Must-see art exhibitions in Paris this winter
Don't let Christmas shopping distract you from this season's marvellous cultural offerings.
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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.
Once you’ve navigated Métro line 5, it’s a good few-minutes walk to the Maison de la culture de Bobigny (MC 93), but it’s worth the effort – especially if you’ve come for the winter Standard Ideal festival. Introduced in 2004 it brings the cream of European directors to Bobigny, showcasing international shows from countries such as Hungary, Germany, the UK and Italy (often in the original language). During the festival you’ll also find the ‘Atelier des 200’ workshop, which see 200 amateur performers go behind the scenes for acting tips from the season’s directors. The MC 93 is a crowd pleaser the rest of the year too, with a wide-ranging programme that frequently includes Shakespeare, Chekov, works by contemporary playwrights and even opera.
In a hidden courtyard (reminiscent of Swiss chalets) off rue de Charonne, the 100-seater La Loge offers performances that merge theatre, dance and music. Every summer, the “Summer of Loge” festival invites eight theatre companies for performances, followed by post-show festivities that have previously included pyjama parties and concerts. The rest of the year, from Tuesday to Thursday, there are two shows a night, at 7pm and at 9pm.
Théâtre de la Ville
Programming in this vertiginous concrete amphitheatre, hidden behind a classical façade, features hip chamber music outfits such as the Kronos and Takács Quartets and Early Music pioneer Fabio Biondi. The agenda for 2011 includes Vertical Road, a new piece by Akram Khan, as well as an adaptation of Jean Genet's Le Funambule, choreographed and performed by Angelin Preljocaj. The season spills over to sister venue Théâtre des Abbesses (31 rue des Abbesses, 18th), and between the two sties the 'City Theatre' turns out the most consistently innovative performances in Paris.
Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme
It’s fitting that a museum of Judaism should be lodged in one of the grandest mansions of the Marais, for centuries the epicentre of local Jewish life. It sprung from the collection of a private association formed in 1948 to safeguard Jewish heritage after the Holocaust. Pick up a free audio-guide in English to help you navigate through displays illustrating ceremonies, rites and learning, and showing how styles were adapted across the globe through examples of Jewish decorative arts. Photographic portraits of modern French Jews, each of whom tells his or her own story on the audio soundtrack, bring a contemporary edge. There are documents and paintings relating to the emancipation of French Jewry after the Revolution and the infamous Dreyfus case, from Zola's J'Accuse! to anti-Semitic cartoons. Paintings by the early 20th-century avant-garde include works by El Lissitsky and Chagall. The Holocaust is marked by Boris Taslitzky's stark sketches from Buchenwald and Christian Boltanski's courtyard memorial to the Jews who lived in the building in 1939, 13 of whom died in the camps.
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.