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Modern and contemporary art museums

Challenge your perception of art

Amélie Dupont / Paris Tourist Office

Art galleries aren’t the only places to display cutting-edge art and photography these days: the city’s museums – big and small – offer some startling collections. From hard-hitting photography exhibitions at the Jeu de Paume, to offbeat multi-media installations at the Gaïté Lyrique, and modern art masterpieces at the Centre Pompidou, prepared to be wowed…

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)... 

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The Marais

La Gaîté Lyrique

19th-century composer Jacques Offenbach isn’t usually associated with cutting-edge digital art, but after a 10-year revamp, Offenbach’s former Belle Époque Gaïté Lyrique theatre has been turned into Paris’s first ever digital cultural centre - a 7 floor, multidisciplinary concert hall cum gallery that thrusts visitors deep into the realms of digital art, music, graphics, film, fashion, design and video games...

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3rd arrondissement

Espace Claude Berri

Claude Berri, who died in January 2009, was for many years best known as one of France's most successful film directors and producers - he directed the international arthouse hit Jean de Florette and produced France's second biggest box office success, Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis. But in 2008 the 74-year-old made a name for himself in another field, the world of contemporary art, when he opened the Espace Claude Berri - a showcase for exhibitions by up-and-coming talent... 

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The Marais

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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Montparnasse and south Paris

104 (Centquatre)

It's more than a century since Montmartre was the centre of artistic activity in Paris. But now the north of Paris is again where the action is - albeit a couple of kilometres east of place du Tertre, in a previously neglected area of bleak railway goods yards and dilapidated social housing. 104, described as a 'space for artistic creation', occupies a vast 19th-century building on the rue d'Aubervilliers that used to house Paris's municipal undertakers. The site was saved... 

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North-east Paris

Fondation Le Corbusier

Designed by Le Corbusier in 1923 for a Swiss art collector, this house shows the architect's ideas in practice, with its stilts, strip windows, roof terraces and balconies, built-in furniture and an unsuspected use of colour inside: sludge green, blue and pinky beige.A sculptural cylindrical staircase and split volumes create a variety of geometrical vistas; inside, Le Corbusier's own neo-Cubist paintings and furniture sit alongside pieces by Perriand... 

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Champs Élysées and western Paris

Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP)

Probably the capital's best photography exhibition space, hosting retrospectives by Larry Clark and Martine Barrat, along with work by emerging photographers. The building, an airy mansion with a modern extension, contains a huge permanent collection. The venue organises the biennial Mois de la Photo and the Art Outsiders festival of new media web art in September.

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The Marais

MAC/VAL

Opened just days after the 2005 banlieue riots ended, this contemporary art museum has earned a fearsome reputation for artistic savvy. Its collection offers a stunning snapshot of French art from 1950 to the present, including installations by Gilles Barbier, Jesús Rafael Soto and Christian Boltanski.

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Beyond the centre

Palais de Tokyo : Site de Création Contemporaine

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. Extended hours and a funky café have drawn a younger audience, and the roll-call of artists is impressive (Pierre Joseph, Wang Du and others)... 

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Champs Élysées and western Paris

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. The Jeu de Paume's smaller site is the former... 

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1st arrondissement
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More art in Paris

Contemporary art in the suburbs

Those who don't believe that contemporary art (think 'pretentious, highbrow, trendy, urban') and the suburbs ('rough, dodgy, uncultured, rude') could ever go hand in hand should pop over to the other side of the périphérique from time to time. In the last 20-odd years, between the narrow belt covered by the underground and the oh-so-distant terminuses of the RER lines, contemporary arts centres and galleries have been cropping up all over the place, each bolder... 

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By: Tania Brimson

Secret galleries

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... 

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Museums for kids

Families are well catered-for in Paris with dozens of museums offering regular kids’ activities as well as permanent collections that enthrall little and big minds alike. And if all else fails, there’s always Disneyland... Musée de la Poupée This small, private museum and doll hospital enchants little girls with its collection of some 500 dolls (mostly of French origin) and their accompanying accessories and pets, which are arranged in thematic tableaux... 

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50 artworks not to miss

You might also like Unmissable Museums Consider this your cultural bucket list: There is something so impressive, lovely or beautiful about each of these institutions that it would be a shame to miss out on any of them... The Louvre The world's largest museum is also its most visited, with an incredible 8.5 million visitors in 2009. It is a city within the city, a vast, multi-level maze of galleries, passageways, staircases and escalators. It's famous for the artistic glories it contains within... 

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Art deco Paris

After the First World War, architecture in Paris (like in other great cities across the world) turned away from the asymmetrical, sinuous forms of art nouveau, (made famous in Paris by architects like Hector Guimard, who designed the iconic Métro entrances) to embrace the angular, modernist and often symmetrical forms of cubism and neoclassicism. This aesthetic transformation reflected the nation's desire (during the Roaring Twenties and 1930s) to embrace modernity and leave... 

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Exploring Vitry-sur-Seine

Vitry-sur-Seine used to be a rough and ready banlieue - the largest town in Val de Marne (with some 85,000 inhabitants), famed for its social unrest, including riots. But don't be scared away: this unlikely slice of suburbia has cleaned up its act, and now makes for a fun, art-themed day out away from the pristine (and sometimes stuffy) offerings in central Paris. You'll find streets decorated with graffiti by (amongst others)...

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Paris Museum Pass

If you're visiting Paris and planning on cramming in as many museums and monuments as possible, the Paris Museum Pass is a good way to save both money and time. The pass offers direct access to 60 of Paris's most iconic sights, and allows you to skip past the long ticket queues. There are three available options: a 2-day pass for €42, 4 days for €56 or 6 days for €69; so whether you plan to visit the iconic Louvre, Musée d'Orsay and Pompidou Centre, or to take your time exploring the city's sites, there's an option for everyone. Passes can be purchased online, or at visitor centres, museums and shops all over the city.For more information, click here.

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