Larry Clark courtesy of

Nipples are often flashed on bus sides and at the beach but, still, the Frenchies have their limits. As evidenced by Mayor Bertrand Delanoe’s decree that no one under the age of 18 be allowed entry to Larry Clark’s retrospective, “Kiss the Past Hello” at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (until January 2, 2011).

Clark is no stranger to controversy in the more puritanical U.S. His 1995 movie, Kids, and his earlier collections of photography, Tulsa and Teenage Lust, caused quite a ruckus. But while the Parisian press lampooned the decision to ban minors from the exhibition—“hypocrisy, “censorship”, “repression” and “excess of prudence” were all bandied about— the raw, sometimes disturbing photographs of teens having sex or shooting drugs is certainly not for everyone.

Larry Clark courtesy of

The exhibition starts harmlessly enough. The first series of the 200+ photographs, which span 50 years, are campy baby portraits and pet collages, shot by Clark’s mother, who was also a photographer. But once he moves to the Tulsa and Teenage Lust era, the 1970s and ’80s, featuring young addicts and hormonal teens, Clark’s dark side starts emerging: needles searing the skin of underage junkies, boys wielding guns or preening their privates for the camera, teenagers entangled on couches, in tubs and across beds—well, it’s not for the fainthearted.

But there’s something really touching and sad about the photos and subjects as well. Whether a white shirtless boy in Tulsa, circa 1963 (Billy Mann) or a Latino from the mid-90s LA, trying to seduce the camera like a porn star though he barely has peach fuzz on his upper lip (Jonathan Velasquez), these kids seem at once lost, desperate, bored and—hopeful.

Larry Clark himself is still obsessed with adolescence and the jumble of emotions that goes with it. And the clever thing about the exhibition, which he helped curate, is how—just like teenagers who always push the limit—the 67-year-old artist shows that maybe we shouldn’t lose the impulse to “grow up”.

Basquiat courtesy of VernissageTV Didier Didier

Jean-Michel Basquiat is another American artist who was no stranger to drama. He was born 50 years ago in Brooklyn, New York, but died, tragically, of a heroin overdose in 1988 at the age of 27. The Musée d’Art Moderne features this second retrospective until January 30, 2011.

Just like Clark’s, the Basquiat retrospective is vast, showing an artist with a raw, distinct style and consumed by specific themes. But that is where the similarities end. Whereas the majority of Larry Clark’s prints are black and white, with the charged energy somehow staying within the frames, Basquiat’s paintings are bold, oversized and crackling with energy, beckoning viewers from across the room.

The young graffiti artist came of age during the 1970s New York club scene and went on to become an international art world darling, collaborating with Andy Warhol and appearing in Blondie videos. He became the star of the “Neo-Expressionist” movement, defined by strong subjectivity of feeling and aggressive handling of materials. Maybe it’s a definition you have to see to understand; you will with Basquiat’s work.

Basquiat courtesy of VernissageTV Didier Didier

His paintings incorporate text with imagery, which enabled the young artist to tell stories and convey emotions. In the hundred pieces on display, his early signature, “SAMO” (Same Old Shit), and recurring icons such as the triple-pointed crown, cars and boxers are inescapable and the combination of his lines, letters, colors and materials create a combustible energy that, for me, is even more worth waiting in the long lines to get into the museum than Clark’s controversial images.

Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

11, avenue du Président Wilson, 16eme, 01 53 67 40 00

Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Thursday until 10 p.m.). Closed on public holidays. Admission: €5 (Larry Clark), €11 (Basquiat), €13 (both).

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Written by Amy Thomas for the Hip Paris blogFor our amazing rentals in Paris, Provence & Tuscany check out our website Haven in Paris.


Amy Thomas

Amy Thomas is a sweets-obsessed writer based between New York and Paris. She published her best-selling “foodoir” (food writing meets memoir), Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate). This was followed up with the 2018 book Brooklyn in Love: A Memoir of Food, Family and Finding Yourself. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, T Magazine, New York Post, National Geographic Traveler, New York Magazine, Town & Country, Bust, Every Day with Rachel Ray and others.


  1. Thank you, Erica and team!

    I bought my ticket to Paris last week. I will actually attend and participate in Maison et Objet. You can call it my “baptism”. I’ll write about that on my blog later. As a part of my “baptism” into the business of M &O, I invited Jeanine Hayes of Aphrochic to attend and I’m excited to say that she’s coming! It will be her first time in Paris and at M & O. I hope to get more American designers to attend. If you know any, please have them contact me.

    I hope to take as many beautiful photographs as you have shared with us on your lovely blog.


  2. Just got to Paris, and am staying in a great HIP apt…I plan to go see Basquiat, but will pass on the photography.

  3. I’m going to see the Basquiat exhibition when I arrive in Paris next month. By the way, are you planning to attend Maison et Objet?

    Great post and blog!


    1. Hi Felicia. I would LOVE to go to Maison Objet. I went this fall. Unfortunately, I will not be in Paris then. Will you be going? It’s so interesting, and exhausting too! Thanks for the compliments on the blog. We love your photos and are so glad to have found your site. – Erica

  4. Guess I won’t be seeing the Larry Clark, since I’ll be in Paris with my kids, but we’ll definitely check out the Basquiat.

  5. I am so sad to miss the expos. I think both of them look amazing and fascinating and I wish I was in Paris to check them out. Thanks for going for us Amy! Erica

  6. I would love to see this exhibit…Life is not something that polite conversation expresses. What a delight to have Art take frame. I find it a bit fascinating that different cultures adore or repel various part of life. But then that is why we have are perhaps 🙂

  7. I went to the exhibit, and it certainly wasn’t for the faint of heart! It wasn’t my favorite exhibit–a bit too explicit for my taste–but it was certainly more than I think would have been allowed in the States. Interesting, at the very least.

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