Summer exhibitions in Paris

Our pick of the best art shows in the French capital this summer, from American photographer Walker Evans to huge Hockney and Christian Dior retrospectives

With all the ice cream to eat and parks to play in, sometimes art can come low on a summer list of things to do in Paris. But it shouldn’t. As always in Paris, there’s an exceptional line-up of big-hitting exhibitions and smaller shows in galleries across the city – unmissable for art lovers, ideal for anyone on greyer days. Discover new galleries, new artists, and probably have a good few coffees or a bit of window-shopping on your way.

So read on for our selection of the best summer exhibitions in Paris. And have a ball!

The best art shows and exhibitions in Paris this summer

Dior, Balenciaga, Balmain: Mark Shaw archive at Galerie MR14
Art

Dior, Balenciaga, Balmain: Mark Shaw archive at Galerie MR14

The Melissa Regan Agency, in partnership with the Mark Shaw photographic archive, presents the first of a series of photographic expositions of Mark Shaw’s fashion-based work. Mark Shaw (1921-1969) was an American photographer, chiefly known for his photos of the Kennedy family; as well as numarous portraits in Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Life Magazine, Mademoiselle... 

RECOMMENDED: Our review of the Paris Museum Pass

Visiting in August? These museums are open

The Centre Pompidou

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), library, exhibition and performance spaces, and repertory cinema was also revolutionary...

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Musée des Arts Décoratifs

Musée des Arts Décoratifs

Taken as a whole (along with the Musée de la Mode et du Textile and Musée de la Publicité), this is one of the world's major collections of design and the decorative arts. Located in the west wing of the Louvre since its opening a century ago, the venue reopened in 2006 after a decade-long, €35-million restoration of the building and of 6,000 of the 150,000 items donated mainly by private collectors. The major focus here is French furniture and tableware. From extravagant carpets to delicate crystal and porcelain, there is much to admire. Clever spotlighting and black settings show the exquisite treasures - including châtelaines made for medieval royalty and Maison Falize enamel work - to their best advantage. Other galleries are categorised by theme: glass, wallpaper, drawings and toys. There are cases devoted to Chinese head jewellery and the Japanese art of seduction with combs. Of most immediate attraction to the layman are the reconstructed period rooms, ten in all, showing how the other (French) half lived from the late 1400s to the early 20th century.

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Musée Galliera
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Musée Galliera

This look at clothes through history takes an academic approach to its subject. Housed in a hôtel particulier built by Eiffel, the Galliera has a huge costume collection. It has links with the fashion industry, and its initiative with young designers shows innovative work.

Musée National Rodin

Musée National Rodin

The Rodin museum occupies the hôtel particulier where the sculptor lived in the final years of his life. The Kiss, the Cathedral, the Walking Man, portrait busts and early terracottas are exhibited indoors, as are many of the individual figures or small groups that also appear on the Gates of Hell.Rodin's works are accompanied by several pieces by his mistress and pupil, Camille Claudel. The walls are hung with paintings by Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, Carrière and Rodin himself. Most visitors have greatest affection for the gardens: look out for the Burghers of Calais, the Gates of Hell, and the Thinker. Rodin fans can also visit the Villa des Brillants at Meudon (19 av Rodin, Meudon, 01.41.14.35.00), where the artist worked from 1895.

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Musée Picasso

Musée Picasso

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.   

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The Louvre

The Louvre

Read Time Out's review of The Louvre below or click here for our exclusive photo tour of the museum. The world's largest museum is also its most visited, with an incredible 8.8 million visitors in 2011. 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, but the very fabric of the museum is a masterpiece in itself - or rather, a collection of masterpieces modified and added to from one century to another. And because nothing in Paris ever stands still, the additions and modifications continue into the present day, with the opening of a major new Islamic Arts department 2012, and the franchising of the Louvre 'brand' via new outposts in Lens (www.louvrelens.fr) and Abu Dhabi. If any place demonstrates the central importance of culture in French life, this is it.Some 35,000 works of art and artefacts are on show, split into eight departments and housed in three wings: Denon, Sully and Richelieu. Under the atrium of the glass pyramid, each wing has its own entrance, though you can pass from one to another. Treasures from the Egyptians, Etruscans, Greeks and Romans each have their own galleries in the Denon and Sully wings, as do Middle Eastern and Islamic art. The first floor of Richelieu is taken up with European decorative arts from the Middle Ages up to the 19th century, including room after room of Napoleon III's lavish apartments.The main draw, though, is the p

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Musée d'Orsay

Musée d'Orsay

In 1973, the Musée d’Orsay’s days were numbered; they were planning to demolish Victor Laloux’s 1900 former train station and its giant clocks to erect an ultra modern luxury hotel on the banks of the Seine. Fortunately, its history and importance prevailed and the newly redesigned Musée d'Orsay was unveiled on December 1, 1986. Then in October 2011, the museum reopened its two most important rooms after years of building works. There are rooms dedicated specifically to Courbet and Van Gogh, as does art nouveau, a first for the museum. Even the superb coffee shop/café tucked behind the clock (designed by the Campana brothers) is submarine themed, in homage to Jules Verne's Nautilus, and has recently been treated to an invigorating lick of paint. A little reminder of these gargantuan updated collections: they begin where the Louvre’s finish off (around 1848) and continue where the Centre Pompidou’s begins (around 1914). In other words, sixty years of art history - from realism to the Pont-Aven school, from Impressionism to pointillism, which attracts more than 3 million visitors a year and occupies nearly 35,000 m2. The highlights in this glass and metal monster gem include: Courbet’s 'L’Origine du monde' and 'Un enterrement à Ornans,' as well as Millet’s 'Glaneuses' and Corot’s landscapes. See Manet’s bridge between realism and impressionism with 'Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe' and 'Olympia'. Then inhale the fumes of Monet's 'La Gare Saint-Lazare', considered the first Impressi

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Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais
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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.

Comments

2 comments
Clotilde G

Not to mention all the free and outdoor exhibitions dispersed to the four corners of Paris and its suburbs which must be seen now that the sun is back !

Huw O

Great selection. Now, onto the simple matter of fitting 30 exhibitions into just one weekend...