Questions of Taste: Apollonia Poilâne

Port speaks to the most famous baker in Paris about the simple pleasure of bread making

I meet Apollonia Poilâne on a Friday afternoon in her office at 8 rue du Cherche-Midi in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. The room is small, compact, and for a work space, surprisingly homely. On the wood panelled walls, paintings of bread are clustered together, which were given to Apollonia’s grandfather (and Poilâne’s founder) Pierre by artists who needed to offer payment in kind for their daily sustenance. Above me hangs a duplicate of the bread chandelier made by Apollonia’s father Lionel for family friend Salvador Dalí, back in the early ’70s. A new replica is made every three to four years, depending on how well the existing one is holding up; temperature, humidity and other conditions all affect how long it can last, so it helps that Poilâne’s wood-fired oven offers a very dry heat. Out front in the shop, which I am sitting just behind, there is a constant flow of the customers packing themselves into the tiny bakery to order bread and other baked treats for the weekend, which are hand-wrapped by a team of Poilâne ladies, all dressed in linen overcoats that bring to mind the lining of banneton baskets. And of course there is Apollonia herself, a third-generation baker carrying on Poilâne’s legacy, who speaks with such conviction about the importance of bread I feel almost embarrassed to confess to her that I’ve never attempted to make any. But after just a few minutes in the bakery, with its rustic style and wholesome sourdough loaves, each elegantly scored with a “P”, I know I want to take home some of Poilâne’s.

If you’re not aware of Poilâne, it’s probably safe to say that every Parisian is. Poilâne’s famous loaves, a round, sturdy, country-style bread called miche, are now so associated with the bakery that they are often simply referred to as pain Poilâne. Poilâne bread. They are so popular that many Poilâne fans, particularly those in the U.S., have oven-fresh miches sent to them overnight via FedEx. You can even set up a Poilâne bread club to order with friends and split the cost. And whilst the bakery isn’t one to name drop (rumoured celebrity fans includes Catherine Denueve, a fellow resident of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Isabelle Adjani, Johnny Depp, and Robert de Niro), it’s no secret that Ina Garten stocks up on bread and biscuits whenever she’s in town, or that Lauren Bacall used to have Poilâne’s bread delivered to her hotel when in Paris.

To ensure the quality which is now synonymous with Poilâne, the loaves are made using just four ingredients, sourdough, stoneground wheat flour, water, and salt from Guérande, and hand-shaped every day by a team of bakers. Some of the loaves will be crafted at rue du Cherche-Midi and baked in the original oven, the rest will be made at the Manufacture, the purpose-built bakery located around 30 minutes outside of Paris, designed and developed by Apollonia’s parents to cope with demand. Although some of these loaves will be set aside for deliveries, many are destined for Paris; around 800 of Poilâne’s 2,000 or so retailers are cafés, hotels and restaurants in the French capital. Another customer is the Elysée Palace. To oversee the production, Apollonia tries to get to the bakery every day at around the same time that the shop opens. “To seize the day, to share breakfast with the team, to review production and help the team with any directions they may need to drive their day,” she says. If Apollonia didn’t make it over to the Manufacture earlier that morning, which would be at around 4 or 5am, a sample loaf from each baker’s batch will be delivered to her for a review at rue du Cherche-Midi. This isn’t just about simply tasting the bread, but, as Apollonia emphasises, it’s about using all of the five senses, “to get a feel for the parameters that make our signature loaves.”

Here, Apollonia speaks to Port about the craft of bread baking, what makes the humble loaf so enticing, and why we should all be getting our hands into some dough.

Poilâne Sourdough Country Loaf – Signature Bread

Poilâne was created in 1932 by your grandfather, Pierre Poilâne. Can you tell us more about Poilâne’s story?

This location (8 rue du Cherche-Midi) has been a bakery since the French revolution, but my grandfather came here in 1932 and set up his first bakery alone after touring France and working in various places. At the time in Paris there was a hype for whiter breads and smaller formats, but growing up in Normandy my grandfather had enjoyed larger formats and foods that would keep and feed you. At that time in this neighbourhood there were a lot of craftsmen and artisans here who fully embraced his philosophy, so he could embrace his craft of making big loaves of bread that would feed you; at the time people ate up to 800g of bread a day – that’s one of my loaves for just one person over two days. My father took over in the 70s, and in-between WW2 and this time there had been another hit to the bread market. But stores that were once selling coal and coffee had started turning into bistros, and these bistros had become some of my grandfather’s retailers. So my father stepped in and started restructuring the business until 2002, when he sadly passed away. I’ve been here a little over 17 years now and I’ve continued to nurture and feed our sour dough – metaphorically and physically. That is, more specifically, I look at my job as the crossroads between grains and fermentation; I make bread from wheat, rye, and corn, and that is the basis of how they evolve.

What is so special about bread?

There is something very sensual about it, it’s very emotional and it’s a craft and a know-how that is handed down through generations. It is one of the first foods eaten after your mother’s milk. It’s comforting. It can make a meal, if it’s good, and feed you in-between meals. And for centuries it was the essential food that people were eating, and it has left a legend, a vocabulary, that has carried on in to this world. I think the most written word in the bible is bread; all world cultures have it and what better way to speak to people than through their stomachs, and bread does that.

Black Pepper Pain de Mie

How do you craft a loaf of Poilâne bread?

First we have the sourdough, which is piece of dough from one batch which we can feed the next batch with. Top it with water, flour, and salt to make the dough, and once you have this bread dough you let it rest and rise for the first time, before cutting it and shaping it to the desired shape and form, and letting it rise for the second time in a mould, usually a wicker basket. You then cook it for an hour and let it cool on a rack.

In my new book, I offer an at-home adaptation, which is really intended to reproduce at home the emotion and feeling of making bread. I believe in having the experience of getting your hands in to the flour and the dough, and having the experience of baking at home. I wanted the recipe to be friendly to a family with a busy week, for example, you could start the first rise on Friday night and do the next rise together on Saturday morning.

How do you think your father managed to turn humble bread into the luxury brand that is Poilâne? Was this the intention?

In a nutshell, my father and mother were a talented couple. It started with my father having a desire to share what really links people. It was about bringing people together, and when he met my mother and when they worked together on Poilâne thereafter, there was still the vision of my father and his strong will to share. He navigated a very different landscape then, there was no social media, but he was a passionate man and a good businessman. But no, it never was an intention. He just spoke with a lot of love and care about people appreciating his craft and what goes into bread making.

Chocolate Ganache Tart with Walnut-Date Bread Crust

As Poilâne grows, how do you ensure the quality is ensured at every step and in every location, especially those locations outside Paris? And how can overnight FedEx packages of bread stay fresh?

Training. I think this is super keen and important. Our production is at the root: one baker does the whole production from start to finish. When my father created the Manufacture (Poilâne’s factory located 30 minutes from Paris) the question was, if there is a rise in demand, how do we supply it? The answer was not by creating a production line, but multiplying the production spaces in an intelligent way. At heart it is still is the same production whether it’s here or at the Manufacture, where we have 24 ovens and each baker does each batch.

And for the bread sent overnight by FedEx, it is fresh, as it keeps for about a week. It’s not the same experience as if you came here and it came out of the oven a couple of hours ago, but it’s remarkable how delicious my bread can be after say, a week, thanks to its size and the quality of the flours. Whiter breads are a problem because they tend to be in smaller formats, which lets more air go through the bread and it’s easier to dry out the crumb.


France is famed for its bread, more so than the UK. And yet you have two bakeries now in London, one of which opened 20 years ago. How have Londoners reacted to Poilâne? 

It was interesting to see how it was foreigners living in London, not just Brits, who appreciated the bread. In fact, at the time it was more the foreigners living in London than Brits. But we quickly found our way and we came at a time when London was turning into the metropolis that it is now. And it worked, as we then opened the café (in Chelsea).

And what about France, where the trend for baguettes is apparently on the decline. Have you noticed a change in consumer trends, or what customers want from Poilâne?

A lot of it is my flour makers telling me about those things. Broadly speaking, the trend for flour makers is for spongier, thin-crusted breads. I haven’t seen that trend. People like my bread and they like it for its thick crust. People have said that it used to have an acidic flavour and now they don’t taste that, but we haven’t changed the recipe since my grandfather, so maybe their palates have changed.

Rice Bread

As well your signature sourdough bread, Poilâne’s range includes walnut bread, rye bread, raisin bread, even brioches, pastries, and butter cookies. With bread being the ultimate food staple, do you feel the need to reinvent, to offer the customer something more? Or has extending the range been a natural progression?

Yes, we have black pepper bread, plain, corn, both plain or with hazelnut, pain de miel, brioche… There are two drivers in innovation; one is the question of what is the taste of the grain and how does fermentation enhance the grain and flavours; the second is something that makes sense and that has a use to it. I don’t like superficial bread with things added for no reason.

With current concerns about sustainability, particularly within the food industry, how do you build sustainability into Poilâne?

It was built into the system when my grandfather started; we didn’t have the luxury of waste then. So we bake throughout the day, but to what is needed and nothing is wasted. I refuse to give into this thing of over-producing and then giving it to a charity, I’d rather produce what I need. We do work with Refettorio Paris (a community kitchen located in the crypt of the church of la Madeleine, set up by chef Massimo Bottura, who also founded the nonprofit Food for Soul) and we supply them bread, but I don’t need to do this thing of giving away leftovers because I produce throughout the day, I have little at the end, and what is leftover I share with my team. Part of the recipes in my book are what I call “bread cooking,” which is using bread as an ingredient to use it all, from the crust to the very last crumb. I’m not short of recipes for how to use bread!

Winter Vegetable Crumble with Citrus Bread Crumbs

You took over the business at just 18 years of age. Is it important for you that Poilâne continues to stay within the family?

Oh yeah. It’s my family’s name for starters. I could give you a tonne of other reasons, but that’s one thing it nails down to. And I’m not short of ambitions and projects for my family’s business.

Did you ever have any doubts about following in your family’s footsteps?

No, because when my father took over the family business, and he had me and my sister, he had had time to think about it, and share his craft with us, and I learnt to bake at a very young age.

Biscuits Baking

The food industry is still very male-dominated. Do you feel being a woman, and one that became head of a business at such a young age, posed any challenges for you during your career?

I realise that I am a lady in charge of my family’s business, and I also realise that I am incredibly lucky to have grown up in a family where it didn’t make a difference and that was my upbringing. Beyond that, I’ve proven to my team that gender is irrelevant and with that said, I’m incredibly thankful to my lucky stars for making that a reality and possibility. My age was more of a discrimination, and I definitely felt at the time my young age was sometimes an issue, but I didn’t care.

Any plans for the future?

2020 is our 88th anniversary, and I like the symmetry of 2020 and 88. We’ve also always been at number 8, rue du Cherche-Midi, and 8 is a beautiful number: put it sideways and it represents infinity, so that’s another thing. I also realise that’s it’s an auspicious number for humans, in Asian cultures, and 88 is an important age in Japan, so why not this year do a wink to that Japanese tradition? 

“Poilâne: The Secrets of the World-Famous Bread Bakery” by Apollonia Poilâne is available to purchase now from Poilâne stores in the UK (located on Elizabeth Street in Belgravia and Cadogan Gardens in Chelsea) and through Poilâne’s online boutique

Photography by Philippe Vaurès Santamaria

Secret City: Sylvia Randazzo’s Paris

The Artistic Director of Hôtel Molitor shares her favourite places in Paris to eat, drink, and relax, as well as discover the city’s vibrant street art scene

Courtesy of Does

When “Piscine Molitor Grands Etablissements Balnéaires d’Auteuil” first opened its doors in 1929, it was a grand addition to the already impressive sporting credentials of Paris’ bourgeois 16th arrondissement. Neighbouring addresses such as the Parc des Princes, Jean Bouin Stadium and Roland Garros were a big draw for sports fans, and piscine Molitor was hoping to also establish itself as a serious sports destination. As if to prove its point, U.S. Olympic gold medalist and future Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller was invited to open the pool, and even worked there as a lifeguard during the Molitor’s inaugural summer. But Molitor quickly became a hotspot for socialising and poolside lounging, rather than Olympic training. From 1934 it hosted the annual “Fête de l’Eau” and its bathing beauty contest, and in 1946 its glamorous setting provided Louis Réard with the perfect location to unveil his daring new swimwear: the bikini. With just 30 inches of fabric made into three triangles, enough to cover all the essential areas, it was so small that Réard himself said if it couldn’t be pulled through a wedding ring, it wasn’t a bikini.

Sixty years later, after running into financial difficulties, partly due to the pool moonlighting as an ice rink during the winter months, Molitor closed its doors in 1989. Its large open space now attracted a very different crowd to posing poolside beauties; the abandoned pools were the perfect blank canvas for urban artwork, in particular the indoor Winter pool, which offered artists more privacy from prying eyes. Molitor became a new Mecca for street artists from around Paris, and indeed the world.

In 2014 the pool reopened as Hôtel Molitor Paris, part of the MGallery hotel collection. Despite now being part of a corporate conglomerate, the building had retained its unique looks, and its striking Art Deco design was not only left intact, but restored to its former glory. What’s more, the street artists who once snuck into hotel’s pools were invited back to officially leave their mark, stamping their identity onto the tiny 2m2 cabins which line the Winter pool. Originally, of course, these small cubicles gave swimmers the necessary privacy to undress, but today each of the 78 cabins serves a solely decorative purpose; artists from the legendary New Yorker Seen to the Parisian Psyckoze have painted the cabins from floor to ceiling in their individual style, bringing the small spaces together to create a huge gallery of contemporary urban art.

Overseeing this gallery is Sylvia Randazzo, Molitor’s Artistic Director. Sylvia has always been keen to show off the artistic space, firstly through tours with guests, just as you would find in any of the city’s major galleries, and now with the hotel’s coffee-table book, “Molitor: Vibrations Artistiques (Molitor: Artistic Vibrations).” The book’s release is not only to commemorate Molitor’s 90th anniversary and celebrate the hotel’s rich history, but it is also a celebration of art; the works found at the hotel are firmly at the forefront of the publication. 

“Molitor, and the art displays, will continue to evolve, just as street art and art trends continue to evolve,” says Sylvia. “This element of Molitor’s creative history is now preserved in the book, it serves as an inventory of this part of history, Molitor’s Art Deco style, and the street artists currently involved in the Art Cabins. We always want to encourage more visitors to Molitor to tour the Art Cabins. Something our guests often have in common is that they are looking to discover Paris from a different perspective.”

Here, Sylvia, a born and bred Parisian, takes Port through her own, artistic perspective of her city.

Le Saint-Sébastien 

It was love at first bite! The cooking is delicious; French cuisine with international influences. The manager, Daniela Lavadenz, is a passionate wine connoisseur who knows all the winemakers on her menu personally, so she can always recommend the perfect wine. Alongside the mouth-watering food and wine, the bread is like no other I’ve tasted. What else do you need? 

L’Ours Bar

If I want to enjoy great cocktails prepared by friendly people, I go to L’Ours. This bar is tiny and very busy, but the cocktails are worth it. 

Moncoeur Belleville

If I want to unwind and drink a glass of wine in the afternoon, Moncoeur Belleville is a great spot to enjoy stunning views of Paris, from the top of Belleville Park, and the columns painted by the famous street artist Seth. In the summer, it’s a great spot where you can join the salsa dancers in the park. 

Boutique Centre Pompidou

I am not a shopping addict, but I do love books. My favourite bookshop is at the Centre Pompidou. It is a little heaven to discover, chill and be surprised. In front of the bookshop, there is a more casual shop, where art can be enjoyed not only with eyes but also with hands thanks to its original and quirky objects.

Hôtel Molitor

I think this is the best place to stay in Paris, of course! Seriously, I really do think Molitor is the best place for having a peaceful night’s sleep in the buzzing city of Paris. When you fall asleep your room is flooded by the light colour of the pool, and when you wake up your first look is out onto the pool and swimmers, before you join them for a refreshing dip. It’s just magical! 

Projet Saato

In my opinion, there are two important spots in Paris for urban and street art. The first is Projet Saato, or the Saato Project, at La Défense – where important artists from all over the world are invited to paint on mobile walls. For instance, I had the chance to meet Does there, a great artist from Netherlands, who is also featured in “Molitor: Vibrations Artistiques”, on page 56. 

Urban Art Fair

The second most important spot for street art in the city is the Urban Art Fair, taking place annually in the spring and bringing together around 35 of the very best French and international galleries, showcasing the works of almost 200 artists. Every year, the fair gets better, and it is truly the best time of the year to observe the evolution of urban art as well as discover emerging and established artists. 

Chez Prune

But if you miss either of these, there are still so many opportunities to spot the local art. For example you can have a coffee outside at Chez Prune, next to the Canal Saint-Martin. This café is in front of a big wall, which is well known by street artists. Everyday a new painting arrives, you just have to wait and see… 

‘Molitor: Vibrations Artistiques’ is available now, published by specialist art publisher H’Artpon Editions. As Molitor is an active participant in the Parisian art scene, €5 will go to Le Musée en Herbe, a museum which aims to be an accessible showcase of art for families in need. Classic Rooms at Hôtel Molitor start from £198 per person, per night

Charles Zana: Think About the Future

In the wake of his highly acclaimed show Utopia at Tournabuoni, Paris, the celebrated architect Charles Zana talks to JP Pryor about the power of multi-disciplinary creativity, and the need for collective action in the contemporary paradigm

It could be argued that in the age of post-capitalism and multiple streams of information we have lost a vitality of cultural production that shares a common mission to transform society, be that one that is conscious or unconscious in nature. The incredible speed and pressure of the art market par example leaves little room for radical multi-disciplinary departures that collectively challenge the fabric of society in the way that artists and designers did in a past that, perhaps, had a simpler clarity. The insurgent collective spirit that was, for example, apparent in art, design and architecture in post-fascist Italy could be argued to be as the last great utopic art project of the modern era, and something that can never now be repeated. 

Artists and designers such as Gaetano PesceEttore Sottsass, Lucio Fontana and Alighiero Boetti, created a radical departure from a bitter history of fascist rule, radically transforming the cultural landscape not only of Italy, but the entire Western world. In our accelerated era of commercialism could we ever witness the same kind of mass movement–one that forwarded entirely new ideas of utopic cultural production? This was exactly what the AD1000 architect Charles Zana approached this year in Utopia, an exhibition that conceptually rewired the collection of the Tournabuoni Gallery pairing artists, designers and architects in strangely affecting contemplations that juxtaposed creatives who sought to tear down every conceivable boundary between art and design in a moment of utopic defiance. Here, at the closing of one of the most interesting exhibitions in recent years, the architect who holds the distinguished Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres talks excusively to Port about the collective creative unconscious, and the importance of collective creative hope in our own challenging era.

Concetto spaziale, Attesa, by Lucio Fontana, 1965. © Tornabuoni Art

In what sense do you consider the cultural production of artists, architects and designers in the Post-WWII era to share a utopic aspect?

If you look at Italian art in the 50s, 60s and 70s there is a huge story around utopic art, architecture and design, and all of those people really were breaking down the rules and frontiers between the disciplines. The period was just uniquely important for cultural production in terms of the political and cultural scene. Because so many of those architects and designers in that era were much more like conceptual utopian artists than what you might consider a straight architect or designer. I mean, obviously, it is always great when you can create dialogue between art and design, but to bring some of the best Italian artists and architects together–well, this is my idea of really exploring utopia, to create a dialogue that is not about art history, but about raw emotion and new juxtapositions that create change. 

Photography: Matthieu Salvaing

Why do you feel the period was so unique?

It was, of course, a very strange period in in Italy because people were still trying to break from those memories of Mussolini, and a lot of groups were burgeoning into life, such as the arte povera movement – very radical movements, you know – very, very important groups in terms of how society is now viewed. And those groups were not working on function, they were not working on aesthetic, they were not working in commercial pursuit–they were much more working on what is behind the frame; what is behind the construction; it’s almost something I cannot describe but it was utopic, in that in both design and art, all of these people were working on ideas, very radical ideas. 

Why do you refer to the period as one defined by emotion over aesthetic?

Because I consider the feeling in all the work to be very important–in that period of cultural production, architects, artists and designers were thinking much more about the power that lives within a symbol. There was an intangible collective unconscious at work, in a way, because not all these people were even aware of each other, but at the same time they were pushing boundaries in similar ways–from the aesthetic to the politic, from the metaphysical to the communistic. They were all engaged politically at that time, and there was a kind of unspoken manifesto trying to break a systematic way of thinking, or break with the past. There was a link between heart, art and design in many ways that was utterly unique.  

Rare cabinet Barbarella by Ettore Sottsass,1966 with L’addio dell’amico che parte all’amico che rimane, by Giorgio de Chirico, 1950. Photography Jacques Pépion

Do you think that spirit has been in some way swallowed up in the modern by capitalism and commercial pursuit?

Well, throughout history people like Picasso were always in the market–art and design has always been commercially led. But I think the point is more that today there are just so many artists, so many fairs, and so on, that it’s much, much more complicated for an artist or architect today to emerge and make a point. I think it is for this reason that it is hard to see a real school or movement emerge, and, for me, that has maybe been true for the last 20 years. And, of course, when you don’t have a discernible movement, as such, it’s complicated to see the way certain things knit together, or to witness all those people working for a common idea or cause. Having said all of that, I think it is often only in retrospect that you can see the interesting associations in art and design come to the fore. There is also the reality that the accelerated pressure of the contemporary market makes it very difficult for the opportunity for an artist or designer to have a long time of maturation that way they could in the past. 

Photography: Matthieu Salvaing

Are we lacking that radical, or if you like, utopian, spirit in art and design in the contemporary paradigm?

It’s a very interesting question. These days are certainly very crucial but I think that from the period I have examined, there is a difference in the political sense, yes. I think it’s a very complicated time now to be engaged politically, and I don’t think that architects and artists are still engaged in the same way as they once were. There are people engaged conceptually for change, of course, but they don’t want to be political, with a few exceptions. I think that people like Formafantasma are perhaps carrying that multi-disciplinary baton in the modern era, and are perhaps working in the same mood, in that they first think about the Earth and climate before design, so, although, the subject is different, the need to be aware of the planet in the work first and foremost follows the same kind of logic. Personally, as an architect, I’m always contextual. I always begin from the culture of the place where we do the project, but I strongly feel it is the responsibility of an architect not to simply be part of the culture and reflect it. I always try to convince my colleagues that we have to in the front seat of the culture. We all have a responsibility to look towards change.  

Brasserie Lutetia

The iconic Parisian restaurant reopens under Michelin-star chef Gérald Passédat

When the Hotel Lutetia first opened its doors in 1910, it was seen as a daring move from the fashionable Art Nouveau of the day to the emerging Art Deco. However, the once bold design has endured throughout the years, and these early 20th century influences are now the signature style of the grand dame of Paris’ Left Bank. After seeing its Art Deco heritage revived in previous makeovers – Sonia Rykiel, sculptor Arman, and David Lynch have all played a role in redesigning the hotel – the keys were most recently handed over to architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte for a lavish four-year refurbishment of the landmark hotel. When the Hotel Lutetia reopened again in 2018 it was once again the talk of the town. But, there was one room still to be completed, the iconic Brasserie Lutetia. Now, after the final stage of Wilmotte’s redesign, the brasserie has opened its doors once again, this time under the helm of Michelin-starred Chef Gérald Passédat.

In keeping with his vision for the rest of the hotel, Wilmotte has skilfully retained the Art Nouveau and Art Deco influences of the historic restaurant, whilst bringing it firmly into the 21st century. The brasserie has regained its double-height ceiling, creating a feeling of space that is further enhanced by the addition of a new open-air patio in the centre of the building, with Wilmotte also revealing the original dark eucalyptus wood and marble décor, balancing it perfectly with a light, chic colour palette and contemporary furniture. Varnished wood along all the walkways, similar to the passageways in a boat, nods to Chef Passédat’s maritime menu as well as the early years of the Lutetia and the glamourous age of luxury transatlantic ocean liners. The finishing touch is courtesy of artist Jean Le Gac – a series of paintings paying homage to previous patrons of the restaurant, including Samuel Becket, Sonia Rykiel, Josephine Baker, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and James Joyce.


On the menu, Chef Passédat has brought Mediterranean influences from his three-Michelin starred Marseille restaurant Le Petit Nice to the heart of Paris. Unsurprisingly, this means a large variety of seafood, including a full range of oysters, with fish sourced from the Mediterranean Sea and Brittany depending on the weather, the catch, and the seasons. Guests will be able to dine on the famous Marseille stew, bouillabaisse, along with other signature Provençal dishes such as aioli and bream flambéed with pastis. Other specialities from the south of France will also make an appearance, including Pistou soup, veal cannelloni, chickpea panisse, and Camargue red rice, all made with traditional Provençal ingredients. As a master of seafood, Chef Passédat has also deftly reworked a selection of French classics for the new chapter of the hotel – think octopus rather than meat parmentiers and quenelles of shellfish.


However, the star of the show is the newest addition to the brasserie, the sea bar. Inspired by Grand Central Oyster Bar in New York and Japanese kaiseki counters, the bar has been placed in the heart of the restaurant for maximum impact, allowing guests to enjoy a something of a show as they watch chefs prepare dishes such as Mediterranean tartare with almond oil and pepperwood, and hot stone-cooked langoustines. The bar has also been created as a quick way to experience a taste of the brasserie, perhaps accompanied by a glass of organic wine, specially chosen from the South of France as the perfect pairing with Chef Passédat’s cuisine.

Photography by Richard Haughton

Tao Hui: A National Artist

The assistant curator of the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris explains why rising star Tao Hui deserves the title of China’s national artist

The painter and filmmaker Tao Hui is a rising star of Chinese contemporary art whose works are exhibited in leading international institutions such as the Pompidou Center, the Fondation Louis Vuitton and K11 Art Foundation. His short films, in particular, are some of the finest expressions of the East Asian Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist millennia-old ethos.

In the multi-channel video installation Excessive, the action takes place in a big contemporary industrial city somewhere in China: into an ordinary middle-class family, a girl is born with an extra finger. Parents hold opposite positions on whether to cut or not to cut the excessive finger out of love for the daughter. They both have strong arguments: on one hand, her organism might be premature for such a surgery (great attention to human body in itself is a characteristic trait of the traditional Chinese culture, known for acupuncture, feng shui, wushu and so on), but, on the other hand, the excessive finger will make her and the whole family the object of ridicule and condemnation, taking into account the millennial Confucian tradition of negativity towards any mental or anatomical deviation. Silence, allusion and understatement are its core elements ; the only explicit reference to the historical tradition of the entire piece is an incut episode with a dance using traditional Chinese costume; apart from this, material environment in the film is exclusively contemporary. Likewise, a barely noticeable line may radically change the sense of the entire hieroglyph. After several years of mounting disputes, the couple breaks up, and then, in order to reunite her parents, the girl cuts her excessive finger off with a kitchen knife.

Intense discussions about ethical and cultural norms pervade the whole film and preoccupy all of its heroes. Although, unlike the contemporary Western culture, the matter of discussion is not its content – what is normal? – but how to conform to this norm. The norm itself is unshakable and obvious, as the Heaven of Confucianism. It’s not the confrontation of the couple’s values and goals that led to their quarrel, but the different opinions as to how to achieve the exact same goal. While the contemporary Western model of love-based relationships supposes the mutual attraction of opposite personalities – the Beauty and the Beast, Alladeen and Jasmine, Mr and Mrs Smith, etc. – where stormy arguments are repeatedly followed by passionate reconciliations, whereas in the world of Excessive reigns the principle of social, psychological and cultural coherence. Equal to equal. The couples relationship is primarily social, and not physiological or emotional: even the conflict, which led to the temporary breakup, has nothing to do with the sexual sphere, jealousy, adultery or dissatisfaction.

Tao Hui, Excessive, 2015, HD video, colour, sound 19:32. Courtesy the artist

Excessive’s protagonists regard expressivity and any kind of emotion, no matter positive or negative, as unacceptable; self-control, politeness and neutrality being the absolute behavioral ideal at home and in public. “Emotions have stolen my morality” desperately screams the husband, unable to appease himself. Conflict between free poet and oppressive crowd, central in Western culture since the Romantic age, is unknown here: instead, society and the individual, in total harmony, unite their forces to improve his behavior. Contrary to contemporary Western culture, where extravagance, eccentricity and all forms of demonstration of personal uniqueness – “be yourself”– are glorified, in the world of Excessive one should “not be himself”. The only radical and transgressive act, culminating the whole film – self-cutting of a finger – is committed precisely in order to restore and conform the societal norm. Likewise, Tao Hui turns the Western topos of youth revolt and generational conflict, in which retrograde parents oppress progressive children subsequently breaking from them, upside down: the daughter, retrograde as her parents, commits this act in order not to break form, but to reunite the family.

Tao Hui, Excessive, 2015, HD video, colour, sound 19:32. Courtesy the artist

The love which, undoubtedly, Excessive’s protagonists feel to each other, is articulated around control over each other’s morals and aid in improvement of one’s social stance, rather than around passion and erotic attraction. This depersonified, unemotional, and moralistic approach is the key trait of the East Asian civilisation, in which The Personal God of the Abrahamic tradition is replaced by the religious atheism, an abstract cosmic law or principle – the Heaven in Confucianism, Samsara in Buddhism, Tao – Sacred Nothing in Taoism. Such a sacralization of social norm and such a zeal in its restoration, uniting all of Excessive’s characters, are unimaginable in the West, where, on the contrary, celebration of diversity and following one’s own passions finds complete approval.

By the means of the Western artistic language, which he virtuously masters, Tao Hui creates a quintessentially Confucian narrative. Being received as authentic and pertinent in both contexts (likewise, it’s not news that Western abstract and Chinese traditional art are in many ways similar), his oeuvre, however, champions values of only one of them. East Asia doesn’t recognise the European romantic notion of national artist, but Tao Hui’s artwork is so intensely impregnated with the national culture and expresses it with such elegance and subtlety, that he would truly be one of the main contenders for this position.

Paris Fashion Week 2018

Port‘s fashion editor picks the best looks from the Paris Spring Summer 2019 shows

Paris was hot, the schedule cramped and the calibre of designers high. Conversion centred on the clash of titans: Kim Jones v Virgil Abloh – Jones, the fashion darling’s master craftsman, launched his debut at Dior, and Abloh, the self-made cult figure of streetwear, did the same at Louis Vuitton. Very good friends, both have the press, celebrity appeal, and the power to drive menswear in two very different directions – Kim pushing towards couture and Abloh humbling luxury fashion by including it in a wider cultural conversation. 

Dior – LOOK 35

The much anticipated debut collection from Kim Jones delivered in abundance; a breathtakingly chic parade of soft pinks, blues, tans and whites that took form in a diverse range of suiting, shorts, shirts and beautifully crafted coats and jackets. Models circled a towering cartoon-like floral sculpture created by Dior collaborator and New York street artist, KAWS. The giant ‘BFF’ companion mascot seemed triumphant as it heralded a new dawn for the elevation of both menswear and Dior Homme. Accomplishing his self-assigned mission to translate “feminine couture identity into a masculine idiom”, here Jones transcends the simple overcoat with a weightless transparency and florals sculpted from feathers. True luxury.

Hermès – LOOK 48

While remaining true to the brand’s luxury codes, Hermès’s long-standing designer Veronique Nichanian added subtle touches of streetwear and splashes of bold colour to bring the house up to date with modern trends for Spring Summer 19. Set in the historic Cloître des Cordeliers courtyard on breezy Saturday evening, with Hermes’ crisp white laundry hanging on lines overhead, models sauntered by nonchalantly, as if holidaying on the French Rivera. The fabrics remained luxury and the collection, on the whole, effortless, but the inclusion of season highlights such as the use of yellow and, in this look, the headline making ‘short’ short, proved the continued relevance of the brand.

Dunhill – LOOK 25

Continuing to shake things up in his second year at the creative helm of the British heritage brand, Mark Weston presented a collection that was elegant, fluid and subversive. The arched passageway of the Jacques-Decour private school was the perfect backdrop for this lesson in modern tailoring, with Weston questioning “notions of taste and aspiration, particularly those related to certain ideas of British clothing cultures” with looks designed to blur class boundaries – in this instance a sublime suit wore shirtless to increase its street credibility.

Loewe – LOOK 17

Jonathan Anderson wanted to tell ‘intimate stories of bohemian life’ through his SS19 collection of oversized knits, casual linens, and hippy-like, eccentric prints, which included the surprise motif of Disney favourite Dumbo. The presentation style was as laid-back as the collection: models rotated, clothes were hung so the tactile fabrics could be touched, and brightly coloured pom-poms covered the floor playfully. The collection was accompanied by images of the models casually placed in and around an empty Madrid mansion – painting, musing or relaxing, and continuing this idea of romanticised decadence. Ready-to-wear was of course accompanied by leather bags, the origin of the Loewe brand – in this look, a practical butter-soft brown rucksack that perfectly compliments a sun-bleached effect tie-dyed shirt and short combo.

Louis Vuitton – LOOK 37

The fashion industry waited with bated breath for Virgil Abloh’s debut at Louis Vuitton, eager to see how the streetwear giant would translate his urban style into a luxury product. As if symbolic of Abloh’s meteoric rise, the seemingly endless rainbow runway in the Jardin du Palais Royal gave a sense of optimism and change. A parade of all-white tailoring – neat jackets and shirts teamed with relaxed over-sized trousers – was followed by Abloh’s familiar territory of technical wear, harnesses, flashes of neon and bold colours, including this red look: sportswear-influenced in its silhouette yet elevated by styling and an elegant brown leather trench.

Illustration Jayma Sacco

The Art of Protest: Mai 68

Fifty years on from the events of May 1968 in Paris, Jo Lawson-Tancred traces the graphic legacy of a protest that was felt around the world

“To use [the posters] for decorative purposes, to display them in bourgeois places of culture or to consider them as objects of aesthetic interest is to impair both their function and their effect” – Atelier Populaire, frontispiece to Revolution, 1969.

The Atelier Populaire was a workshop of student activists and professional artists who occupied the lithography studio at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, producing posters that would come to symbolise the spirit of the Mai 68 uprisings in Paris. The Atelier was fiercely defensive of the images that it produced, of their integrity and their impact, which leaves us in a precarious position as we look back on the events fifty years later. In full acknowledgement of their past, street art dealer Steve Lazarides has nonetheless chosen to commemorate the milestone with a short exhibition of the posters at Lazinc, his Mayfair gallery.

As a peaceful sit in at the bleak western suburb campus of the Universite Paris Nanterre in late March, the catalyst for the protests that Spring was unassuming. Held in response to the lack of co-ed dorms and an overly authoritative curfew that banned men and women from meeting after 10pm, this extremely specific grievance would escalate quickly, incorporating workers into an attack on Charles De Gaulle’s government and conservative French society at large.

When the Atelier eventually occupied the studio, a vote was cast to select the best poster designs, which were then mass produced and plastered across the city so that each morning Parisians awoke to a sudden sea of graphics and slogans. Lazarides admires their directness, “it’s quite often one colour and a very simplistic message”, as well as their fraught history, “[they] belong to the disenfranchised and dispossessed, this was their only way of getting their voice heard”.

As we become increasingly caught up in the urgency of our own times, with the rise of populism, threats to democracy and new social justice movements, it is easy to forget that the 20th century was equally peppered with its own outbursts. Still, we might be tempted to see ourselves as living through a uniquely visual era, with internet memes sometimes giving way to more potent viral imagery or global movements assembling in mere hours behind the power of a particularly pithy hashtag. If the Mai 68 posters were effective because they reproduced a single motif, we now have the technology to do that almost infinitely.

Despite this, Lazarides believes that “there are fewer and fewer people making protest art, people are resorting to just Instagram stuff… but it depends where you look in the world.” From Kabul, Afghanistan, he mentions Shamsia Hassani, a 26-year-old fine arts lecturer at the local university who produces street art, and ArtLords, an anti-corruption group who put out graffiti messages. “Most of the protest art on the street is coming out of the Middle East, as a result of the oppressive regimes and people putting their lives on the line to get a message out there.”

Social media could amplify these local messages on a global level, but when engagement is too easy it ends up quite disengaged – lazily sharing content, which is potentially fake, as a form of ‘virtue signalling’. Reposting an image has a very different tone than taking to the streets and risking arrest.

Lazarides doesn’t believe there’s been a corresponding dip in creativity though, “we’ve got 14-year-old kids making broadcast quality videos on an iPhone, they’re still getting their message out just in a different way.” Yet, still, the benefit of street art is that its message is visible to all, and it can be responded to in that same public space, potentially creating a forum of contrary ideas that at least makes us aware of other arguments.

Can we consider these protest posters art? As Lazarides points out, “the people that designed them stayed anonymous, and they produced them as a collective.” This demonstrates how dangerous the production of these posters was, but more importantly, it shows the Atelier’s collaborative approach and their uncompromising belief in a greater power than that of the individual. Nobody has since taken credit for a single poster design, even as it has become safer to do so. This feels distant from today’s culture, in which artists are forced to fight to stand out, to get appropriately credited or compensated for their work.

To recognise the wider movement in which these works arose, and so their less aesthetic aspects, the show included memorabilia, magazines and film clips as well as the recreation of an atelier with screenprint and washing line. Discarded prints have been left hanging, a reference to the uprising’s sudden end. Lazarides justifies doing all this in a gallery setting because he believes the posters “need to be aired. There’s a poster about immigration that fifty years on still needs to be seen.”

For Lazarides, the show is “a celebration of what they did more than anything”. But is it art? “I’d hang them on a wall so if that makes it art, that makes it art.”

Revisiting Eugène Atget’s Paris

Photographer Christopher Rauschenberg rediscovers the sites captured by celebrated flâneur and early pioneer of photography, Eugène Atget, revealing a city constantly evolving and yet remaining, curiously, exactly the same

Eugène Atget photographed Paris from 1888 until his death in 1927. Like many people, I consider him the greatest photographer of all time. He documented the city in a straightforward way, his images evoking the feeling that all the transitory things that people make, all the things they do, are washed away, leaving only their transcendent evidence.

I have known Atget’s works from my earliest days as a photographer, seeking them out in books and museum shows whenever possible. On a trip to Paris in 1989, I suddenly found myself face to face with a spiral-topped gatepost that I knew very well from a photograph by Atget. I rephotographed his gatepost from memory and wondered how many other Atget subjects might still be holding their poses. When I found a familiar-looking stone stairway in another neighbourhood, I looked around for the huge, beautiful tree that in Atget’s photograph loomed over a flower vase on a corner post, but I could not find it. The flower vase on the other side of the stairs, however, did have a tree behind it, so I photographed that side instead. I wanted to match the poetic meaning of the image more than I wanted to show that the magnificent tree was gone.

In Paris that year, in the streets and places that Atget had admired, I resolved to return and explore with my camera whether the haunting and beautiful city of his vision still existed. Between 1997 and 1998, I made three trips to Paris and rephotographed five hundred of the outdoor scenes that Atget had photographed. (I could not, of course, revisit the interiors that he had pictured or recapture the people in his views.)

It is clear that the Paris of Atget’s vision still exists and is available to eyes that look for it. In central Paris, in particular, most of the places that Atget photographed are still there, and still posing. You can see the effects of weathering and acid rain on them; you can see the disrespectful marks of graffiti; and most of all, you can see that the magical streets of the city are choked with traffic and parked cars. However, among all the other Parises that coexist so thickly in one amazing metropolis, Atget’s Paris is still definitely and hauntingly there.

This is an excerpt from Paris Changing: Revisiting Eugene Atget’s Paris by Christopher Rauschenberg, published by Princeton Architectural Press

The Bistro: Art and Eating

George Upton reflects on the bistro, the humble eatery that has spawned revolution, some of the most important artistic movements of the 20th century, and a uniquely Parisian way of life

Bystro! Bystro!

It’s 30th March 1814 and the streets of Paris are ringing with the cries of Cossack troops. For almost two years, following Napoleon’s failed invasion of Russia, the soldiers have been chasing the French army back across the continent, and now they are in the capital, victorious and hungry. “Quickly! Quickly! Bystro! Bystro!” they shout impatiently, quite possibly becoming the first foreigners to complain about Parisian customer service, as well as inadvertently coining the name of one of the most important social, cultural and, of course, culinary institutions in French history.

At least that’s one theory; the ranks of France’s gastronomic historians are yet to agree on the etymological heritage of the humble bistro, though there is a consensus that these cheap, informal eateries – part bar, part café, part restaurant – have been central in shaping French culture. After all, not long before the impatient Cossacks, it was in these simple Parisian dining rooms that – fuelled by inexpensive, traditional fare – debate and discord would boil over into the revolution of 1789.

Later the bistro would help foster some of the most important artistic movements of the 20th century. Still cheap and unassuming, it was at this time that the bistro would come of age: jacketed, white-aproned waiters floating through tables of solitary readers and rowdy drunks, carrying casserole and carafes of wine, the bustle of the street half muted by curtains pinned just above eye level. It was here, amidst the pimps and anarchists of the Lapin Agile in Montmartre, that Picasso would talk and drink and define the course of modern art with Modigliani and Maurice Utrillo, as Satie and Debussy sat at the piano. Or where, across the Seine at the Polidor, Hemingway would write – recording the trials of his lost generation and fellow literary expats, James Joyce and Henry Miller – and drink, and fight.

Today, the number of bistros has dwindled – 8,000 in Paris, down from 50,000 at the turn of the century – and many of those that remain have moved away from their uncomplicated culinary origins, but the tradition of the bistro remains strong. Immortalised in the ideas they fostered, still populated by thinkers and drinkers, the bistros are a living museum to a uniquely Parisian attitude to life, art and eating.

This is an extract from issue 21 of Port, out now. To buy or subscribe, click here.

Paris Photo 2017

Port visits the 2017 edition of Paris Photo to discover stories of the African diaspora, the nude reinterpreted and disaffected youth on the streets of Los Angeles 

Nanny et Quao, Jamaïque, 1720 2017, © Omar Victor Diop. Exhibited by MAGNIN-A

With over 180 galleries and publishers represented, Paris Photo is the largest international art fair dedicated to photography. As such, when I visit the Grand Palais in Paris, just off the Champs-Élysées, is full to its ornate Rococo rafters with photographers, curators and art-lovers from around the world. It was even possible to catch a glimpse of the elusive Patti Smith, one of this year’s guest curators. Here, we take a look at the highlights of the fair.

An artist who immediately catches the eye is Omar Victor Diop, a Senegalese photographer who takes elaborately staged photographs of people (including himself) presented in various historical guises. These allegorical portraits focus on stories from the African diaspora over time, and his subjects, formally composed and framed against a background, have the air of oil paintings. When I mention this to him, Diop laughs. “Good. If I had the skill to paint, I would never touch a camera.”

Untitled, from the series ‘Halo’, 2017, © Rinko Kawauchi/ Courtesy Christophe Guye

Over at the Christophe Guye gallery, Rinko Kawauchi’s serene images of cherry blossom, migrating birds and candy-coloured fireworks are peaceful and dreamlike. The recipient of the Annual Infinity Award in 2009 from New York’s Centre of Photography, Kawauchi makes everyday scenes and objects extraordinary.

‘Oh man’, from the book Oh Man, 2013. © Lise Sarfati. Exhibited by Steidl

Algerian-born French artist Lise Sarfati’s large-scale panoramas of disaffected youth are set against the streets decaying inner-Los Angeles. Her images of aloof, solitary young men have echoes of William Eggleston in their faded pastel palette and emphasis on the minutiae of American life. 

Yellow Passage by James Casebere, © Galerie Templon

James Casebere’s sundrenched, angular photographs offer a vision of modern architecture devoid of all human life. Casebere’s deserted, hectically coloured rooms combine a striking visual sensibility with an uncanny sense of foreboding.

Cherry Tree from The Appearance of Things, 2016, © Jocelyn Lee and Pace/MacGill

At Pace/MacGill, two of the artists exhibited focus on reinterpreting the female nude. Jocelyn Lee’s flame-haired women among the cherry blossoms feels inspired both by the cinematography of Sofia Coppola, and the verdant imagery of the Pre-Raphaelites, though the washed-out tones and slightly blurred focus seem to promise something more unwholesome. Richard Learoyd’s Freya offers an entirely stripped-back depiction of femininity, the shaven-headed model reclining on a moth-eaten sofa, her pose communicating uneasy rest.

Freya, Nude horizontal, © Richard Learoyd and Pace/MacGill

Heading upstairs to ‘Prismes’, the sector of the fair dedicated to exhibiting large format photography, video installation, or otherwise exceptional work, the Sator gallery is the only area of the Grand Palais completely shrouded in darkness. Greek visual artist Evangelia Kranioti’s startling video installation stills gleam in the dim light, the saturated, oozing colours and fantastical imagery evoking both fairytale and nightmare.

L’extase doit être oubliée (Still), by Evangelia Kranioti. © Galerie Sator

Elsewhere, in a more illuminated area of ‘Prismes’, Nadav Kander’s sombre, gray scale images of rough seas and deserted beaches – including an exquisite triptych of raging water taken from his Thames Estuary series – quietly demand the viewer’s complete attention. 

Water I, Shoeburyness towards the Isle of Grain, by Nadav Kander, 2015. © FLOWERS

Cover image courtesy of Paris Photo

Paris Photo 2017 runs at the Grand Palais until 12th November 2017