Postcard from Bordeaux, France: Museum-Hopping

Above, a mirror in a stairwell of the Museum of Design reflects contrasts between traditional and contemporary decorative arts found in the museum.

Hotel de Lalande, an elegant townhome built in the late 1770s, is home to the Museum of Design and Decorative Arts, or MADD. The son of the original owner inherited it but held the unfortunate honor of serving as an attorney in the Parliament of Bordeaux during the Revolution and was sentenced to the guillotine in 1794. The property passed through the hands of several owners before the city of Bordeaux acquired it in 1880 and converted it into the headquarters of police and vice control. In the middle of its sprawling garden, an inartistic jail for “sailors found in violation of discipline and girls who infringe the laws of morality and decency” was constructed.

The Decorative Arts Museum opened in the former home in 1955, with a collection illustrating applied arts in crafts from the Middle Ages to the 18th century. Extensive remodeling in 1984 returned the museum’s rooms to their former aristocratic appearance. Contemporary decorative arts collections were added in 2013, providing the opportunity to observe the development and relationship of old and new forms of French art side by side.

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Postcard from Sevilla, Spain: Former Convent home to Bellas Artes

The former Convent of Merced Calzada dates from the early 1600s, but since 1841 it has been open to the public as the Museo de Bellas Artes.

The fine arts museum originally preserved and showcased works from closed convents and monasteries around Seville. The collection has grown through the years and includes works by some of the most famous painters associated with the city – Murillo, Zurbaran and Leal.

Not uncharacteristically, I often found myself distracted by the tilework and the devils in the details.

As we were headed into the season of Semana Santa processions, the paintings of enormous horse-drawn floats from 18th-century Seville proved of particular interest. Although these bacchanalian-themed floats appear to be more closely associated with rowdy pre-Lenten Carnaval celebrations.

Postcard from San Agustin Etla, Oaxaca, Mexico: Perfect jewels for that first anniversary

Although paper is regarded as somewhat ephemeral, paper beads designed by Kiff Slemmons are meant to endure.

Slemmons’ works are represented in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. According to Amy Yee in The New York Times, her unusual one-of-a-kind creations normally sell for $5,000 to $10,000, but most of her chunky contemporary jewelry designs for Arte Papel Vista Hermosa in San Agustin Etla sell for well under $50 (Note: The price tag visible on one of the pictured bracelets is in pesos, 250 pesos, or about $14.).

The paper workshop was founded by artist Francisco Toledo in 1998 in a former hydroelectric plant that once served Oaxaca City. Using the available water supply, native plants surrounding the workshop and traditional natural dyes, a dozen artisans tapped by Toledo make their living at the workshop.

Yee wrote that Toledo invited Slemmons to el taller in 2000. Her resulting jewelry designs involve folding and rolling strips of the workshop’s handmade paper. Slemmons now makes time annually to travel from Chicago to work with the craftsmen in Oaxaca, refining the pieces and refreshing herself by experiencing “what can happen through collaboration.”

Sheets of textured paper, kites and jewelry perfect for that first anniversary celebration are available at the workshop and in museum shops in Oaxaca City.