Perhaps no other Montmartre venue has inspired as much interest, speculation, and historical reimagining as the Moulin Rouge, which opened in 1889 aspiring to be the most luxurious and exuberant nightclub in Paris. In addition to a dance hall and a cabaret, it offered salacious sideshows, fortune-tellers, clowns, and cancan dancers. The garden boasted trained monkeys, donkey rides, and an enormous papier-mâché elephant. The signature windmill out front alluded to Montmartre’s rural recent past. The Moulin Rouge created a social space where anything was possible: men and women drank and socialized openly, lovers could meet and cavort, and revelers could let loose, concealed by masks at parades and costume balls, as seen in The Dance at the Moulin Rouge.
Gallery label from The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and Posters, July 26, 2014–March 22, 2015.