Am I taking a book? Am I real?
Only two hours from Paris on the TGV, fast train, Lyon is
a visual feast and a gourmet capital, but there’s much more.
This summer I found a city that turns building decoration
into an art.
These are wall paintings.
|If you live in an urban area or have traveled to
a major center, you, no doubt, have witnessed the eruption of ugly
graffiti that has become part of the urban landscape. Not only is it
on buildings but I’ve seen it on trains, subway cars and schools.
Today’s graffiti is mostly a result of angst in
major cities where people who just don’t care, deface private
buildings with grotesque smudges of every kind. In Paris, where
buildings are often painted brown or gray, these ugly blights on the
landscape are painted over and for a few weeks they look clean. In
Canada where I live, this urban blight is difficult to contro\
|You can imagine my reaction when I found myself
in Lyons France, a city with over 150 painted walls. They are, to my
mind, works of art. Having written once before about Trompe-L’Oeil
(Trick of the eye) in Perigueux, but I now entered the grand city of
Lyon to a dazzling array of pictorial art whose roots are common to
all civilizations. They still fool the eye but they are popular
decorations meant to enhance rather than destroy.
This is the first art form known to man going back
some 35,000 years with figurative murals appearing in Europe during
the Paleolithic era. Shapes and colors graced a neighborhood wall.
Frescoes adorned churches.
However, what I did see in Lyon was something
else. The unusual murals made the city special. They light up
neighborhoods and bring a smile to a visitor’s face. Some visitors
travel to Lyon just to see these murals. But that is only one of the
reasons they go there. Lyon is a wonderful place if you like art or
This is a painting of a painter. He is not real…
This is only a painting…
|The historical value of this art form is
incalculable. The city’s heritage can come to life in this way.
Historically, we have had frescoes, wall decorations and murals
dating back to Pompeii. They transmit messages of both love and
revolt. In New York in the late 60s, underprivileged black and Latin
American minorities used graffiti as a form of individual
expression. The underground in New York became a subject of
repression. In Berlin it was used to show opposition to Communism.
In France, in the 80s, the art form flourished in the suburbs. This
was symbolic of a mixed society.
continues, but in Lyon it has taken a turn. It enhances the look of
the city and is now an object of pride.
|Tony Garnier’s unique contribution to this art
form has transformed one section of Lyon that is a must for visitors
to this illuminated city. It is a treat for the eyes and the palate,
but that’s a subject for another day.
Imagine my delight when our tour-bus paused in front of some of
these artistic and cultural masterpieces.
I roamed the streets with a mural guide in my
hand. I photographed about 50 designs. It made the city a moving art
gallery. And along the way I discovered numerous good restaurants in
this city of food. The chocolate shops beckoned me, as did the
French pastry and everywhere there were bears. The guide said there
were 69 sculptures of bears to celebrate Lyon and Quebec City’s
400th anniversary as a city (2008). Of course there were many Lions
on the streets too but I assume they were always there.
These are not posters. The entire side of the
building is a mural.
The artists displayed are from Canada, France, Italy,
Indonesia, Salvador, Japan, Algeria, and Hong Kong.
It is a wonderful tribute to the celebrations that are
taking place in Quebec City until July.
Guided tours can be taken at
Tony Garnier Urban Museum Association,
4 rue des Serpollieres, 69008 Lyon.
Phone: 04 78 75 16 75
Lyon has also dedicated space to the Mexican Muralist
Diego Rivera. Some very intricate murals can be seen today.
I must add that this is only one reason to see this city.
It is famous for its food, which we sampled. It is on the shores of the
Rhone and the Soane Rivers. We found it clean, safe and alive with people
shopping or just seeing the sights. There is part of the city that is high
above the river, offering wonderful views. The churches are special and the
museums are world class. I do recommend the Museum of The Resistance, which
is graphic and well designed. Here you can learn of the exploits of
resistance head, Jean Moulin and the trials that took place after World War
Even the people were cordial and helpful. It’s a small
Paris with the joie de vivre you’d expect in this beautiful setting.
Take your camera along. The statues are worth remembering
and photographing. Some are 8 stories high. AMAZING!
Try the restaurants if you do get there. Some are costly
but memorable and can be found near the main square. I recommend Le Nord or
Sud Brasseries (www.brasseries-because.com
and Brasserie Georges (me particular choice)
There is modern transportation and taxis abound. Walk
around the river at night. Just enjoy what you see. I can’t understand why
more tourists don’t visit Lyon. Those who do always come back for more.
Arnie Greenberg at: