Open-air contemporary art in Paris

A stroll through some districts of Paris is an opportunity to admire works of contemporary art. Here is an overview.

The main districts for contemporary art in Paris

Toit de la Grande Arche vue contraste

With its skyscrapers and its open-air sculpture museum known as La Défense Art Collection, the La Défense district is a place no contemporary art lover should miss. One can admire the Grande Arche (the view from its rooftop is spectacular), the CNIT, the Tour First and the recent Paris La Défense Arena, a magnificent performance venue designed by the architect Christian de Portzamparc, hosting a number of major events (concerts, sports events, etc.).

Also in western Paris, the Île Seguin in Boulogne-Billancourt has been the location since 2017 of the Seine Musicale. Devoted to music and dance, the Seine Musicale is a contemporary architecture gem designed by Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines. Continue walking into the Trapèze eco-district facing the island, where if you look up you will see the Tour Horizons designed by Jean Nouvel.

Eastern Paris for its part boasts the Parc de la Villette with various interesting places, notably the Philharmonie de Paris. Not far from here, the Rosa Parksdistrict – where some of the big names in contemporary architecture have designed buildings – is also well worth exploring.

In the southern part of the capital, the Bibliothèque district or Paris Rive Gauche is the one with the boldest contemporary buildings. The tour begins at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France-Site François Mitterrand and ends at the emblematic Tours Duo skyscrapers designed by Jean Nouvel, built along the ring road and respectively 125 metres and 180 metres high.

Famous contemporary architects in Paris

Centre Pompidou © Amélie Dupont - Architecte : Renzo Piano et Richard Rogers

Paris is a stamping ground for famous contemporary architects who have designed some of the city’s most iconic buildings.

The Pompidou Centre by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers is part and parcel of the contemporary cityscape of Paris. Inaugurated in 1977, it is instantly recognizable because of its exterior staircases nicknamed the Caterpillar and its impressive array of colourful pipes and ducts.  Also in central Paris, there is the superb Louvre Pyramid by the American architect Ieoh Ming Peig and the Bourse du Commerce, the former stock exchange, redesigned by Tadao Ando and now home to François Pinault’s art collection. Immediately opposite, take a look at the silvery resin façade of the French ministry of culture designed by Francis Soler. Behind the Bourse du Commerce, the view of the Canopy of the Forum des Halles is an invitation to take a stroll.

The Italian architect Renzo Piano also designed the glass shell-like structure of the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux. The shell protects the sculpted façade by Auguste Rodin.

Fondation Louis Vuitton - Extérieur, Paris

Other renowned architects have created magnificent buildings housing museums, among them Frank Gehry, who designed the Louis Vuitton Foundation and the Cinémathèque française, the architects Jakob and MacFarlane who designed the Cité de la Mode et du Design and Bernard Tschumi, the creator of the follies at the Parc de la Villette.

Another famous contemporary architect is Jean Nouvel. The French architect has left his mark on Paris’s architectural landscape. Some of the iconic buildings he has designed are the Institut du Monde Arabe, the Philharmonie de Paris, the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac, the Cartier foundation for contemporary art, the H&M store on the Champs-Élysées and the Tours Duo in the 13th arrondissement.

Street art in Paris

Street art can be seen everywhere in Paris and is an important part of the experience for contemporary art lovers walking around Paris. Here are six districts where you can see street art in Paris

More information about outdoor art and heritage to be seen in Paris