Art & Culture

Art and stage reviews and listings for Paris’s best museum exhibitions, theatres and art galleries

Art

Salon de Montrouge 2015

It might be celebrating its 60th birthday, but art fair Salon de Montrouge is still as fresh as a daisy. 

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Museums

Open air museums

The best open air museums in the capital for a dose of fresh air AND culture.

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Art

Secret galleries in Paris

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.

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Museums

50 artworks not to miss

Which key artworks on display in the city's museums and galleries tell the story of art in Paris?

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Art

Spring exhibitions in Paris

The best exhibitions on now, from Bowie to Velazquez

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The best exhibitions on now

Art

Velázquez

For some, he was the best painter who ever lived.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Art

Le Corbusier: Mesures de l’Homme

Brings home the influence that the great man has over our living environments even today. 

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  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Mannequin d'artiste, mannequin fétiche

How the mannequin has served art and fashion over the centuries.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Art

Les Clefs d'une passion

Abeautiful collection of iconic works from the first half of the 20th century.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Art

Sergey Ponomarev : Effondrements

Sergey Ponomarev is a war photographer, but not the sort you’d expect. There are no fighter jets, no uniformed soldiers, no weapons or armoured tanks here...

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  • 3 out of 5 stars
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The best theatre on now

Theatre

Biennale internationale des Arts de la Marionnette

The 'International Puppet Festival' reminds us that these mobile dolls aren't just for children, but form an entire creative field of their own. Going far beyond simple entertainment, the Biennale's forum invites visitors to discover puppet shows large and small, inside and in the open air, peopled by puppets or objects or images from elsewhere, with dramatic themes ranging from the tragic to the comic. The festival's first week is located at the Théatre du Mouffetard in the 5th arrondissement before going on tour around France. Standout acts include the American production 'Dogugaeshi' by Basil Twist, a surreal Belgian show using found objects 'La Trilogie des Polinchineurs', and even a Puppet Porno Show. For the full programme click here.

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Nightlife

Semianyki Express

For those unschooled in Putin's mother tongue: 'semianyki' is the Russian word for 'family'. Indeed, this posse of zanily attired clowns is a family of sorts, united by a common sartorial eccentricity and taste for the absurd. Founded in 2002 at St Petersburg's Teatr Licedei (the fulcrum of Soviet theatre), the troupe have spent more than a decade honing their bombastic comic routine; after the runaway success of their show 'La Famille Semianyki', they return to the stage with 'Semianyki Express'. Prepare to crack up.

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Theatre

Lear Dreaming

Ong Keng Sen has been haunted by Shakespeare's ghost for some time now. Since the late ’90s, the Singaporean director has staged a string of plays that offer strange, oneiric reimaginings of the Bard's works; his latest, 'Lear Dreaming', is no exception. Half-sung, half-spoken, and all delivered in an alphabet soup of East Asian languages (Indonesian, Japanese, Korean and Mandarin all feature; subtitles in French), this version of 'King Lear' is more gamelan than Globe – though going by Ong's canon, it should remain faithful to the complex themes at the heart of the play.

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Dance

L'Anatomie de la Sensation pour Francis Bacon

Seeking to match the expressivity of Francis Bacon's paintings in dance, English choreography prodigy Wayne McGregor has tried to recreate the tensions, fractures and contradictions of human bodies. McGregor has experimented with these ideas already in ‘Genus’, a piece about Darwin’s discoveries – this time, it’s the textures and patterns of painting which inspire the dancers’ moves. The soundtrack is based on the Mark Anthony Turnage track ‘Blood on the Floor’, itself inspired by a Bacon painting. Alternating between rock‘n’roll and jazz rhythms, the Ensemble Incontemporain and a selection of jazz soloists animate the almost acrobatic movements of the dancers, full of unique gestural elements. In search of new movements and the limits imposed by the human body, McGregor turns each of his shows into an initiation for the artists as much as for the public.

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Music

Palais Garnier

The Palais Garnier is a monument to Second Empire high society. The comfortably upholstered auditorium seats more than 2,000 people - and the exterior is just as opulent, with sculptures of music and dance on the façade, Apollo topping the copper dome, and nymphs bearing torches. Carpeaux's sculpture La Danse shocked Parisians with its frank sensuality: in 1869, someone threw a bottle of ink over its marble thighs. The original is now safe in the Musée d'Orsay, where there's also a massive scale model of the building. The Grand Foyer, with its mirrors and parquet, coloured marble, moulded stucco, sculptures and paintings by Baudry, have all been magnificently restored. You can also visit the Grand Escalier, the auditorium with a false ceiling painted by Chagall in 1964, red satin and velvet boxes, and the library and museum - it was once the emperor's private salons, where he could arrive directly by carriage on the ramp at the rear of the building.  The Ballet de l'Opéra National de Paris manages to tread successfully between classics and new productions, between the Opéra Bastille and the lavish Palais Garnier. To illustrate this, highlights in 2011 include Prokofiev's classic Romeo and Juliet, and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker's 2001 Rain.

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What’s on at...

Museums

The Louvre

Read Time Out's review of The Louvre below or click here for our exclusive photo tour of the museum. The world's largest museum is also its most visited, with an incredible 8.8 million visitors in 2011. It is a city within the city, a vast, multi-level maze of galleries, passageways, staircases and escalators...

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Museums

Musée d'Orsay

The Musée d'Orsay, originally a train station designed by Victor Laloux in 1900, houses a huge collection spanning the period between 1848 and 1914, and is home to a profusion of works by Delacroix, Corot, Manet, Renoir, Pissarro, Gauguin, Monet, Caillebotte, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and others...

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Music

Palais Garnier

The Palais Garnier is a monument to Second Empire high society. The comfortably upholstered auditorium seats more than 2,000 people - and the exterior is just as opulent, with sculptures of music and dance on the façade, Apollo topping the copper dome, and nymphs bearing torches...

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Museums

Palais de Tokyo

When it opened in 2002, many thought the Palais' stripped-back interior was a design statement. In fact, it was a response to tight finances. The 1937 building has now come into its own as an open-plan space with a skylit central hall, hosting exhibitions and performances...

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Museums

Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais

Built for the 1900 Exposition Universelle, the Grand Palais was the work of three different architects, each of whom designed a façade. During World War II it accommodated Nazi tanks. In 1994 the magnificent glass-roofed central hall was closed when bits of metal started falling off, although exhibitions continued to be held in the other wings. After major restoration, the Palais reopened in 2005.

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Museums

MC93 Bobigny

Once you’ve navigated Métro line 5, it’s a good few-minutes walk to the Maison de la culture de Bobigny (MC 93), but it’s worth the effort – especially if you’ve come for the winter Standard Ideal festival. Introduced in 2004 it brings the cream of European directors to Bobigny, showcasing international shows from countries such as Hungary, Germany, the UK and Italy (often in the original language). During the festival you’ll also find the ‘Atelier des 200’ workshop, which see 200 amateur performers go behind the scenes for acting tips from the season’s directors. The MC 93 is a crowd pleaser the rest of the year too, with a wide-ranging programme that frequently includes Shakespeare, Chekov, works by contemporary playwrights and even opera.

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Theatre

La Loge

In a hidden courtyard (reminiscent of Swiss chalets) off rue de Charonne, the 100-seater La Loge offers performances that merge theatre, dance and music.  Every summer, the “Summer of Loge” festival invites eight theatre companies for performances, followed by post-show festivities that have previously included pyjama parties and concerts. The rest of the year, from Tuesday to Thursday, there are two shows a night, at 7pm and at 9pm.

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Museums

Musée de l'Orangerie

The reopening of this Monet showcase a few years ago means the Orangerie is now firmly back on the tourist radar: expect long queues. The look is utilitarian and fuss-free, with the museum's eight, tapestry-sized Nymphéas (water lilies) paintings housed in two plain oval rooms. They provide a simple backdrop for the astonishing, ethereal romanticism of Monet's works, painted late in his life. Depicting Monet's 'jardin d'eau' at his house in Giverny, the tableaux have an intense, dreamy quality - partly reflecting the artist's absorption in the private world of his garden. Downstairs, the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collection of Impressionism and the Ecole de Paris is a mixed bag of sweet-toothed Cézanne and Renoir portraits, along with works by Modigliani, Rousseau, Matisse, Picasso and Derain.

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Museums

The Centre Pompidou

The primary colours, exposed pipes and air ducts make the Centre Pompidou one of the best-known sights in Paris. The then-unknown Italo-British architectural duo of Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers won the competition with their 'inside-out' boilerhouse approach, which put air-conditioning, pipes, lifts and the escalators on the outside, leaving an adaptable space within. The multi-disciplinary concept of modern art museum (the most important in Europe), library, exhibition and performance spaces, and repertory cinema was also revolutionary.When the centre opened in 1977, its success exceeded all expectations. After a two-year revamp, the centre reopened in 2000 with an enlarged museum, renewed performance spaces, vista-rich Georges restaurant and a mission to get back to the stimulating interdisciplinary mix of old. Entrance to the forum is free (as is the library, which has a separate entrance), but you now have to pay to go up the escalators.The Centre Pompidou (or 'Beaubourg') holds the largest collection of modern art in Europe, rivalled only in its breadth and quality by MoMA in New York. Sample the contents of its vaults (50,000 works of art by 5,000 artists) on the website, as only a fraction - about 600 works - can be seen for real at any one time. There is a partial rehang each year.For the main collection, buy tickets on the ground floor and take the escalators to level four for post-1960s art. Level five spans 1905 to 1960. There are four temporary exhibition spaces

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Theatre

Théâtre de la Ville

Programming in this vertiginous concrete amphitheatre, hidden behind a classical façade, features hip chamber music outfits such as the Kronos and Takács Quartets and Early Music pioneer Fabio Biondi. The agenda for 2011 includes Vertical Road, a new piece by Akram Khan, as well as an adaptation of Jean Genet's Le Funambule, choreographed and performed by Angelin Preljocaj. The season spills over to sister venue Théâtre des Abbesses (31 rue des Abbesses, 18th), and between the two sties the 'City Theatre' turns out the most consistently innovative performances in Paris.

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Musée Picasso

Finally, after many years of building works, the Musée Picasso re-opened its doors on October 25 2014 – once again, the people of Paris can enjoy masterpieces such as La Celestina, The Suppliant or Portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter. Set in the great 17th century Hôtel Salé in the heart of the historic Marais area, Picasso’s masterpieces hang on the walls of bright, spacious exhibition rooms. First opened 29 years ago, the Musée Picasso is one of the city’s most precious and prestigious institutions – now that it's finally re-opened, it feels like the Parisian art scene is back on track.  That said, after five years of expensive and controversial building works, the venue falls a little short of the innovative modern museum that was promised. This museum holds the largest collection in the world of Picasso’s masterpieces, and yet they are haphazardly exhibited, following no particular chronology or themes. There's a lack of historical and political analyses, depriving visitors of a useful framework in which to grasp the agenda of the 20th century avant-garde artist. Although it is interesting to view Picasso’s work independent of other references, it's a shame not to have made the experience more cohesive.   

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Museums

Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme

It's fitting that a museum of Judaism should be lodged in one of the grandest mansions of the Marais, for centuries the epicentre of local Jewish life. It sprung from the collection of a private association formed in 1948 to safeguard Jewish heritage after the Holocaust. Pick up a free audio-guide in English to help you navigate through displays illustrating ceremonies, rites and learning, and showing how styles were adapted across the globe through examples of Jewish decorative arts. Photographic portraits of modern French Jews, each of whom tells his or her own story on the audio soundtrack, bring a contemporary edge. There are documents and paintings relating to the emancipation of French Jewry after the Revolution and the infamous Dreyfus case, from Zola's J'Accuse! to anti-Semitic cartoons. Paintings by the early 20th-century avant-garde include works by El Lissitsky and Chagall. The Holocaust is marked by Boris Taslitzky's stark sketches from Buchenwald and Christian Boltanski's courtyard memorial to the Jews who lived in the building in 1939, 13 of whom died in the camps.

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Museums

La Maison Rouge

Founded by collector Antoine de Galberg, and set in a former printworks, the Red House is an independently run space that alternates monographic shows of contemporary artists' work with pieces from different private art collections.

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Art

Fondation Louis Vuitton

The Fondation Louis Vuitton modern art gallery opened in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris’s second largest public park, in October 2014. Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the impressive new space plays host to Louis Vuitton Group CEO Bernard Arnault’s art collection.  Visually stunning, the FLV is shell-shaped and made up of twelve glass sails that soar above the park's greenery. Inside is a huge auditorium and 3,850m2 of exhibition space divided into eleven galleries; comparatively modest next to Gehry’s Guggenheim museum in Bilbao. Skeptics see this new building as an excessive expense on the Louis Vuitton Group’s part: A trophy rather than an innovative art gallery that simply goes to show the luxury goods industry’s hold over modern art. The gallery is pointedly located in the wealthy outskirts of Paris, and you won't find any new young talents on the program – Bernault’s philanthropy is more likely to boost his artistic investments rather than lend a hand to struggling artists.   Nonetheless, this grandiose modern art gallery will excel where it intends to: welcoming the celebrities of contemporary art to its walls. While it may not revolutionise our cultural landscape, it should enable Paris to see some of the world's greatest works of art in a beautiful setting. 

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Museums

Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain

Jean Nouvel's glass and steel building, an exhibition centre with Cartier's offices above, is as much a work of art as the installations inside. Shows by artists and photographers often have wide-ranging themes, such as 'Birds' or 'Desert'. Live events around the shows are called Nuits Nomades.

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Museums

Jeu de Paume

The Centre National de la Photographie moved into this site in 2005. The building, which once served as a tennis court, has been divided into two white, almost hangar-like galleries. It is not an intimate space, but it works well for showcase retrospectives. A video art and cinema suite in the basement shows new digital installation work, as well as feature-length films made by artists. There's also a sleek café and a decent bookshop.

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