Open air museums
The best open air museums in the capital for a dose of fresh air AND culture.
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.
50 artworks not to miss
Which key artworks on display in the city's museums and galleries tell the story of art in Paris?
Spring exhibitions in Paris
The best exhibitions on now, from Bowie to Velazquez
The best exhibitions on now
The best theatre on now
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.
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.
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.
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.
What’s on at...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.