A New Way to Experience Paris

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As a journalist and arts writer, I’m fascinated by the creative process and love learning what makes artists tick. Obviously Matt Wagner does too, and the result is a fascinating portrait of the life of forty-two contemporary artists who make their home in my favorite city–Paris.

The Tall Trees of Paris (Overcup Press), written in French and English, contains close to 300 pages of beautiful images and handwritten artist interviews.

Wagner, also the author of The Tall Trees of Tokyo and The Tall Trees of Portland, is the founder, owner, and curator of Hellion Gallery in Portland, Oregon. Born, raised, and educated in Indiana, Wagner moved west and fell in love with Portland, learned the gallery business, and opened Hellion in 2010.

Wagner explains why Paris is the scene for his latest Tall Trees book.

“Paris is the foundation of contemporary art, the requirement for graduation,” he says. “Accordingly, it’s also easily overlooked. Like arches that support an ancient aqueduct, nobody even notices them as long as the water is flowing. But without Paris, the flow of art would have stopped. Paris is good at art. Good enough that people have stopped noticing and just take it for granted.

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The colorful work of the artist Alexandra Arango.
The colorful work of the artist Alexandra Arango.
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“Ultimately, the Tall Trees books are about people,” Wagner continues. “The questionnaires introduce the featured artists to readers, detailing their favorite things about the place they live and work. We become invested in the artist’s well-being, like that of a friend.”

The artists who are profiled share their Paris favorites–from cafes and bars to weekend happenings. Each artist, images of whose work and workspaces lavishly illustrate this oversize, coffee-table edition, answer such questions as: What district do you live in? What are your favorite restaurants? Bars? Shops? Museums? How do you get around town? What are you doing this weekend?

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The Tall Trees of Paris is not just an art book, nor just a travel guide. Wagner explains that it’s a way to teach others how to experience a city rather than simply to see it.

The finely detailed art of Koralie.
The finely detailed art of Koralie.

He dedicates the book to his mother, who died before he began his research but who encouraged him to take on the project. “I was scheduled to leave for Paris to work on the book one month after she died,” he says. “I was crushed and it was difficult to think about anything other than what a big part of my life has been taken from me. The trip saved me. The artists of Paris saved me. My mom’s words saved me. I hit the ground running and didn’t stop until it was done. I make no secret about my love of artists and my deep respect for what they do.”

The Tall Trees of Paris is a book that will educate, entertain, and inspire. Wagner’s mother would have been proud.

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