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  • Writer's pictureKate Woodman

La Fontaine Stravinsky:  un peu de caprice à Paris (Stravinsky Fountain:  a little whimsy in Paris)

Updated: Feb 16, 2020


place Igor-Stravinsky

Je marche par la fontaine Stravinsky tout le temps. C’est dans mon quartier, près de chez moi. Je me souviens bien le premier temps je l’ai vu, il y a plus que 30 ans quand la fontaine n’avait que quelques années . J’aime cette fontaine, avec beaucoup de figures fantastiques et colorées. Mais je n’ai jamais su le nom, qui ou quand l’a créé ou pourquoi. J’ai pensé toujours que c’était une partie de centre Pompidou. J'avait tort!

I walk past the Stravinsky Fountain all the time. It’s in my neighborhood, close to where I live. I remember well the first time I saw it, more than 30 years ago when the fountain was only a few years old. I loved it then and I love it now, with its many whimsical and colorful figures. But I never knew its name, who created it, when or why. I always assumed it was part of the Pompidou Center. Wrong!

Stravinsky Fountain....bordered by église Saint-Merri on the south and IRCAM and iconic street art "Sh-h-h-h!" on the west.

Centre Pompidou to the north

One of several lively cafés on the east side of the fountain

La Fontaine Stravinsky était parti d’une programme de la ville de Paris en 1978, de construire sept fontaines contemporaines à Paris. Le sculpteur français, Jean Tinguely, a été choisi pour créer la fontaine. Tinguely fait les sculptures noires et il a pensé que la fontaine a eu besoin de la couleur. Donc il a proposé que sa femme, Niki de Saint Phalle, crée la fontaine avec lui et le maire de Paris, Jacques Chirac, était d’accord.

The Stravinsky Fountain was part of a program of the City of Paris in 1978, to build seven contemporary fountains with sculpture in different squares of the city. The French sculptor, Jean Tinguely, was chosen to design the fountain. Tinguely’s mechanical sculptures are all painted black and he thought that the fountain needed color, so he proposed that his wife, Niki de Saint Phalle, who works in bright and vibrant colors, design the fountain with him. The then-mayor of Paris, Jacques Chirac, agreed.

In the snow....

Last October's Nuit Blanche when there was a "son et lumière" show at Saint Merri

Le site de la fontaine couvert des bureaus de IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique Musique), qui est relié au Centre Pompidou. Pierre Boulez, fondateur de IRCAM, a proposé, comme le thème de la fontaine, la musique de Stravinsky. Donc les 16 ouvres de la fontaine, s’inspirent « Le Sacre du Printemps » et ses autres ouvres grandes. La fontaine a été consacrée en 1983 par maire Chirac, ministre de la Culture Jack Lang, et Madame Pompidou, la veuve de Georges Pompidou.

The basin of the fountain covers some of the rooms and offices of IRCAM (Institute of Research and Coordination of Acoustic Music), which is connected to the Pompidou Center. Conductor and composer Pierre Boulez, IRCAM’s founder, suggested the work of Stravinsky as a theme for the fountain. Hence the fountain’s name, as well as the square where it’s located, place Igor-Stravinsky. And the 16 sculptures that make up the fountain were inspired by “The Rite of Spring” and other major works by Stravinsky. In 1983, the fountain was dedicated by then-mayor Chirac, Minister of Culture Jack Lang and Mme Pompidou, widow of Georges Pompidou.

Weekends in nice weather, always a group performing at the north end of the fountain....in the background to the right is IRCAM

Tinguely's treble clef and Saint Phalle's firebird

The mermaid

Death and the firebird

I read with interest what Tinguely had to say about the creation of the fountain and hope you find it of interest as well:

"I wanted [the fountain] to have charm, with the colors of Niki, the movement of the water, and a certain attachment of the heart that I gave to my sculptures.... I wanted sculptures like street performers, a little bit like a circus, which was at the heart of Stravinsky's style itself when in 1914 he had his first encounter with jazz, .... or when he wrote an homage to a circus elephant, all made up in colors, which he saw in a circus in Evian or Lausanne."

"... the first model that I made for Pierre Boulez, even though it was very small, had lots of colors.... Paris...is a city of light, it's practically the center of the world, and there was that superb monstrosity, the Centre Pompidou – it was an enormous provocation, and I couldn't put something monumental next to it..."

"The only way to do it was to go to the opposite [of the Pompidou Centre]; to think in terms of psychology, of speed, of movement, of charm, of games, of jokes, of competing with the street performers, the Afro-Cuban orchestras, the fire-eaters, who were in front of the Centre. That's why it had to have colors, the gold of the Firebird...."

"...I studied the place during an entire year. I looked at the sun. I observed the wind. That determined for me the placement of the sculptures, and the orientation of the fountains...."

"[Niki de Saint Phalle] began by making a large number of models; hats by the dozen, numbers of elephants, serpents, things, tricks... the Firebird was a found object in the work of Niki de Saint Phalle, but she redrew it, repainted it, until we had exactly what we needed, not too big and with holes to let the wind pass through to avoid it being carried away by the wind which is always blowing in the square of the Beaubourg..."

Southeast corner.....just because.....

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