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Contemporary French photographer Jean-Paul Goude, whose humourous and striking images have been part of Paris’ urban landscape for the last decade, has been honoured with his first retrospective in Paris -- Goudemalion -- showing at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs until 18 March 2012.

An artist who defies classification, Goude has worked in music, fashion, advertising and performing arts, and this diverse exhibition features a plethora of multi-media works -- drawings, sculptures, installations, films and of course photos -- spanning the last 40 years of the image-maker’s career.

Goude’s billboard campaign for the department store Galeries Lafayette, featuring vibrant and cheeky shots of Laetitia Casta or Iggy Pop, has been gracing the Paris metros since the turn of the 21st Century. But he played a lead role in contemporary Parisian folklore before that too. In 1989 he worked on the celebration to mark the bicentenary of the French Revolution. Goude created a fantastical scene, sending a steam train down the Champs Elysées, surrounded by a parade of people from around the world dressed in bold and bright costumes -- a colourful and multicultural celebration of contemporary France. The magic of the parade is reconstructed at Goudemalion, with a replica of the train as the centrepiece of the exhibition, encircled by sketches, photos and video screens detailing the event.

The title of the show, Goudemalion, refers to the myth of Pygmalion, the king who sculpted a statue that was then bought to life, and whom he proceeded to marry. In many of his pieces, Goude depicts a woman who is already full of life, but rather than turning her to stone, he enlivens her through his dynamic and zesty art. The artist displays his own subversive view of femininity by exaggerating and highlighting certain parts of the anatomy. For instance, his muse Grace Jones -- who is featured in many mediums throughout the exhibition - has a masculine, strong beauty that was seen by many as a somewhat grotesque figure until Goudemalion worked his magic in the 1970s. In Goude’s images of Jones, we see strong, sensual lines -- her straight neck being emphasised in one photo -- celebrating the power and difference of this pop music icon.

Goudemalion is a fun, dynamic and varied exhibition that explores the multi-media work of a charismatic artist who has played a key role in contemporary culture, both in Paris and further afield.

Kim Laidlaw Adrey is the Paris Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes unlockparis.blogspot.com.

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