescapes done by theme and plenty of each designer who headed the label. Even the three-story tall main hall – at every level – is filled by gowns.

But: there is plenty of work by Christian Dior himself – if you can manage the crowds and clicking cameras.

The founder’s work stands out by a mile. Despite the inclusion of his numerous replacements, there’s no competition. Wonderful things were done by a young Yves St. Laurent and (of course) by John Galliano. Both were – and both remain – exceptional. Yet there’s no denying Monsieur Dior towers over it all.

He had something no one else possessed. But what it was is harder to say. After the war, why was he able to totally re-think couture? Why did he have such a faultless sense for the feminine? Like Louis XIV, Dior was a complete original.

One thing could be his other passions, all of which were quintessentially French.

Before he ever designed, for instance, Christian Dior ran a gallery. The show begins with art by artists he knew and liked. Included are Giacometti, Dalí (the piece above), Alexander Calder, Leonor Fini, the poets Max Jacob and Jean Cocteau – and theatrical designer Christian “Bébé” Bérard.

Also like Louis XIV, Dior loved gardens, flowers and scent. He revelled in 18th-century décor and collected antiques.

This enormous show really needed an edit; it’s too easy to OD on the cheaper glamour. Yet, at every turn, the first Dior’s work stands out. Maybe it’s an over-the-top way of proving the point.

Christian Dior, Couturier du Rêve runs until 7 January 2018 at les Arts Décoratifs

NOW THAT’S PUBLIC ART

The 13e arrondissement has made its elevated métro line an “open-air” museum. They’re doing it with public art in the form of giant murals. All these are commissions by urban artists, chosen by the mairie from around the world

The artist presents a set of proposals but the final (sponsored) work is chosen by the residents.

With all the leaves off the trees, now is a great time to see them. Just take line 6 south of the river to get the view.

• If you’re not in Paris, you can check out this map of the 50 sponsored works.