l’Art Entre en Gare – an exhibition of trains and art at the Grand Palais

The national rail company, the SNCF, is celebrating its 70th anniversary with a huge exhibition in this magnificent space.

Travelling by train is so civilised, don’t you agree? There’s something about leaving one city centre and arriving smoothly in another that is magical. Especially compared to flying, where you have to go to the outskirts of town, wait for hours, be frisked, dump your liquids at customs… I’m a big fan of trains, and being in the centre of mainland Europe, France is ideally-situated for train travel. Recent developments (and heavy investment) now mean that London is just over 2 hours away, Brussels is 85 minutes away, Amsterdam and Cologne can be reached in just a few hours. You can even get from Paris to Marseilles, right on the south coast, in just three hours. I think it’s great.

And I’m not the only one. Over the years, many people have been inspired by the technical achievement and sheer beauty of trains, including many artists. To celebrate its 70th anniversary, the SNCF will be celebrating all types of artistic creation linked to train travel, with nine different areas:

Cinema. How trains and travel have been inspired filmmakers.
Fashion. The smart staff uniforms were a sign that train travel was something special. This retrospective shows both vintage pieces and the latest uniforms designed by Christian Lacroix.
Writings. Books, plays and songs (with karaoke!).
Photography. Shots showing the elegance of the beginnings of rail travel as well as more recent and realist shots.
Posters. People had to be convinced to use the train rather than planes, and some incredibly beautiful posters were created by famous artists including Raoul Dufy and Salvador Dali. Also, the SNCF has commissioned eight contemporary graphic artists from the eight European countries with which it works to design new, exclusive posters.
Architecture. A look at the grand monuments that stations were and are.
Design. Always trying to look modern and new, this will show how design elements have been used over the years.
Modern Art. How artists such as Sophie Calle and Daniel Buren have been inspired by trains.
The Future. Constantly trying to innovate, the train must reinvent itself for the future, with more services, comfort and ease of travel. Here you’ll be able to see the coming developments.

The exhibition also includes special features such as an interactive light and sound show using symbols from the SNCF’s history, and another light show starting around 5pm each night, with mirrors reflecting onto the roof of the Grand Palais.

As if that wasn’t enough, there will also be four real trains at the exhibition! (I’m telling you, this place is huge); a steam train from 1943, an electric train that broke the speed record of 331 km/h in 1955, one of the first TGV fast trains from 1981, and finally a brand new short-distance electric train that will go into service at the end of 2009.

And there’s a lot more as well (special installations, workshops for kids…). Sounds like a great exhibition! We will definitely be going.

Here’s all the essential information for the exhibition “L’Art Entre en Gare” at the Grand Palais

Where: Grand Palais, avenue Winston Churchill, Paris 8th arrondissement, métro Champs-Elysées Clémenceau (lines 1 & 13)
When: 21st December 2007 – 6th January 2008
Opening hours: 11am – 11pm every day of the week
Entrance fee: Adults: 3 euros, concessions 1.50 euros, free for under 12s, the unemployed…
More info (in French unfortunately) on the official site here.

Bigger map here

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