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In the book Art Hiding in Paris: An Illustrated Guide to the Secret Masterpieces of the City of Light, author Lori Zimmer and illustrator Maria Krasinski explore Paris and its art history. They tell its story through charming illustrations and captivating texts. Its focus is art “hiding” in plain sight rather than in the halls of its hallowed museums. The book leads readers on a scavenger hunt through the city, discovering masterpieces not found in the usual places or books.
Zimmer, a native New Yorker, avid traveler and art enthusiast worked in the gallery scene, and also as a curator and arts writer for over a decade. Two life changing events in 2018 (the donation of one of her kidneys to a friend and the death of her father) prompted a life change, leading her to write and eventually to the publication of the book. She tells us more about Art Hiding in Paris, what she enjoys most about the city and future plans.
How did Art Hiding in Paris come about and what is the idea behind it? Why did you create it?
I love love love history, especially art history, so most of the things in the book I would have looked up on my own, and for fun. I started to research what became Art Hiding in New York (her previous book, also with illustrations by Maria Krasinski) after I was laid off from my gallery job in 2009. It soon became a now-defunct blog called Art Nerd New York. The New York book came out in 2020 during the pandemic, which made for a slow start, but now it is doing well (the Met even sells it!). Being that we spend so much time in Paris (Zimmer and her partner the artist Logan Hicks spend 1-2 months a year in the city), I knew I wanted to do a book.
I started researching during my frequent trips here. In 2021 when Macron announced the French border was open again, I pitched the Paris book to my agent and my editor at Running Press. They loved it. But in order for it to come out in 2022, the deadline had to be really quick. So I came to Paris in August and September. First to walk to each place and fact check, then to write everything out. Somehow, I finished it early! Maria was also in Paris at the time. So we would walk around together to take photos, and she would make sketches on the spot.
How did you choose the places and things featured in the book?
Choosing what to feature in Paris was way more difficult than in New York. Art and history are literally everywhere you turn here. I tried to choose a well-rounded list of things. Old and new, known and unknown, out in the open and hidden. I read a lot of articles, books and biographies, walked miles and miles observing/looking for things that intrigued me, and interviewed a bunch of people in hopes of finding true gems. And I did!
I also tried to include pieces that had an element of surprise to them. For example, the first piece featured in the book is a 17th Century painting by Arnould de Vuez that was discovered behind a wall when the Oscar de la Renta flagship was moving in a few years ago. The shop restored it. It can be viewed for free on the bridal floor of their rue de Marignan shop.
Another is a mural at the Grand Rex theater painted in 1931 by Henri Mahé (who happened to be my friend’s grandfather). It shows a movie set scene which includes pirates, a showgirl, and a clown. The painting has been there for years, but neglected. During the covid lockdown the theater decided to take advantage of the time so they restored it. They soon discovered that the clown was in fact painted over. Cleaning it revealed Charlie Chaplin beneath! The theater was used by the Nazis, who painted over Chaplin because of his film The Dictator, which criticized Hitler. I love to think about how no one may have ever noticed that, had the theater not been shut down for the pandemic. Definitely not a silver lining to the past few years, but an interesting perk.
How did your collaboration with the book’s illustrator Maria Krasinski come about?
Maria and I met when we were nine years old in a gifted and talented program in our hometown of Buffalo, New York. We both grew up to love art, history and travel. A few years ago she spent a year in Tbilisi in the Peace Corps, and I went to visit her. She showed me some drawings she did of the neglected Art Nouveau architecture in the city. I found them so inspiring that I proposed we do a book together. This was Art Hiding in New York. It turned out great and we quickly got an agent who sold it almost immediately. It was pretty surreal. We are currently working on our third book together. She lives here in Paris, and is the managing director of News Decoder. She was also on Jeopardy last year. She’s pretty amazing.
What do you enjoy most about Paris. What would your ideal day here look like?
I love Paris for many reasons, but my favorite aspect is that I love to be alone here. And walk and walk and walk. The obvious is the art and museums, which are so accessible and beautiful. I could spend a week going to museums every day and be happy. New York is a walkable city, but I think Paris is even more walkable.
I really get my architecture fix in. I love all of the varieties of ethnic foods here, and mostly the pace of life, which I find as a better-balanced combination of working hard, but also allowing time to relax. New York work culture is a constant “hustle harder” attitude. I enjoy that my hard-working Parisian friends stop in time for an apéro. They don’t check their work emails at night. They realize that this balance only makes their work better. I love that they would never even write these sentences, because work isn’t the first thing on their minds.
My ideal day involves a lot of walking, seeing art and eating the cheeses that the United States doesn’t allow! Every time I’m here, I start with the best linguini and clams I’ve ever tasted at this tiny place called Piccolo Caratello on Rue Audran in Montmartre. I always stop at Pili Pili, a great Twin Peaks-ish metal bar in the 11th, and Cravan in the 16th, which is a tiny beautiful cocktail bar in a Hector Guimard-designed building.
What are some of your future plans?
Maria and I are working on our next book together with Running Press which will publish in 2024, which for now is called Not Your Muse. It will feature 31 women whom history has misremembered as muses to men, rather than because of their own accomplishments. One example is Belle da Costa Greene, the woman who was responsible for the vision behind the Morgan Library in New York, for which JP Morgan gets the lion’s share of the credit. It will be about women in the creative fields who have been reduced to the term muse, footnotes. Maria will again be illustrating it. I am also working on two long form books myself, one a sort of New York memoir, and the other a book of essays about nostalgia.
Art Hiding in Paris is available to purchase on Amazon. Keep an eye out at other fine bookstores where you will soon be able to purchase it including the Louvre Gift Shop, Fluctuart, The Red Wheelbarrow, and Smith and Sons on Rivoli. All illustrations by Maria Krasinski, courtesy of Running Press.
- Looking for more French-inspired books? Check out some of our picks.
- Read more about Art Hiding in Paris.
- Check out another favorite illustrated book about Paris, A Table in Paris by John Donohue
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