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Music, Film & Digital Art

Get to grips with the museums that mix art, music and technology...

© Oliver Knight / TOP

If you’re into technology, music and film, this spattering of addresses will tick your boxes - from cutting-edge cinema retrospectives at the Cinémathèque Française, to boundary-pushing digital art at the Gaïté-Lyrique.


The underground bunker next to the Centre Pompidou, set up in 1969 by the avant-garde composer Pierre Boulez to create electronic microtonal music for the new century, is looking less redundant nowadays with a full programme of courses and conferences. Not many concerts take place in the building itself, but IRCAM sponsors concerts with a modernist theme across the city. See the website for concert venues, and details of courses.

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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.
It’s not the first time the building has undergone transformation: After being a haut-lieu of operetta and Russian ballet, it was pillaged by the Nazis, only to become a circus school in the 1970s and a mini theme park in the 1980s. But this time its interior, which combines the original Belle Epoque foyer with starkly modern spaces signed architect Manuelle Gautrand, is set to become a permanent fixture on the city’s cultural scene. Its programme explores the relatively unchartered territory of digital art, and the role of technology in artistic expression with electronic music concerts by cutting-edge acts; live multimedia performances; guest appearances by famous international artists and DJs; and film projections. You can even just pop into the funky surroundings for a decent cup of coffee and a flit through the magazines.

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3rd arrondissement

Musée de la Musique

Alongside the concert hall, this innovative music museum houses a gleamingly restored collection of instruments from the old Conservatoire, interactive computers and scale models of opera houses and concert halls. Visitors are supplied with an audio guide in a choice of languages, and the musical commentary is a joy, playing the appropriate instrument as you approach each exhibit. Alongside the trumpeting brass, curly woodwind instruments and precious strings are more unusual items, such as the Indonesian gamelan orchestra, whose sounds influenced the work of Debussy and Ravel. Concerts in the amphitheatre use instruments from the collection.

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North of the centre

Le Grand Rex

Opened in 1932, this huge art deco cinema was designed by Auguste Bluysen and its fantasy Hispanic interiors by US designer John Eberson. With its wedding-cake exterior, fairy-tale interior and the largest auditorium in Europe (2,650 seats), this listed historical monument is one of the few cinemas to upstage whatever it screens. Its blockbuster programming (usually in French) is suited to its vast screen; it also hosts concerts and rowdy all-night compilation events. Go behind the scenes in the crazy 50-minute guided tour (Etoiles du Rex), which includes a presentation about the construction of the auditorium and a visit to the production room, complete with nerve-jolting Sensurround effects.

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Les Halles

La Cinémathèque Française

Relocated to Frank Gehry's striking, spacious cubist building, the Cinémathèque Française now boasts four screens, a bookshop, a restaurant, exhibition space and the Musée du Cinéma, where it displays a fraction of its huge collection of movie memorabilia. In the spirit of its founder Henri Langlois, the Cinémathèque hosts retrospectives, cult movies, classics, experimental cinema and Q&A sessions.

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Eastern Paris

Forum des Images

Partly a screening venue for old and little-known movies, and partly an archive for every kind of film featuring Paris. Today the Forum's collection numbers over 6,500 documentaries, adverts, newsreels and films, from the work of the Lumière brothers to 21st-century reportage. They have all been painstakingly digitised.

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Les Halles

Musée de l'Opéra

The Palais Garnier houses temporary exhibitions relating to current opera or ballet productions, along with a permanent collection of paintings, scores and bijou opera sets housed in period cases. The entrance fee includes a visit to the auditorium, if rehearsals permit.

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Centre Pompidou (cinema)

The varied programme here features themed series, experimental and artists' films, and a weekly documentary session. This is also the venue for the Cinéma du Réel festival in March (www.cinereel.org).

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The Marais