Taking an all-nighter doesn’t have to involve going to a trance club and taking lots of mind-altering drugs. In Paris, the Nuit Blanche is a civilized affair, an annual celebration of the city that takes place on the first Saturday of October.
Currently celebrating its 10th anniversary, ‘Nuit Blanche’ (White Night) turns the French capital into a living art gallery, with grand installations transforming civic spaces and experimental artworks displayed in secret nooks usually closed to the public. Squares, monuments, parks, theatres, churches, gyms and even swimming pools becoming impromptu art galleries.
“It’s a unique occasion to make new art accessible to a large audience,” says Christophe Girard, assistant responsible for culture in Paris and creator of Nuit Blanche. “And highlight the capital’s exceptional heritage through contemporary art, linking the knowledgeable to the mainstream. These are the issues of this event: realize cultural democracy through a night and give a taste of art for the rest of the year.”
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Whereas in other cities, a night of revelry would be an excuse to rampage the streets like drunken savages, here, Parisian families go out en masse to stroke their chins and appreciate the videos, installations, sculptures, projections, performances and exhibitions created by local and international artists, often cycling between one happening and another on their Velib hire bicycle.
In past years I’ve seen a beautiful installation where white drapes were lit up with colourful projections in the courtyard of an elegant ‘hotel particulier’ and an experimental performance where a group of naked men brandishing red axes mingled in an empty shop space, like lumberjacks at a naturist’s cocktail party.
For its 10th anniversary, Paris’ Nuit Blanche is exploring touristy areas that can be rediscovered by locals, including the Pigalle and Montmartre areas, and the artwork won’t disappoint. One of the most spectacular displays at this year’s Nuit Blanche will be the Grand Image Lab, a projection that will transform a huge building into a psychedelic canvas.
It’s an event that is so unique that it has inspired other cities to stay up past their bedtimes, too, including Amsterdam, Toronto, Riga, Buenos Aires, Malta, Brussels, Palestine, Tel Aviv and for the first time this year, in Kyoto. It’s a creative concept that transcends cultural differences.
“Nuit Blanche is a way of transporting Paris, human rights, different cultures, the creative arts,” says Girard. “It’s an international passport to liberty.”
For more information check out: nuitblanche.paris.fr
Top 3 White Nights
Montreal High Lights Festival
More of mixed-media big night out than a pretentious highbrow arts event, Montreal’s Nuit Blanche takes places as part of the city’s week-long High Lights Festival, with photo exhibitions, comedy, dance performances, midnight movies and parties and night dips in hotel pools. The next one takes place 25 Feb. 2012, with 170 activities including visual arts, cinema, storytelling, poetry, literature, dance, design, exhibitions, flights of fancy, humour, illumination, music, performances, sport and theatre.
Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, Toronto
More than 134 art projects by more than 500 local, national and international artists will be on show throughout the city of Toronto from dusk until dawn on Oct. 1, for their sixth year of Nuit Blanche. Highlights of this year’s event include ‘Flightpath Toronto,’ a piece in which members of the public are invited to ‘participate in the possibilities of urban flight’ above a transformed Nathan Philips Square.
Miami Sleepless Night
Miami is known for its 24-hour nightlife and its regular festivals, and its annual Sleepless Night brings together the best of both. This year's celebration takes place Nov. 5, with works from more than 150 local and international artists – not just art, photography and sculpture shows but dance, trapeze, symphonies and theatre performances too. Highlights include “The Cabinet of Dr. Strange,” a cage in which the public will be invited to sing, scream or talk with the sound then processed by Dr. Strange, and the people-powered fishes created by Barcelona-based street theater troupe Sarruga.