Photo by Eric Tenin
The Art Nouveau subway entrances designed by Hector Guimard are world famous – one is even on display at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC. However, a more recent one in Paris is an original work of modern art. This particular subway entrance canopy above the Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre station, on Place Colette (named after the popular writer, 1873-1954), really calls attention to itself. It is called the Kiosque des noctambules (kiosk of the night owls), and consists of two domes – one representing night, the other day – made of chunks of colored glass intertwined with aluminum, giving the effect of jeweled crowns.
They were designed by contemporary artist Jean-Michel Othoniel (b. 1964, photo at right) for the RATP (the French public transportation organization) and installed in October, 2000, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Paris subway system.
Part of the whimsical fun of this artwork is its juxtaposition with the neo-classical architecture of the Comédie-Française theatre that fronts onto Place Colette.
Note: The Comédie-Française is the only state theatre in all of France, and one of the few to have its own troupe of actors, in this instance specializing in the performance of the plays of Molière. The terrace of Café Nemours surrounds the columns of this theatre, and overlooks the Kiosque des noctambules. Lunch here provides a great people-watching experience, as well – all the better for its location on a traffic-free pedestrian zone.