Audi's sunglasses and matching chrome case
courtesy of Audu rue Royale
Très smart !
by Georgina Oliver

In these troubled, troubling times — with talk of an economic downswing affecting everything from airlines to advertising and the art market — Paris appears determined to stay in the fast lane. Despite widespread self-questioning, notably vis-à-vis the validity of fad-conscious, newfangled fields of activity, with a high style or high tech ring to them... Finally, high gear hyper-creativity has come to be considered as a form of resistance.

Smart or Mini?
European vehicle manufacturers have created a variety of chic, pint-sized urban models. Mercedes started the ball rolling with the semi-automatic Smart — “as comfortable as a real car upfront,” according to American automotive journalist-in-Paris William Diem, “yet, in the back, there’s nothing behind you.” Hot on its heels followed a string of nippy, zippy re-editions, notably Volkswagen’s New Beetle and BMW’s très “Swinging London” Mini — “outsmarted” by an “agnès b.” version of the Smart with the clothes designer’s signature stylishly squiggled on it... This City Coupé’s slogan? “!”

Libertydrive Ads
The latest ad fad? Drive a Smart all over town for just one franc a month, courtesy of Libertydrive. This start-up started “renting” what Eurostar magazine has called “sandwich cars,” to Parisians — willing to clock up at least 700km par mois, with an advertisement placarded on their coachwork... Now, it’s in the process of extending the scheme to Brussels and London.

Audi Bijou
Last month Audi unveiled its “nouveau bijou” — the “TT Le Mans,” a limited edition of its Roadster series, launched to celebrate the make’s second successive victory in France's famed 24-hour rally. Till November 15, this VIP auto will be on display at Audi's rue Royale “forum” which proposes a collection of swanky sportswear and brand products — ranging from chrome shades with matching sheath-like case, to... pedal-driven “Mini Karts” for kiddies.

Smart Chocolates
Candy is just for kids — Right? Wrong! Unmissable on children’s television, the multicolored cartoon advertising “Smarties — smart chocolates,” the story of a sweltering chocky who escapes from a sticky fate via sugar-coated Smartiesland... is as much fun as any animation series.
Meanwhile, at the Carrousel du Louvre
(19 rue de Rivoli, 1er, M° Palais-Royal), the Salon du Chocolat (Oct 31 to Nov 4, pre-reservations: attracts all manner of choc freaks, from candy-struck tykes to connoisseurs. The opening night is chockablock with fashionistas elbowing their way through to its annual haute couture benefit consisting of catwalk stunners made of... chocolate.

Black Velvet
Black used to be the prerogative of a style-conscious clique — notably fashion editors keen “not to compete” with the outlandish outfits in the collections they covered. Now, shop windows everywhere showcase “Men in Black” and glitzy updates of the classic “little black dress.” In association with, the Printemps department store kickstarted the trend with an expo of “Ultra Noir” designer gear (Mugler, Dior, Tom Ford for YSL...), co-highlighting experimental artists and video-makers with a somber “palette.” The event’s sponsor? Coral Black Velvet, a terriblement trendy marble white liquid — packaged in a dead sophisticated black-labeled bottle — that washes black garb blacker.

Wanna Buy?
“Faut-il encore acheter de l’art?” blared the cover of a post-September 11 edition of weekly city mag Zurban, featuring maverick French artist Ben's “trademark” loopy white script on a black background. Should we still be buying art? That’s a provoking question... Yet, the crowds at this fall’s main visual arts fairs (from FIAC to its breakaway counterpart Art Paris), certainly indicated “renewed demand.” Still. if “seeing is believing” — .“seeing” ain’t necessarily buying...

Sm’art Gallery
Run by two enterprising Americans, Judy Cassou and Esther Viros, the Carlin contemporary craft gallery (93 rue de Seine, 6e, M° Mabillon, tel: 01 44 07 39 54) proffered an ultra-selective ensemble of ceramics, wood and precious metal at Sm’art — the design section of Art Paris — which spotlighted ’50s to present-century furniture and objects... Their motives for participating despite the art market’s current uncertainties? “It was a huge investment and... just now, nobody knows quite what they should be doing — But, we believe in our artists and their work!”

Art Ventures
Self-starting arts entrepreneurs inspire rapper-style “respect.” Beyond word-class wheeler-dealers like Daniel Templon whose rue Beaubourg gallery concentrates on mainstream figures — this month, installations by Tunga, a flamboyant Brazilian (also at the Jeu de Paume, till November 15), brave, new artist-run ventures are constantly being launched.... For instance, Console — a multimedia space set up in a disused factory. (14 rue de la Folie Régnault, 11e, tel: 01 43 56 28 22)

Indie Spirit
At Les Halles, the 7th edition of the Forum des Images’ “Rencontres internationales de cinéma à Paris” has scheduled “Portraits d'Amérique 2001,” an exclusive program of stateside “indie movies” combined with a tribute to independent filmmaker Christopher Munch. His first success? “The Hours and Times,” a “short” focusing on John Lennon and Beatles manager Brian Epstein.
(To Nov 11, Porte Saint-Eustache, 1er, infoline: 01 44 76 62 00)

Irma La Douce
Among French cinema’s smartest young actresses — the winner of last year’s Romy Schneider prize — Clothilde Courau stars in “Irma la douce,” Jérôme Savary's fresh challenge as director of the Opéra Comique. First staged at the Palais de Chaillot, this zestfully “sexy Paree” musical promises to be a holiday hit, in tandem with its eponymous CD. (Box-office: 0 825

Peter Shires Memphis divan shown at the SM'ART design fair in Paris' Antiquités du Futur Gallery
courtesy of SM'ART

courtesy of Salon du Chocolat / Event International

Smart's latest "agnés b." limited edition
courtesy of Dingo