Museums and art galleries in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Odéon and the Latin Quarter
The city's most prestigious fine arts school resides in what remains of the 17th-century Couvent des Petits-Augustins, the 18th-century Hôtel de Chimay, some 19th-century additions and some chunks of assorted French châteaux that were moved here after the Revolution (when the buildings briefly served as a museum of French monuments, before becoming the art school in 1816). The entrance is on quai Malaquais.
- 14 rue Bonaparte, 6e
This former electric substation was constructed in 1910 under the guidance of architect Paul Friesé, known for his numerous industrial-style buildings around Paris. Reconverted by EDF, the building has been used for exhibitions since 1990. The subjects reflect the various patronages received by EDF and often deal with the environment, urbanism or sustainable development.
- 6 rue Récamier, 7e
- Critics choice
After bursting on to the St-Germain art scene with shows by fashion photography crossovers David LaChapelle and Ellen von Unwerth and filmmaker Larry Clark, and introducing emerging artists Kader Attia and Adel Abdessemed, Mennour has confirmed his presence on the gallery scene with a move to these grand new premises in a hôtel particulier. Recent shows by an impressive cross-generational stable have included Daniel Buren, Claude Lévêque, France's representative at the 2009 Venice Biennale, and Huang Yong-Ping.
- 47 rue Saint-André des Arts, 6e
- Critics choice
Cistercian monks and young intellectuals from the University of Paris were trained here for several centuries. But times change and after the French Revolution the Collège des Bernardins became in turn a prison, a warehouse, then a fire station and police barracks. It was only in 2001 that the Parisian Diocese bought back this pearl of Gothic architecture, turning it into a place of dialogue, culture and contemplation. The sublime 13th century edifice, just steps from the Boulevard Saint-Germain, was completley renovated and opened its doors to the public in 2008. Contemporary art exhibitions, concerts, performances, debates, conferences, sociology courses and theology courses now take place behind the old stone façade, and the place can again fulfil its pedagogical, social and spiritual vocation.
- 20 rue de Poissy, 5e
- Price band: 1/4
The history of medicine is the subject of the medical faculty collection. There are ancient Egyptian embalming tools, a 1960s electrocardiograph and a gruesome array of saws used for amputations. You'll also find the instruments of Dr Antommarchi, who performed the autopsy on Napoleon, and the scalpel of Dr Félix, who operated on Louis XIV.
- Université René Descartes, 12 rue de l'Ecole de Médecine, 6e
- Price band: 2/4
More than 2,000 documents and letters give an insight into the lives of the great and the good, from Magritte to Mozart. Einstein arrives at the theory of relativity on notes scattered in authentic disorder, Baudelaire complains about his money problems in a letter to his mother, and HMS Northumberland's log-book records the day Napoleon boarded the ship to be taken to St Helena.
- 222 boulevard Saint-Germain, 6e
When it opened in 1750, this small museum was the first public gallery in France. Its current stewardship by the national museums and the French Senate has brought imaginative touches and some impressive coups, from Matisse collages to Arcimboldo portraits, Cranach and Cézanne, passing by Titian and Veronese. Book ahead to avoid queues.
- 19 rue de Vaugirard, 6e
If mineralogy seems like an obscure science to you, it’s well worth unravelling some of its mysteries at this surprising museum. Founded in 1783, the museum exhibits tens of thousands of minerals from around the world: thorianite from Madagascar, brazilianite from Brazil or even Francevillite from Gabon. Rocks, minerals, gemstones and other meteorites are classed according to their magmatic, scientific or chemical origin. This museum comes complete with a creaking parquet floor and a main hall with a charming view over the verdant Jardin du Luxembourg.
- 60 boulevard Saint-Michel, 6e
- Critics choice
Dina Vierny was 15 when she met Aristide Maillol (in the mid-1930s) and became his principal model for the next decade, idealised in such sculptures as Spring, Air and Harmony. In 1995 she opened this delightful museum, exhibiting Maillol's drawings, engravings, pastels, tapestry panels, ceramics and early Nabis-related paintings, as well as the sculptures and terracottas that epitomise his calm, modern classicism.Vierny also set up a Maillol Museum in the Pyrenean village of Banyuls-sur-Mer. This Paris venue also has works by Picasso, Rodin, Gauguin, Degas and Cézanne, a whole room of Matisse drawings, rare Surrealist documents and works by naïve artists.Vierny has also championed Kandinsky and Ilya Kabakov, whose Communal Kitchen installation recreates the atmosphere of Soviet domesticity. Monographic exhibitions are devoted to modern and contemporary artists. Last year saw a fascinating exhibition of death's heads from Caravaggio to Damien Hirst.
- 61 rue de Grenelle, 7e
- Critics choice
The national museum of medieval art is best known for the beautiful, allegorical Lady and the Unicorn tapestry cycle, but it also has important collections of medieval sculpture and enamels. There is also a worthy programme of medieval concerts in which troubadours reflect the museum's collection and occasional 45- minute heures musicales in a similar style. The building itself, commonly known as Cluny, is also a rare example of 15th-century secular Gothic architecture, with its foliate Gothic doorways, hexagonal staircase jutting out of the façade and vaulted chapel. It was built from 1485 to 1498 - on top of a Gallo-Roman baths complex. The baths, built in characteristic Roman bands of stone and brick masonry, are the finest Roman remains in Paris. The vaulted frigidarium (cold bath), tepidarium (warm bath), caldarium (hot bath) and part of the hypocaust heating system are all still visible. A themed garden fronts the whole complex. Recent acquisitions include the illuminated manuscript L'Ascension du Christ from the Abbey of Cluny, dating back to the 12th century, and the 16th-century triptych Assomption de la Vierge by Adrien Isenbrant of Bruges.
- 6 place Paul Painlevé, 5e
Interesting conceptual work in all media includes the likes of American provocateur Paul McCarthy, Turner Prize winner Keith Tyson and a clutch of French thirty- and fortysomethings, including Alain Bublex and Gilles Barbier, as well as veteran affichiste Jacques Villeglé.
- 36 rue de Seine, 6e
This is one of the most intimate museums in Paris, a rare peaceful, almost secret corner where you can also get a good dose of modern art. The former studio of Russian-born Cubist sculptor Ossip Zadkine was converted into a museum in 1932, and has always had a particular charm, conserving the spirit of the place where the sculptor and his wife, painter Valentine Prax, lived for more than 40 years. A renovation and re-opening in autumn 2012 has cemented and invigorated this success.The reception area is complete with a traditional samovar providing tea for visitors; beyond this is a procession of small light-filled rooms, all glass ceilings and dark wood floors, white walls and fittings. The sculptures in wood, stone, plaster and clay are given new life in this fresh new setting (particularly ‘Rebecca’, a large sculpture of a water-carrier that's bathed in natural light). There’s barely a wink to Valentine Prax, just a solitary canvas hung at the head of a staircase: Zadkine is the master of this place, dominated by his angular portraits, and women’s bodies carved out of tree trunks in African-inspired elliptical forms. Don’t miss the garden planted with stylised bronze statues (including the famous ‘Monument à la Ville détruite de Rotterdam’), to extend your experience of avant-garde Montparnasse which, in Zadkine’s time, was the haunt of Amedeo Modigliani, Blaise Cendrars and Arthur Miller.
- 100 bis rue d'Assas, 6e
- Critics choice
Loevenbruck has injected a dose of humour into St-Germain with artists - Virginie Barré, Bruno Peinado and Olivier Blankaert, and Philippe Mayaux - who treat conceptual concerns with a light touch and graphic talent. The gallery moved to new, larger premises at the end of 2010.
- 6 rue Jacques Callot, 6e
Liliane Vincy, daughter of the founder, is one of the few characters to retain something of the old St-Germain spirit and a sense of 1970s Fluxus-style happenings. Interesting theme and solo shows include master of the epigram Ben, as well as text-, music- and performance-related pieces.
- 47 rue de Seine, 6e
Fabienne Leclerc’s in situ gallery, in the 6th, consistently impresses with the quality of its installations from a set of highly individual artists, including Mark Dion, known for his interest in zoology and classification, Indian star Subodh Gupta, renowned for her monumental pieces (including towers of silver cooking pots), and video maestro Gary Hill. Much of what you see involves an element of ‘surprise’: in situ swears by sculpture, video art and installations, which create an array of weird, wonderful and often theatrical atmospheres as you wonder through the huge 2-floor space. Each new expo is an excuse for in situ to rethink the floor plans and create new dialogues between the artists, their artworks and the area they’re shown in.
- 6 rue du Pont de Lodi, 6e
The police museum is housed in a working commissariat, which makes for a slightly intimidating entry procedure. You need to walk boldly past the police officer standing guard outside and up the steps to the lobby, where you have to ask at the reception booth to be let in - queuing, if necessary, with locals there on other, but usually police-related, errands. The museum is on the second floor; start from the Accueil and work your way clockwise.None of the displays is labelled in English (though there is a bilingual booklet), and a handful are not labelled at all; but if you have basic French and any sort of interest in criminology, this extensive collection is well worth seeing. It starts in the early 17th century and runs to the Occupation, via the founding of the Préfecture de Police by Napoleon in 1800. Exhibits include a prison register open at the entry for Ravaillac, assassin of Henri IV; a section on the Anarchist bombings of the 1890s; the automatic pistol used to assassinate President Doumer in 1932; a blood-chilling collection of murder weapons - hammers, ice picks and knives; sections on serial killers Landru and Petiot; and less dangerous items, such as a gadget used to snag banknotes from the apron pockets of market sellers.
- 4 rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, 5e
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