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The French have long had an interest in American popular culture: they adopted jazz after World War I, blue jeans and chewing gum after World War II, and a host of additional American cultural trends during the last half of the twentieth century.
One of the unique manifestations of this phenomenon is found in recent representations of American popular culture in contemporary French art. Now there is a gallery owner in Paris willing to display the works of young French artists who wish to honor, critique, or otherwise express their artistic sentiments about American culture. Her name is Dorothy Polley, and she operates Dorothy’s Gallery.
Dorothy is a long-time American expatriate from Norwalk, Connecticut. Having studied art history, American literature, and education in the U.S., Dorothy has always had a special interest in art. She taught literature and theater for a year at Art and Design, a New York art school, prior to moving to Paris in 1970. In Paris, she quickly learned that she “could starve, but could not work professionally” as a qualified teacher. Undeterred, she founded a nonprofit association of language teachers that developed rapidly and eventually became a rival of Berlitz. In 1982, she left the association and created a company called Executive Language Services, which she sold to a Japanese language group in 2006. Freed from the responsibilities of running the school, she returned to her primary passion—art. She launched the gallery at 27 rue Keller in the Bastille area in 2006.
Artistic Tribute to Michael Jackson
Dorothy bills her gallery as “The Most American of Paris Galleries.” Through Dorothy’s Gallery, she has found a way to provide young artists with a venue and with opportunities for their works to be seen. She is keenly aware that emerging artists have difficulty exposing their works and need and appreciate any opportunity to do so. To promote her artists, Dorothy hosts cultural roundtable events associated with the themes of the gallery’s expositions. These activities help increase the exposure of her artists and encourage discussion and debate that she hopes will open the minds of participants to new ideas and cultures.
Dorothy’s Gallery is a bright, airy, four-room space that is wonderfully suited for art exhibits. Toward the rear, Dorothy has a dedicated space for works of art that represent various aspects of U.S. culture. Works currently hanging in the “American Room” include several by French artists that portray “The King of Pop” Michael Jackson, as well as a beautiful portrait of Barack Obama and works representing Manhattan by French artist Emmanuelle Fèvre.
Dorothy is particularly proud to have a Henry Miller lithograph hanging in the American Room. Called Sarasota, this oeuvre was donated by Miller’s son, Henry Tony Miller, to be sold in support of the French non-profit association Les Amis de Beauford Delaney. Having already demonstrated her support for Les Amis by contributing to the foundation in the gallery’s name, Dorothy was pleased to help the association further by selling the work on its behalf. The lithograph has been sold, but the owner has graciously allowed her to display it in the American Room for an indefinite period of time.
photo (c) Discover Paris
Dorothy is quite active in the contemporary art scene in Paris. Her gallery participated in the 2010 Bastille Quartier Libre festival by hosting a Cajun music concert and an Afro-Brazilian dance performance. She also mounted an exposition in the subterranean Rotonde of the Espace Pierre Cardin for the Business Art Exposition held in October 2010 that presented a juxtaposition of contemporary and surrealist art.
Dorothy Polley and Kennedy
Dorothy and her Boston Terrier Kennedy are the perfect hosts for artistic and cultural exhibits and events. Dorothy is a completely open, gracious, and welcoming proprietor who takes the time to explain to visitors the background of her artists and the features of their works. Kennedy keeps a watchful, yet playful, eye on things as visitors browse and as business is conducted. Dorothy’s passion for her artists’ works, the care with which she mounts her expositions, and the architecture of her gallery space make Dorothy’s Gallery a refreshing and stimulating part of the cultural scene in Paris.
27, rue Keller
Telephone: 33 (0)1 43 57 08 51
Metro: Bastille or Voltaire
E-mail: [email protected]
Hours: Sunday and Tuesday – 4 PM to 7 PM
Wednesday through Saturday – 1 PM to 7 PM
and by appointment. Closed Mondays.
Monique Y. Wells is cofounder of Discover Paris!—Personalized Itineraries for Independent Travelers and a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of two books, numerous articles about Paris, the Entrée to Black Paris™ blog, and the Les Amis de Beauford Delaney blog.
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