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Galerie Perrotin
Photograph: Galerie Perrotin

The 21 best art galleries in Paris

Want to get your art on? Where better! These are the best galleries in Paris for painting, sculpture, photography and more

By Huw Oliver

For centuries, Paris was the undisputed art capital of the Western world. Many pioneering, properly perspective-altering artists lived in Paris over the years – van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, Dalí and countless others – and much of their work can be found within the city’s immense number of museums, galleries, attractions, salons and other arts spaces.

We say look beyond the mammoth classical institutions and check out some up-and-comers at one of several established contemporary art galleries in Paris. Be that Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac or Galerie Daniel Templon, you’re bound to catch something eye-catching (and perhaps even buyable). But whether you prefer big-name or unheard-of, old-school or contemporary, our pick of the best places to see art in Paris has you covered.

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Best art galleries in Paris

Le Louvre Paris
Photograph: Pixabay

1. The Louvre

Museums Art and design Louvre

The world’s largest museum is also its most visited, with some 10.1 million passing through the iconic pyramid in 2018 alone. It’s a city within a city, a vast, multi-level maze of galleries, passageways, staircases and escalators. Famous of course for all its glorious art – hello Mona Lisa – the Louvre is also a masterpiece in itself, or rather, a collection of masterpieces modified and added to from one century to another. Some 35,000 works of art and artefacts are on show, split into eight departments and housed across three wings. The main draw, though, is the painting and sculpture. Be sure to check the website or lists in the Carrousel du Louvre to see which galleries are closed on certain days to avoid missing out on what you want to see.

Galerie Perrotin
Photograph: Galerie Perrotin

2. Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin

Art Galleries Le Marais

Now installed in an elegant hôtel particulier in the Marais, Perrotin is one of the sharpest figures in town: not content with owning a gallery in Hong Kong and a glossy magazine, he has recently jumped on the design bandwagon with shows by Robert Stadler and Eric Benqué. As well as the quirky Japanese set of Takashi Murakami, Mariko Mori et al, and big French names such as Sophie Calle, Xavier Veilhan, Prix Marcel Duchamp winner Tatiana Trouvé and Bernard Frize, he also features the radical Austrian collective Gelitin.

vue musée d'orsay
Photograph: Time Out

3. Musée d’Orsay

Museums Art and design 7e arrondissement

The old Belle Époque Orsay train station was converted into the Musée d’Orsay in 1986 to house one of the world’s largest collections of Impressionist and Post-impressionist art. Aside from works by Monet, Renoir, van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec, you’ll find a dapper collection of decorative arts from the Art Nouveau era and a wide range of 19th-century sculpture. Wind down over coffee in the café behind the museum’s giant transparent clock.

Centre Pompidou
Photograph: Centre Pompidou

4. The Centre Pompidou

Museums Art and design 4e arrondissement

The primary colours, exposed pipes and air ducts make the Centre Pompidou one of the best-known sights in Paris. Pompidou – known to locals as simply ‘Beaubourg’ – contains the largest collection of modern art in Europe, rivalled only in breadth and quality by MoMA in New York. The idea of combining a modern art museum, library, exhibition and performance space and cinema in one multi-purpose complex was also revolutionary. It’s free to get in (and the same goes for the library, which has a separate entrance), but you have to pay to go up the escalators.

Palais de Tokyo
Photograph: Florent Michel

5. Palais de Tokyo

Museums Art and design Chaillot

When it opened in 2002, many thought the Palais’s 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 contemporary artists is impressive (Pierre Joseph, Wang Du and others). The name dates to the 1937 Exposition Internationale, but is also a reminder of links with a new generation of artists from the Far East.

Photograph: Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

6. Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

Art Sculpture Le Marais

Ropac’s main base is in Salzburg, but he also runs this attractive Paris gallery, featuring American Pop and neo-Pop by Andy Warhol, Tom Sachs, Elaine Sturtevant and Alex Katz, along with European artists such as Antony Gormley, Erwin Wurm, Sylvie Fleury, Tony Cragg and Gilbert-George.

Musée Jacquemart-André
Photograph: RecouraChristophe

7. Musée Jacquemart-André

Museums 8e arrondissement

Long terrace steps and a pair of stone lions usher visitors into this grand 19th-century mansion, home to an impressive collection of objets d’art and fine paintings. It was assembled by Edouard André and artist wife Nélie Jacquemart, using money inherited from his rich banking family. The mansion was built to order to house their hoard, which includes Rembrandts, Tiepolo frescoes and paintings by Italian masters Uccello, Mantegna and Carpaccio. The adjacent tearoom, with its fabulous tottering cakes, is a favourite with the smart lunch set.

Musée Marmottan Monet
Photograph: Musée Marmottan-Monet

8. Musée Marmottan-Monet

Museums Art and design 16e arrondissement

Originally a museum of the Empire period left to the state by collector Paul Marmottan, this old hunting pavilion has become a famed holder of Impressionist art thanks to two bequests: the first by the daughter of the doctor of Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Sisley and Renoir; the second by Monet’s son Michel. Its Monet collection, the largest in the world, numbers 165 works, plus sketchbooks, palettes and photos. A special circular room was created for the breathtaking late water lily canvases; upstairs are works by Renoir, Manet, Gauguin, Caillebotte and Berthe Morisot, 15th-century primitives, a Sèvres clock and a collection of First Empire furniture.

Photograph: Yann Caradec

9. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais

Museums Art and design Champs-Elysées

The huge, sprawling galleries of the Grand Palais were originally constructed for the Exposition Universelle of 1900 – so it’s no surprise this place is the definition of grand. The exterior is in the Beaux-Arts style and dominated by an eye-catching steel-framed glass roof. Almost a century after it was built, in 1994, the Grand Palais was closed for some much-needed restoration, but it reopened in 2005 and has since put on huge exhibitions on the likes of Irving Penn, Marc Chagall and Paul Gauguin.

Exposition Tadashi Kawamata à la galerie Kamel Mennour
Photograph: Tadashi Kawamata / Courtesy Galerie Kamel Mennour, Paris

10. Galerie Kamel Mennour

Art Galleries 6e arrondissement

After bursting on to the St-Germain art scene with shows by fashion photographers David LaChapelle and Ellen von Unwerth and filmmaker Larry Clark, and introducing emerging artists Kader Attia and Adel Abdessemed, Mennour has asserted his presence on the gallery scene with a move to these grand new premises in a hôtel particulier. Recent shows by an impressive cross-generational stable have included Daniel Buren, Claude Lévêque and Huang Yong Ping.

Fondation Cartier
Photograph: Fondation Cartier

11. Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain

Museums Art and design Montparnasse

Founded by Cartier in 1984, this contemporary art museum still houses the iconic jeweller’s head office upstairs. The galleries below, tucked inside a towering glass and steel structure, are as artfully designed as any of their necklaces. Exhibitions are mixed media and compelling, and often follow natural themes like ‘Birds’, ‘Desert’ or ‘Trees’. The museum also puts on regular events to coincide with the shows, so check the website to see what’s on before you go.

Jeu de Paume gratuit la journée du 10 mai
Photograph: Jeu de Paume

12. Jeu de Paume

Museums 1er arrondissement

The Centre National de la Photographie moved into this site in the Tuileries gardens in 2005 – making it the ideal second stop after a trip to the Louvre or Orsay. The building, which once served as a tennis court, has been divided into two white, almost hangar-like galleries. It’s 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.

Photograph: Daniel Templon

13. Galerie Daniel Templon

Art Galleries Le Marais

A Paris institution since the 1960s and conveniently located opposite the Centre Pompidou, Galerie Daniel Templon mainly shows paintings – wall-friendly items for wealthy private collectors. Jean-Michel Alberola, Gérard Garouste, Philippe Cognée and Vincent Corpet all feature on the list, along with the American David Salle and German expressionist Jonathan Meese.

14. Musée National Rodin

Museums Art and design Invalides

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’.

An exhibition at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
Photograph: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra / Flickr

15. Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

Museums Art and design Chaillot

Home to the city’s extensive modern art collection, this monumental 1930s building is strong on the cubists, fauves, Sonia and Robert Delaunays, Rouault and École de Paris artists Soutine and van Dongen. The museum was briefly closed in May 2010 after the theft of five masterpieces – the €100 million heist netted paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Modigliani and Léger. Don’t worry, though – there’s still plenty more fantastic art on display. 

Héraklès Archer by Bourdelle at the Musée Bourdelle
Photograph: Flickr / Guilhem Vellut

16. Musée Bourdelle

Museums Art and design Necker

Sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, a pupil of Rodin, produced a number of monumental works including the modernist relief friezes at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, inspired by Isadora Duncan and Nijinsky. This museum includes the artist’s apartment and studios, which were also used by Eugène Carrière, Dalou and Chagall. A 1950s extension tracks the evolution of Bourdelle’s equestrian monument to General Alvear in Buenos Aires, and his masterful Hercules the Archer, one of our absolute favourite artworks in Paris. A new wing by Christian de Portzamparc houses bronzes, including various studies of Beethoven in different guises.

Exposition 'The Devil's Fidelity' à la galerie Marian Goodman
Photograph: Tim Lee / Courtesy Galerie Marian Goodman

17. Galerie Marian Goodman

Art Galleries Le Marais

The veteran New York gallery owner made her name in the 1960s and 1970s publishing texts on Andy Warhol, Sol LeWitt and Robert Smithson. Today she can be counted on to pull out the stops with impressive shows from a roster of big international names – think the likes of Gerhard Richter, William Kentridge, Steve McQueen.

Musée de l’Orangerie
Photograph: Oliver Knight

18. Musée de l’Orangerie

Museums Art and design 1er arrondissement

After years of renovation, the Orangerie is now firmly back on the tourist radar: expect long queues. The look is utilitarian and fuss-free, with the museum’s eight, tapestry-sized ‘Nymphéas’ (water lilies) paintings housed in two plain oval rooms. They provide a simple backdrop for the astonishing, ethereal romanticism of Monet’s works, painted late in his life. Depicting ‘jardin d’eau’ at his house in Giverny, the tableaux have an intense, dream-like quality – partly reflecting the artist’s absorption in the private world of his garden. Downstairs, the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collection of Impressionism and the École de Paris is a mixed bag of sweet-toothed Cézanne and Renoir portraits, along with works by Modigliani, Rousseau, Matisse, Picasso and Derain.

Petit Palais
Photograph: Petit Palais

19. Petit Palais

Museums History Champs-Elysées

On the other side of the road from the Grand Palais, you’ll find the Petit Palais. Although this institution was also built for the 1900 Exposition Universelle, it’s fondly known as the Grand Palais’s younger sibling. Behind its Belle Époque exterior visitors can cast their eyes on some of the city’s most wonderful fine art and sculptures, including work by Poussin, Doré, Courbet and the Impressionists. Art Nouveau fans are in for a treat downstairs, where you’ll find jewellery and knick-knacks by Belle Époque biggies Lalique and Galle. 

Musée de Cluny
Photograph: ctj71081 / Flickr

20. Musée de Cluny

Museums Art and design Quartier latin

The national museum of medieval art is best known for the beautiful, allegorical ‘Lady and the Unicorn’ tapestry cycle, but it also has important collections of medieval sculpture and enamels. There’s also a programme of medieval concerts in which troubadours reflect the museum's collection (lots of lutes, lots of harps). The museum’s building, a gothic marvel that dates to the fifteenth century, is reason enough to visit. 

Quai Branly
Photograph: Musée du Quai Branly

21. Musée du Quai Branly

Museums History 7e arrondissement

Surrounded by trees on the banks of the Seine, this museum, housed in an extraordinary building by Jean Nouvel, is a vast showcase for non-European art and culture. With rooms dedicated to art from Africa, Oceania, Asia and the Americas, it brings together the collections of the Musée des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie and the Laboratoire d’Ethnologie du Musée de l’Homme, as well as contemporary indigenous art. Treasures include a 10th-century anthropomorphic Dogon statue from Mali, Vietnamese costumes, Gabonese masks, Aztec statues, Peruvian feather tunics and rare frescoes from Ethiopia.

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Photograph: MaxPixel

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Even the locals would agree it’s impossible to see every sight, every piece of history, every glorious work of art in the City of Light in just one lifetime. Bof, they might say. Quel dommage. But don’t feel downbeat about it all. Our 101 best things to do in Paris should help you get a sense of this city as it is right now.

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