Art & Culture

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

Art

Summer exhibitions

The best art shows to see in Paris this summer

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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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Museums

Contemporary art museums

From hard-hitting photography exhibitions to offbeat multi-media installations.

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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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The best exhibitions on now

Art

Mona Hatoum: Faire corps

‘So much I want to say’ (1983) is the title of the video playing at the entrance to Mona Hatoum’s exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, in which she repeats the phrase on a loop, covering her mouth with her hands. But self-censure isn’t what this is about. Hatoum (a British artist of Palestinian origin) has many scathing things to say and isn’t about to hold back – her voice is rich in conceptual art references, highly politicized and often with a slightly dated tone that is nevertheless searingly honest. Whether she’s weaving solar systems into Persian carpets, playing butcher with offal, creating sculptures out of her own hair, inventing anti-military propaganda posters or making screens out of grated cheese, Hatoum is a battering ram, always heading in the same direction.Exile, racial inequality, war in the Middle East, surveillance, Capitalist cynicism and man’s dominion over man are the burning issues covered by the 50 or so pieces in this show. Autobiography is never far away either, Hatoum’s experience of exile instinctively infusing her work. From paradoxically simple video art to vast tapestries created in collaboration with Palestinian embroiderers living as refugees in Lebanon, Hatoum mixes contemporary art and activism, with one foot in the universe of the dispossessed while maintaining a strong voice in the world’s greatest galleries.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Art

Beauté Congo 1926-2015, Congo Kitoko

The Fondation Cartier often gives the impression of rushing its exhibits, creating chronologically flawed collections. First, it was 'América Latina', which boasted of bringing together an entire continent’s worth of photography from across half a century. This time, an account of 90 years of Congolese art history has been squashed into a handful of rooms, divided up by the dates 1920, 1947, 1978 and 2000. Mostly centered on painting, the over-ambitious exhibit doesn’t make life easy for itself by also attempting to bring in sculpture, music and photography. Rather, it comes across fragmented and chaotic. But ‘Beauté Congo’ still piques the interest. This area of African art, never really à la mode, has been largely ignored by museums and galleries – so the Fondation has a perfect subject in the gigantic Congo, with its vast and rich artistic tradition. Incorporating elements of advertising, fresco, caricatural art and comics, the ‘populaires’ painters of the late 1970s created heavily politicised works, often adding text to their works to really hammer home their message. The politically engaged and particularly in-your-face style of art takes in everything from colonisation and poverty to sex, boxing and the election of Barack Obama. Forays into other disciplines prove less successful for the Fondation. The parallel between music and painting set out on the ground floor is passable, but incursions into photography seem out of place next to the eye-catching sculptures of u

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Art

Felice Varini : La Villette en suites

Here, everything is a question of space, of finely calculated geometry, of bright colours.

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Chagall, Soulages, Benzaken... Le Vitrail contemporain

Finally, a platform for the stained-glass medium.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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The best theatre on now

Things to do

Quartier d'Eté festival

A fantastic summer programme of dance, theatre, concerts and circus.

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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.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Nightlife

Cirque d'Hiver Bouglione

This circus has been in the same family for decades. It now has a new façade to match its revamped interior, and crowds flock for its twice-yearly seasons (including the Winter Circus from October to March) which include tigers, horses and very silly clowns.

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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...

Users say
  • 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...

Users say
  • 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
Read more
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...

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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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.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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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

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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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.

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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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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