You don’t always have to go to a museum or art gallery to see a work of art. In fact, Paris is a veritable open-air work of art in itself. Art is everywhere: in gardens, on quaysides, in tram stations and on walls around the city.
All you have to do to enjoy it is keep your eyes open!
The gardens of museums are naturally privileged places for outdoor works.
This is the case at the garden of the Musée Rodin, a few steps from Invalides. This verdant 3-hectare setting is home to many masterpieces by the father of modern sculpture, such as the famous "The Thinker" and "The Gates of Hell". To see them you do not need to pay the fee for a visit to the Museum as there is a 'Garden' ticket which costs only €4.
In the heart of Paris, the Tuileries Gardens showcase some twenty or so works by the great French sculptor Aristide Maillol. As you saunter along the pathways, you will perhaps come across "Les Trois Grâces" or the "Jeune fille allongée".
At the foot of the Institut du Monde Arabe, the Musée de la Sculpture en plein air is an open-air sculpture museum in the Jardin Tino Rossi, a pleasant area along the banks of the River Seine. Admire some thirty modern sculptures, including works by famous names like César, Brancusi and Zadkine!
La Défense is the biggest business district in Europe and also the largest open-air museum in France. In all, there are 69 monumental works on show here. Emblematic works include "Stabile" by Calder, Deux personnages fantastiques by Mirò and "Le Pouce" by César. This set of sculptures is intimately linked to the history of La Défense and is now inseparable from it.
Indeed, today, many works of modern art are an integral part of the urban landscape and we could not imagine Paris without them. Prime examples are "Deux plateaux" by Daniel Buren, more commonly known as the Buren columns, sited in the Cour d'honneur of the Palais-Royal since 1986; and, next to the Centre Pompidou, the Fontaine Igor-Stravinsky and its mobile sculptures, created by Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle in 1983. At Abbesses, the I Love You wall, by Frédéric Baron and Claire Kito, is the rendezvous point for lovers from around the world.
Check out the walls
Street art is over the wall both literally and figuratively and the urban environment has become the field of expression for artists. Among the great stars of the movement is Miss. ICT, who like an urban poet dresses up the city with her figurative stencils or in the form of messages that make the walls talk.
Another major artist is the secretive ‘Invader’, well known for his intriguing Space Invaders mosaics inspired by the eponymous 1970s arcade game creatures. Since the first Space Invader work of 1996 in the Passage de la Main-d’Or in the 11th arrondissement (now no longer there following renovation work), the artist has come a long way and there are now more than 1,000 invaders in Paris.
As you walk around, look up, there is certainly one somewhere in the vicinity. What’s more, the invasion has even spread beyond our borders to 64 cities throughout the world: New York, Bangkok, Hong Kong ... and the trend is not likely to stop any time soon! To see other traces of street art, take a walk around the Canal Saint-Martin or Montmartre, the HQ of street art.
Art on track
Inaugurated in 2012, the Maréchaux Sud T3 tram line is a veritable discovery trail of contemporary art: it hosts no less than nine contemporary works between the Pont du Garigliano in the 15th arrondissement and Porte d'Ivry.
Among these, "Le Téléphone" by Sophie Calle in collaboration with Frank O. Gehry installed on the Pont du Garigliano in the 15th district.
Passers-by are invited to pick it up when it rings. "Tchaïkovski" is a work by the French artist Claude Lévêque. This installation comprising four crumpled stainless steel panels placed on the roof of a 1930s building in stone is visible on the Vanne aqueduct at Montsouris station.