The eponymous heart of viticultural France, Bordeaux is definitely worth more than a good (cheap) glass of vin rouge. We arrived with few preconceptions and came away much enriched. Stepping off the train, initial impressions are of a hot, crowded city, with too many dogs and their random bowel movements. However, upon closer inspection we found it quite a cool place, a mixture of grand, pedestrianised boulevards and narrow backstreets set back from the large, tidal Garrone river.
On our second day there the skies turned grey with rain so we took shelter in the city’s two main galleries. The Musee des Beaux-Arts is a nicely proportioned museum filled with a mixture of Euorpean artists’ works dating from around the Renaissance period to the present day. Some large-scale works from Bordellaise-locals from the mid-nineteenth century provided an interesting snapshot of the river trade and the expansion of the city. The persistent drizzle scuppered our walk to the Musee du vin so we ventured into the Musee d’art Contemporain de Bordeaux or CAPC. This modern art gallery was a very impressive space. Once Laine’s Warehouse, a bustling depot for spice traders and other exotic goods such as coffee and sugar in the C 19th, it was acquired by the city in 1973 and has since been a cultural centre for arte moderne. We were really impressed by a temporary exhibition by a contemporary American multi-media artist Jim Shaw. It was quite a surprise to see such an array of large-scale works that explore the darker side of American culture, in particular religious cults, mass consumerism, the culture of celebrity, and the corruption of power and politics portrayed via cyclical comic-type scenes. An array of religious pamphlets and record covers and gigantic cloth paintings of surreal dream-like images together created a bizarre yet amusing American utopia.