From east to west and north to south, contemporary art is shooting out in every direction! “Greater Paris” is buzzing with cultural and artistic activities. Be prepared for new discoveries, surprises, emotion and enthrallment at the no-holds-barred exhibitions and art centres with specialist programmes that everyone can enjoy. It’s a great chance to knock on the door of artists’ collectives or admire magnificent works in situ – most of which you probably never knew existed. There are so many new places to discover in Greater Paris!
Central Paris: the historic heart of contemporary art
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.
Among its many museums, don’t miss the Centre Pompidou, at the heart of the capital and, further west, the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, whose permanent collections and major temporary exhibitions offer an ideal way to discover the best in 21st century art. Since 2002, Europe’s biggest contemporary art centre, the Palais de Tokyo, has explored every aspect of the contemporary creative scene from sculpture, painting and design to fashion, video and cinema. Foundations such as the Fondation Louis Vuitton and the Fondation Cartier also cut a dashing figure in the city’s artistic landscape. The capital is also home to some wonderful exhibition spaces, including the Galeries nationales du Grand Palais and the Jeu de Paume, devoted to photography and the image.
Throughout the year, the Paris art calendar is filled with major international events, including FIAC (International Contemporary Art Fair), mais aussi Art Paris Art Fair, Paris Photo, Monumenta, as well as Nuit Blanche which transforms the City of Light into a giant playground (and testing ground!) for contemporary artists for one night only.
Creativity goes west
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. Start 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 69 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. 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. Raynaud created the famous Golden pot that stood proudly outside the Centre Pompidou for over ten years, before being transferred to the 6th floor terrace. You missed it? No problem! You can see a red version of this monumental sculpture at Mastaba 1.
North-east art feast
Another hub of artistic activity, the north east of Paris is home to some of the best contemporary art galleries, exhibition spaces, art centres and artists’ residences in the Ile-de-France region. Several leading art spaces have put down roots in this arrondissement, including the Plateau (19th) in 2002 and Centquatre (19th) in 2008. 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 opened his second gallery at Le Bourget the same year.
Several contemporary art centres are located in the surrounding arrondissement, including La Galerie in Noisy-le-Sec, Le 116 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 Populaire 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. Le Shakirail and Villa Belleville, in the 18th and 20th arrondissements, provide studio and exhibition space for artists, while La Briche in Saint-Denis and the Villa Mais d’Ici in Aubervilliers run experimental contemporary art projects, often in partnership with local residents, like Les Jardins d’Alice in Montreuil, and La Halle Papin in Pantin.
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, including in its Chapelle Vidéo. 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
The south east of Paris is a pioneer in the world of contemporary art. In 2005, the Mac/Val (Musée d’art contemporain du Val-de-Marne) was the first contemporary art museum to open its doors in the south-east, in Vitry-sur-Seine - a revolution in the Paris art world. Twelve years on, the gamble has paid off, and the museum - a huge success - has led to an artistic awakening in this corner of the city, where countless new contemporary art spaces have opened in recent years, including art centres, galleries and exhibition spaces. The highly active.
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, Gare au Théâtre in Vitry-sur-Seine, and the Usine Hollander in Choisy-le-Roi, 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.
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!
Contemporary art events are also held throughout the year. Every Spring, the Maison des Arts et de la Culture de Créteil organises a multidisciplinary contemporary art festival called Exit. In July, don’t miss the Nous n’irons pas à Avignon festival that transforms the Gare au Théâtre in Vitry-sur-Seine. Created in 1999, the three-week programme includes theatre plays, dance shows, performances and visual art exhibitions, along with talks, concerts, events and workshops.In October, pop along to the Générateur in Gentilly for the annual performance arts Frasq festival with its music, visual arts and dance.