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Strolling the streets of Manhattan about a year ago, Vahram Muratyan, a Paris-based graphic designer, wondered why it was that being in New York made him miss Paris, and being in Paris made him long for New York.
To try to pinpoint his pining, he kept track of the differences and similarities between Gotham and the City of Light. Rather than photograph the objects that define each metropolis, Muratyan started a sketch a day for family and friends back home, and the inevitable “Paris versus New York” blog was born.
“I started to ask myself, ‘What are the everyday items that I want to keep in my head or that I will miss when I am away?’ ” Muratyan said. “I was 30 years old, and I was having my crisis, but it was a positive one.”
So much so that “Paris versus New York: A Tally of Two Cities” (Penguin $20) is now a book that will debut at a Feb. 2 signing by the author and an exhibition opening at The Shop at The Standard hotel. Described as “a friendly visual match between two cities told by a lover of Paris wandering through New York,” the compact, colorful book depicts all sorts of details, clichés and contradictions — the baguette versus the bagel, Grand Palais versus Grand Central, Quasimodo versus King Kong, cancan versus Gaga.
Prints of some of those images have been sold through Colette in Paris. A graphic design teacher at the acclaimed ESAG Penninghen school, Muratyan has also earned his keep freelancing for clients such as Arte, Chanel, Le Monde’s M magazine and Galerie de l’Opéra de Paris. “People always say there is never the time to read a book or to do something on your own. I just kept dreaming in my sketchbook, which is something I used to do a lot of. I always hoped people would see my work as art,” he said. “I decided to do an image per day on my blog as a way to keep that dream alive.”
Muratyan, who was born in Paris and grew up not far from Versailles, will be back in Manhattan in a few weeks for an extended stay. With an apartment in Hell’s Kitchen and a bicycle for transportation, he is eager to catch a few Broadway shows, the opera, Chelsea galleries, a fashion show or two and hopefully some new culinary finds. Digging up a little business will also be part of his itinerary. “I try to be as much as I can in both cities,” he said.
Muratyan, who has several top-shelf fashion clients that he declined to name, said, “You have the seven arts, and some say cinema is the eighth one. I think the ninth should be comic books, and fashion belongs there, too. When I was a teenager, Madonna was always changing her look. Now, with Twitter, a person has to change every hour in a way. When I was watching Lady Gaga perform on New Year’s Eve, even though she was changing, it was like a cancan of her personality. It’s not fashion anymore. It is something that is always evolving.”
He hopes that short films, documentaries and ultimately feature films will be part of his repertoire eventually. “I don’t want to stop with illustrations. I feel I have a lot to say and today there are so many forms of visual communications. I am not into one thing,” he said.