Greater Paris is a magnet for art in all its forms - painting, photography, sculpture and more! The permanent collections, temporary displays and one-off installations of its museums and exhibition spaces put contemporary art in the spotlight.
Museums and foundations in Paris
Modern and contemporary art museums in Paris
The centre of Paris is home to several must-see contemporary art venues. From museums to foundations, galleries, art centres and exhibition spaces, Paris is a dazzling showcase for this multifaceted contemporary art scene.
To brush up on your knowledge of iconic works, a visit to the Centre Pompidou, which houses the largest collection of modern and contemporary art in Europe, is a must. You can admire masterpieces of the 20th century, but also the works of major artists on the contemporary art scene, like renowned German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans, as well as Gerhard Richter, Luc Tuymans, Christopher Wool, Olafur Eliasson, Christian Boltanski, and others. The Georges Pompidou Centre also organises a packed programme of popular exhibitions.
The Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, at the top of Chaillot hill, houses an important collection of works from the major artistic movements of the last century, while keeping a close eye on contemporary art trends. The museum has already shown exhibitions devoted to artists such as Larry Clark, Matthew Barney, Olafur Eliasson, Maurizio Cattelan, Pierre Huyghe and Zeng Fanzhi.
To keep up with the latest trends in art, go along to the Palais de Tokyo, opposite the Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris. Offbeat and surprising, this ‘hybrid’ place is dedicated to all mediums of contemporary creation: painting, sculpture, design, fashion, video, cinema ...
Built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900, the majestic Grand Palais, near the Champs-Elysées, is a landmark exhibition venue. It hosts major events: the FIAC, Art Paris Art Fair, Paris Photo and Révélations, the first international biennial for the art and craft professions that is devoted entirely to contemporary art. As the Grand Palais is under construction until 2024, the events will be moved to the Grand Palais Éphémère, located on the Champ-de-Mars, between the Eiffel Tower and the École Militaire.
Greater Paris is a nerve centre for all the art forms. Key places for different art genres in Paris are: for photography, the Jeu de Paume in the Tuileries Gardens, near the Place de la Concorde. This museum is entirely devoted to photography, cinema and video. It has built up a reputation with fine retrospectives : Martin Parr, Cindy Sherman, Ai Weiwei, Pierre et Gilles... Another gallery that’s well worth a visit is the Maison européenne de la photographie - aka MEP - which exhibits works by leading photographers - including Helmut Newton, Annie Leibovitz and Raymond Depardon - and emerging artists. And make time to visit the BAL, a small documentary-image venue set up by legendary French photographer Raymond Depardon.
Installed in a futuristic building signed Jakob + MacFarlane, the Cité de la mode et du design is dedicated to the avant-garde. As for the digital arts, they are strongly represented in the centre of Paris, at the Gaîté Lyrique.
Urban art also has its own museum. Opened in October 2016, Art 42 is France’s first street art museum. Located in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, at the heart of 42, a computer programming school created by Xavier Niel, at no cost you can admire (by reservation only) 150 works by artists including Banksy, Invader, JR, and emerging names.
Modern and contemporary art foundations in Paris
As one of the pioneers of corporate patronage, the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain has, for more than thirty years, been supporting all types of artistic creation: from painting to video, from design to photography and fashion ... In 1994, it moved into a magnificent glass building designed by Jean Nouvel, on boulevard Raspail in the 14th arrondissement, and has hosted major exhibitions, such as those devoted to Ron Mueck, Bruce Nauman and Hiroshi Sugimoto.
The Espace Fondation EDF has occupied a former electricity substation in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, since 1990. It organizes exhibitions on different topics related to the environment, urban planning and sustainable development. A popular theme is light, evoked through exhibitions by Yann Kersalé, Julio Le Parc, James Turrell and Nathalie Junod-Ponsard.
The Fondation d’entreprise Pernod Ricard , near to Gare Saint-Lazare, encourages young French artistic creation: painting, installations, fashion and video. It organizes eight exhibitions per year, gives carte blanche to exhibition curators, holds lectures ... Each year, it recognizes an up-coming artist with the Prix Fondation d'Entreprise Ricard. This prize has already provided a springboard for artists including Tatiana Trouvé, Mircea Cantor and Katinka Bock.
In the Marais, Lafayette Anticipations supports contemporary design. At this multidisciplinary centre, the public can see numerous exhibitions presenting a wealth of international artists in design, fashion and contemporary art including Katinka Bock, Camille Blatrix, Beca Lipscombe and Lucy McKenzie.
Bétonsalon, located in a dynamic area of the 13th, works at the confluence of artistic creation and research. Here, collaboration between contemporary art and University research gives rise to exhibitions and other conferences with a stimulating programming. Bétonsalon is part of University Paris 7 - Denis Diderot.
Not to mention the Nuit Blanche which transforms the City of Light into a giant playground (and testing ground!) for contemporary artists for one night only (the first Saturday of October).
When contemporary art conquers the west of Paris
Galleries, museums and foundations in the west of Paris provide a perfect showcase for contemporary art, making it an ideal destination for anyone interested in current creative trends.
Since opening in 2014, the Fondation Louis Vuitton has become one of the city’s leading art centres and an essential piece in its cultural jigsaw. And they certainly don’t do things by half! Located in the Jardin d’Acclimatation, at the heart of the Bois de Boulogne, this breath-taking “glass cloud” by superstar architect Frank Gehry has 4,000 sq.m. of exhibition space for a permanent collection of 20th and 21st century works, and plays host to temporary exhibitions that never fail to hit the mark. The Foundation has presented major exhibitions featuring works by leading contemporary artists and rich collections of patrons of the art. These have include Jean-Michel Basquiat, Egon Schiele, the Shchukin Collection, the collection of Samuel Courtauld, and that of Charlotte Perriand. Other exhibitions such as ‘Être Moderne: MoMA in Paris’, ‘Keys to a Passion’ or ‘the Morozov collection’ have brought together emblematic works of modern art retracing the history of art.
Continue in La Défense with a stroll around the biggest French contemporary open-air art museum - the Paris La Défense Art Collection - and its eclectic mix of more than 70 works of art, where great names in modern art (Miro, Calder, and the like) rub shoulders with contemporary artists such as François Morellet, Richard Serra and Jean-Pierre Raynaud. In the heart of the business district, the Société Générale skyscraper houses a magnificent collection of contemporary art. Created in 1995, the Société Générale’s eclectic collection celebrates art in all its forms, including painting, sculpture and photography. When they are not on tour, works by 250 artists, including some of biggest names on the art scene today - Zhang Xiaogang, Vik Muniz, Yue Minjun, Alain Bublex and Thomas Ruff - can be seen on the company’s premises. To find out more about the collection, register at http://www.collectionsocietegenerale.com/
To keep abreast of the latest trends, visit one of the many art centres in the west of Paris: the Galerie Édouard-Manet in Gennevilliers, Le Cube in Issy-les-Moulineaux, the Centre d’Art Contemporain Chanot (CACC) in Clamart, La Terrasse in Nanterre, La Maison des Arts in Malakoff, among others.
In Sèvres, the Cité de la Céramique, internationally-renowned for its stunning collections of ceramics dating from antiquity to the present day, also has its gaze turned towards the future, and regularly plays host to contemporary art exhibitions. Situated on the fringes of Clamart forest, La Fondation Arp is a world apart. On this secluded and unique site, sculptures by Jean Arp and Sophie Taeuber share the stage with works by contemporary artists. For a surprising artistic experience, don’t miss the Mastaba 1 by Jean-Pierre Raynaud at La Garenne-Colombes. It’s not easy to describe this unusual space, which is an artist’s home, unique work of art and museum all rolled into one. Built in 1986, it is the brainchild of Jean-Pierre Raynaud, one of France’s greatest visual artists.
Contemporary art sets course for the north-east of Paris
And, a few minutes from La Villette, the Centquatre is a multidisciplinary venue that creates a dialogue with art in all its forms through exhibitions, artistic encounters and other showcases ... This year’s must-do events include the Circulation(s) festival for young European photographers.
Another space to get a handle on the vibrant French art scene is Le Plateau, near the Buttes-Chaumont, in the 19th arrondissement. Opened in 2002, Le Plateau is one of three exhibition spaces run by the Fonds régional d’art contemporain (FRAC) of Ile-de-France (you can visit the two other spaces in the Château de Rentilly, in Seine-et-Marne and in Romainville, in Seine-Saint-Denis). The Ile-de-France FRAC has a collection of nearly 2,000 works as well as an exhibition space for artists, Le Plateau organises events and educational sessions, including for young people.
An artistic melting pot, the world’s biggest galleries and art dealers have also taken the north-east road in recent years: in 2012, the Galerie Thaddeus Ropac moved to a former coppersmith’s workshop in Pantin, a town named the “new Brooklyn" by US daily The New York Times. Larry Gagosian opens a other gallery at Le Bourget the same year.
Several contemporary art centres are located in the surrounding arrondissement, including La Galerie in Noisy-le-Sec, the centre Tignous d’Art contemporain in Montreuil, and Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers. They are united by the goal of bringing contemporary art and design to a wider audience. Other spaces take a more multidisciplinary approach, including La Maison pop in Montreuil, and Mains d’Œuvres in Saint-Ouen. On the margins of the classic art circuit, the creative arts pop up in the most unlikely places. Free-spirited hybrid spaces that blur the line between cultural institutions and artist’s squats, they experiment with new contemporary artistic forms. Among the best know is 6b, a space where art is created and displayed in a former office building in Saint-Denis. La Villa Belleville (20th arrondissement) provide studio and exhibition space for artists, while the Villa Mais d’Ici in Aubervilliers run experimental contemporary art projects, often in partnership with local residents.
The north and east of Paris combine past and present with displays of contemporary art where you least expect it. For example, Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Saint-Denis hosts contemporary art exhibitions. At the Archives nationales in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine you can also admire contemporary works by Antony Gormley, Susanna Fritscher and Pascal Convert, produced as part of the “1 % artistique” project.
More info on contemporary art in the north-east
More info on alternative creative spaces in the north-east
A rich seam of art in the south-east of Paris
Curious about French art and design? Head to MAC/VAL in Vitry-sur-Seine, the first contemporary art museum to open in the south east of Paris. Devoted to the French art scene from the 50s onwards, its featured artists include Pierre Huyghe, Christian Boltanski, Fabrice Hyber, Claude Closky and Kader Attia.
If you’re heading south, don’t miss the museum opened by French photographer Robert Doisneau - perhaps best known for his celebrated photo, “Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville” (1950) - in Gentilly, where he was born in 1921. Opened in 1996, the Maison de la photographie Robert Doisneau is an exhibition centre showcasing photographers with a keen eye for observing life. Throughout the year, it organises exhibitions devoted to original artists from around the world, including David Seymour and Georges Rodger, the founders of the Magnum agency, Serge Clément, Jane Evelyn Atwood, Clemens Kalischer, and many others.
The highly active Maison des Arts et de la Culture de Créteil (MAC) is a multidisciplinary production and exhibition space that organises events throughout the year. The area’s contemporary art centres include Le Crédac in Ivry-sur-Seine and the Maison d’Art Bernard-Anthonioz (MABA) in Nogent-sur-Marne. Some towns also have their own galleries, such as the Galerie Fernand Léger in Ivry-sur-Seine and the Galerie Jean Collet in Vitry-sur-Seine. La Fonderie in Fontenay-sous-Bois, Anis Gras, le Lieu de l’autre in Arcueil, Nouveau Gare au Théâtre in Vitry-sur-Seine... are among the residences and collectives set up by artists in the south-east.
La Briqueterie, the centre for choreographic development in Vitry-sur-Seine, is a magnet for dance enthusiasts. The area is also spoilt for exhibition spaces. In Fontenay-sous-Bois, a stunning former Baltard-style market building, the Halle Roublot, has been transformed into a cultural centre for visual art exhibitions. Fontenay also has two quirky exhibition spaces: LaGaleru and LaGaleru des Chemins.
In Alfortville, the role of Le Centre d’Art Contemporain - La Traverse (CAC) is to promote contemporary creativity through the display and production of visual artworks. It supports artists, runs an annual artist-in-residence scheme, and organises at least three exhibitions a year. It also provides the general public with guided tours and the chance to learn more about art.
The south east of Paris is also an open-air museum. As part of the “1 % artistique” project, Vitry-sur-Seine provides the backdrop to over 140 free-access public artworks, including several monumental pieces!
More info on contemporary art in the south-east