Secret galleries in Paris

Time Out's guide to the best of Paris’s overlooked art

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  • Galerie Lumière des Roses

    © Galerie Lumière des Roses

    Galerie Lumière des Roses
  • Le Shakirail

    © Time Out Paris

    Le Shakirail
  • Les Eglises

    © DR

    Les Eglises
  • Chalet Society

    © Alex Dudok de Wit

    Chalet Society
  • La Galerie des AAB

    © Alex Dudok de Wit

    La Galerie des AAB
  • Musée Zadkine

    © TB - Time Out

    Musée Zadkine

Galerie Lumière des Roses

© Galerie Lumière des Roses

You could fit all six of these venues inside one wing of the Louvre; yet together they represent a vast cross-section of the capital’s alternative art scenes, ranging from street art to anonymous photography. It’s no coincidence that many of them are situated in squats or beyond the périph – in a city where space is at a premium and rent is through the roof, the suburbs and abandoned public buildings are often the only option for penurious artists. The result is that few people make it to these places, drawn instead to the massive marketing campaigns of the Musée d’Orsay or the Centre Pompidou. With this list, we hope to correct that. Read on to discover our six favourite galleries and museums overlooked by the crowds.

Secret galleries in Paris

Les Eglises - Centre d'art contemporain de la ville de Chelles

When two adjoining churches in Chelles were earmarked for demolition, the local council intervened, determined to convert them into a contemporary art venue. Franco-Hungarian designer Martin Szekely and urban landscaper Marc Barani were called in, and they transformed the site into a model of stark, austere beauty: stained-glass windows, a jasmine garden, bold architectural lines. It’s unique among arts centres in that it focuses on art that above all questions notions of territory (urban, architectural, or even historical). Opened in 2008, Les Églises boasts four exhibitions per year, with some performances, conferences and workshops sprinkled in for good measure.

  1. Rue Eterlet, 77500
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Le Shakirail

One of those semi-official squats seemingly always on the brink of closure, Le Shakirail has nevertheless found the time to flourish into one of the city’s most spirited contemporary art venues. This is thanks to the careful curation of Curry Vavart, the collective responsible for converting this former SNCF office into the artists’ residence that it is today. The sixty-odd habitants cover a wide range of disciplines between them: depending on the day, Le Shakirail’s sizeable rooms variously play host to fine art exhibitions, indie gigs, dance classes, experimental plays and themed film screenings, all delivered with the enthusiasm and professionalism that have come to define the collective’s projects around the city...

  1. 72 rue Riquet, 18e
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Galerie Lumière des Roses

‘I’m an amateur, and I intend to remain one. Look at amateurs, whose sole aim is to record a memory – that’s pure photography.’ This quote from legendary Hungarian photographer André Kertész adorns the website of the Galerie Lumière des Roses, serving as a sort of manifesto for the venue. The photos lining its walls are credited to nobody: we don’t know who took them, when, or where. Big-name artists and industry professionals don’t get a look in. The gallery is a shrine to the randomness, the spontaneity, with which moments in the lives of ordinary people happen to be recorded on camera...

  1. 12-14 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 93100
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Musée Zadkine

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...

  1. 100 bis rue d'Assas, 6e
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Chalet Society

The busiest of Parisian boulevards conceal the calmest of courtyards. From Wednesday to Sunday, an imposing green door on the Boulevard Raspail opens onto a dark passageway that leads to a spacious quad. There stands the Chalet Society art gallery, the brainchild of former Palais de Tokyo director Marc-Olivier Wahler – though its spiritual father, according to its website, is Saul Wahl Katzenellenbogen, the visionary 16th-century King of Poland and instigator of the concept of ‘poetic consciousness’. This term serves as the gallery’s watchword: only those who channel this consciousness – collectors and researchers as well as artists...

  1. 14 boulevard Raspail, 7e
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La Galerie des Ateliers d'Artistes de Belleville

The collective Les Ateliers d’Artistes de Belleville (AAB) is known above all for its annual Portes Ouvertes event, as part of which hundreds of artists based in and around Belleville open their workshops to the public for a few days in May. If the opportunity to see inside bohemian digs tends to overshadow the art on show, La Galerie des AAB, nestled right in the heart of the quartier, seeks to redress the imbalance with its year-round display of local artists’ works. Art produced by collectives based in Belleville is given priority, but this snug one-room gallery’s remit is otherwise fairly wide...

  1. 1 Rue Francis Picabia, 20e
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