What is Nuit Blanche?

Time Out's introduction to twelve years of the groundbreaking all-night arts festival

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  • Nuit Blanche in pictures

    Click on the arrows above to see images from the previous 12 years of Nuit Blanche festivals. For more images, scroll down to view our extended slideshow.

    Above ‘
    Le Proverbe Turc’ by Erik Dietman, courtyard of the Hôtel d'Albret, rue des Francs-Bourgeois (Nuit Blanche 2006)

    Photo credit
    Marion Jardin

    Nuit Blanche in pictures
  • 2002

    The Mairie de Paris started a global trend when they launched the first Nuit Blanche in Paris – today, the festival has blossomed in places as far-flung as Tel Aviv and Brighton. 20,000 visitors flocked to the first edition in 2002, directed by Jean Blaise. The night aimed to be both popular and cutting edge, putting art at the centre of public experience for one long night. It worked.

    Above
    The crowds gather for Nuit Blanche

    Photo credit
    Sophie Robichon

  • 2003

    Directors Ami Barak, Pierre Bonigiovanni, Robert Fleck, Camille Morineau, Suzanne Pagé and Gérard Paquet invite cultural institutions and galleries to join forces with Nuit Blanche, and over 100 events result.

    Above Photographic projection at the Bourse du Commerce, by Keiichi Tahara and Miguel Chevalier (Nuit Blanche 2003)

    Photo credit Sophie Robichon

  • 2004

    Music becomes part of the festival this year, when artistic directors Ami Barak and Hou Hanru are joined by contemporary French composer Nicolas Frize and make soundscapes an important part of the audience’s interaction with their city.

    Above Dirty Sound System’s ‘Metropoolis (swinging pool)’ at Château Landon (Nuit Blanche 2004)

    Photo credit
    Gérard Sanz

  • 2005

    Jean Blaise returns and creates five themed trails around different regions of the city; he also clocks the huge potential of Nuit Blanche for all-night partying, and ropes in around 30 bars to officially stay open all night.

    Above The Sacré Coeur decked out for Nuit Blanche

    Photo credit Henri Garat

  • 2006

    For the fifth anniversary of the festival, directors Nicholas Bourriaud and Jérôme Sans extend festivities beyond the ring road for the first time.

    Above Laurent Grasso’s ‘Du Soleil Dans la Nuit’ (Nuit Blanche 2006)

    Photo credit Alexis Lancien

  • 2007

    Jérôme Delomas, now director of the Gaîté Lyrique, opens up Nuit Blanche to more live shows and performing arts, joined by Jean-Marie Songy, Director of the International Street Theatre Festival in Aurillac. Increasingly, the festival is a well-rounded celebration of culture.

    Above Artistic collective Carabosse set the Seine aglow with light shows and flames (Nuit Blanche 2007)

    Photo credit Alexis Lancien

  • 2008

    Hervé Chandès, General Director of the Cartier Foundation, and Roland Chammah, a film distributor and restorer, put cinema in the festival’s spotlight with a cinematic trail through on Paris’s great train stations.

    Above Patti Smith performs with Jesse and Jackson at the Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés (Nuit Blanche 2008)

    Photo credit Marc Verhille

  • 2009

    A team from cutting edge exhibition space MAC/VAL, Head Curator Alexia Fabre and Temporary Exhibitions Manager Frank Lamy place the 8th edition in huge parks Buttes Chaumont and Jardin de Luxembourg, as well as the Latin quarter.

    Above Michel de Broin’s installation ‘La Maitresse de la Tour Eiffel’ in the Jardin du Luxembourg (Nuit Blanche 2009)

    Photo credit Marc Verhille

  • 2010

    Martin Bethenod, who today directs the FIAC festival, takes Nuit Blanche to the Belleville region and Western Paris, from the Alma to the Trocadéro and the islands.

    Above Lang/Baumann’s huge fan-inflated tubes contort themselves on the façade of a primary school in Belleville (Nuit Blanche 2010)

    Photo credit Anne Thomes

  • 2011

    Mac/Val directors Alexia Fabre and Frank Lamy return after their 2009 debut to focus on the Paris of the Impressionists, the Romantics and the Modernists.

    Above Sigalit Landau’s installation ‘Barbed Salt Lamps’ at the Église Saint-Jean de Montmartre (Nuit Blanche 2011)

    Photo credit Sophie Robichon

Nuit Blanche in pictures

Click on the arrows above to see images from the previous 12 years of Nuit Blanche festivals. For more images, scroll down to view our extended slideshow.

Above ‘
Le Proverbe Turc’ by Erik Dietman, courtyard of the Hôtel d'Albret, rue des Francs-Bourgeois (Nuit Blanche 2006)

Photo credit
Marion Jardin

Twelve years of Nuit Blanche

Transportable City (2000-2002), Los Carpinteros (Nuit Blanche 2006)

Transportable City (2000-2002), Los Carpinteros (Nuit Blanche 2006) Marc Verhille


Bertrand Delanoë, Mayor of Paris since 2001 and one of the first openly gay politicians in France, is well known for enlivening the city with a series of imaginative innovations. His municipal bike scheme Vélib' has spawned imitators worldwide, and he also brought the Seine in summer back to life when he founded the Paris Plages scheme in 2002. On the artistic scene, his inauguration of Nuit Blanche, a festival of arts and culture that stretches from 7pm to 7am on the first Saturday of every October, has also found favour worldwide. In the 12 years of its history, the concept has extended to 10 other locations in Europe and seven elsewhere in the world, from Buenos Aires to Kyoto.

Nuit Blanche's spirit has always been about showing Paris off in new and original ways, surprising even its intimates with novel ways of presenting and interacting with well-known locations all over the city. It even changes directors and locations every year. It's become the unmissable event of the autumn calendar, attracting around 80,000 spectators and turning landmarks as diverse as the Eiffel Tower and the Institut du Monde Arabe into shocking, humorous, beautiful or bizarre spectacles from artists, musicians and performers ranging from Michel Blazy to Patti Smith. It's a huge, joyous occasion that brings all sorts of Parisians together and that is an absolutely unique opportunity to get to know the city through the lenses of fantastic talents from around the world.

The slideshow below offers an extended selection of images from the festival's 12-year history.

  • Click on the arrows above to view more images from Nuit Blanche's 12-year history.

    Above Yves Klein lights up monuments in the Place de la Concorde (Nuit Blanche 2006)

    Picture credit Mélanie Conet

  • Noble steed Bruno Peinado's 'Ride Like Lighting', a Trojan horse installed at the Crédit Municipal (Nuit Blanche 2004)

    Photo credit Sandie Carol-Dougnac

  • Poolness Part of Dirty Sound System’s ‘Metropoolis (swinging pool)’ at Château Landon, which included a giant inflatable running shoe (Nuit Blanche 2004)

    Photo credit Gérard Sanz

  • Feed your need Subodh Gupta's 'Very Hungry God' at the Église Saint-Bernard (Nuit Blanche 2006)

    Photo credit Alexis Lancien

  • Afrodiziak? Aphrozidiaque? Pascale-Marthine Tayou's 'Pik Nik Afrodisiaque' on the boulevard Masséna (Nuit Blanche 2006)

    Photo credit Marc Verhille

  • Crowned Philippe Perrin's 'Heaven' sculpture at the Église Saint-Eustache (Nuit Blanche 2006)

    Photo credit Arnaud Terrier

  • Blinding A child plays in Caty Olive's 'Regards Opaques' on the rue de Tolbiac (Nuit Blanche 2007)

    Photo credit Arnaud Terrier

  • Found in the woods Anders Johansson's 'Forêt Diaphane' at the Swedish Cultural Centre (Nuit Blanche 2008)

    Photo credit Sophie Robichon

  • Neonsense Michelangelo Pistoletto lights up the Hôtel de Ville with signs insisting we aimer les différences (Nuit Blanche 2010)

    Photo credit Anne Thomes

  • Name in lights Nicolas Milh's 'Respublica' installation (Nuit Blanche 2008)

    Photo credit Henri Garat

  • City of fright The corridors of the Lycée Jacques Decour are taken over by Carlos Amorales’s 'Black Cloud', made up of 30,000 black paper butterflies (Nuit Blanche 2011)

    Photo credit Déborah Lesage

  • Snip snip A live performance from video artist Sachiko Abe, ‘Cut Paper’ (Nuit Blanche 2011)

    Photo credit Jean-Baptiste Gurliat

Click on the arrows above to view more images from Nuit Blanche's 12-year history.

Above Yves Klein lights up monuments in the Place de la Concorde (Nuit Blanche 2006)

Picture credit Mélanie Conet

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