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Modern and contemporary art museums in Paris

Challenge your perception of art at Paris’s best modern art, contemporary art and photography museums

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…

Recommended: Contemporary art in the suburbs

The best modern art, contemporary art and photography museums in Paris

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

Critics' choice

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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