Where to see art outdoors in Paris

Art is everywhere in the green spaces, streets and avenues of Greater Paris.

Art is everywhere in the green spaces, streets and avenues of Greater Paris. To see it, all you have to do is open your eyes – it’s free!

Art in the parks and gardens

The Kiss by Rodin, jardin des Tuileries, Paris © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

Art is waiting to be discovered in many of Paris’s green spaces. With the work of Fabrice Hyber in the Parc de la Villette, the sculptures of Maillol in the Jardin des Tuileries and the sculptural creations of Zacharie Astruc in the Jardin du Luxembourg, art features prominently in many of the city’s parks and gardens.

In the centre, a stone’s throw from the Institut du Monde Arabe, the Musée de la Sculpture en Plein Air (open-air sculpture museum) has taken up residence in the Jardin Tino Rossi. Along the banks of the Seine, you can see some thirty modern sculptures, including a few by major artists such as César, Brancusi and Zadkine.

To the west, the Parc Départemental de l’Île Saint-Germain in Issy-les-Moulineaux is home to a masterpiece listed as a historic monument: the Tour aux Figures by Jean Dubuffet, created in 1988. Reaching a height of 24 metres, this colourful work is the largest produced by the artist. It is currently undergoing restoration and will be visible again in 2019.

Museum gardens are also special places to admire works of art in the open air. The garden of the Musée Rodin, near Les Invalides, has numerous masterpieces by the father of modern sculpture, including perhaps his most famous work – The Thinker. To access the garden, there is no need to pay to enter the museum; instead you can buy a garden ticket for a modest sum.

The Musée Zadkine has a wonderful garden filled with sculptures by the Cubist artist. It is free to visit. And finally, the French Senate organises photographic exhibitions twice a year in the Jardin du Luxembourg with the works displayed on the park railings.

Iconic artworks

Musée à ciel ouvert de la Défense, l'Araignée d'Alexander Calder, Paris © 11h45 Defacto

Certain works of modern art are now fully part of the landscape of the French capital and have even acquired iconic status. This is true of “Deux Plateaux” by Daniel Buren, popularly known as “Buren’s columns”, installed in 1986 in the main courtyard of the Palais-Royal, or the celebrated Igor Stravinsky fountain near the Pompidou Centre, created by Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint-Phalle in 1983. In the Place des Abbesses in Montmartre, the Wall of Love (Le Mur des je t’aime) created by Frédéric Baron and Claire Kito is another must-see, popular with lovers from around the world.

In west Paris, La Défense Art Collection includes sixty-nine monumental pieces visible from the Esplanade. An open-air museum, it is open 24/7 and completely free of charge! Some of the iconic works not to be missed include Calder’s Red Spider, Miró’s Fantastic Characters and César’s Thumb.

The southern suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine is another great place to see art outdoors. The town has more than 140 works of contemporary art freely accessible in its public spaces, thanks in particular to France’s “One percent for art” scheme whereby 1% of the cost of architectural projects is used to fund works of contemporary art integrated into the living environment.

The many works include the famous "Chaufferie avec cheminée" by Jean Dubuffet, a monumental sculpture erected in 1996. Don’t hesitate to go inside the Mac/Val to prolong the experience! Other works to see in the streets of Vitry are “Le Pin noir d'eau triche” by Didier Marcel, “Désir-Rêve” by Jaume Plensa, “Série de 8 vitraux” by Valério Adami, the “Siloscope” by the LAB(au) collective and “Ombres portées” by Bernard Monimot.

Ivry-sur-Seine also has some fifty public works of art. To give you the opportunity to discover, or perhaps rediscover the most iconic pieces, the Fernand Léger gallery has designed four walking tours through the town.

Orly-Ville has more than twenty works of outdoor art, including sculptures, fountains and street art, such as the “Fresque Léo Ferré” by Miss. Tic, “Les miroirs de vent” by Claude Courtecuisse, “L’Oiseau Pylône” by Olivier Agid and Catherine Fourniau’s monument for the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery.

Art along the tramline

RATP - Paris, art contemporain sur le parcours du tramway T3 © DR

The stations on the T3 tram line make up a genuine open-air contemporary art trail: all along the route from Porte de Versailles to Porte de Vincennes are some fifteen monumental works of art, including "From Boullée to Eternity" by the American artist Dan Graham (Porte de Versailles station), “Tchaïkovski” by the French artist Claude Lévêque (Montsouris), "Murmures" by Christian Boltanski (Cité Universitaire) and Didier Fiuza Faustino’s pole-like totem structure entitled "1SQMH" (One Square Meter House) at Porte d'Ivry.

Paris by night: light as art

Paris now boasts a number of monumental illuminations which bring the urban landscape alive with colour at night. In the 13th arrondissement, waves of light like the aurora borealis caress two cement silos that stand alongside the ring road at Porte d’Ivry. Designed by Laurent Grasso, “Solar Wind” is constantly changing to reflect solar activity. This 40-metre high installation is the biggest in the French capital.

In the garden of the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac is a light installation by Yann Kersalé called “L’Ô” consisting of thin fluorescent tubes whose colours vary according to temperature. Other buildings have been transformed with light by contemporary artists, like the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations which comes alive at night with an ever-changing light display created by the American artist James Turrell, or the facade of the Louvre des Antiquaires, revisited by the French artist François Morellet.
Patrice Hamel has created a trail of light that runs right through Greater Paris from the city centre up to the north. His “Répliques” (words written in neon) can be found on the facade of the IRCAM building next to the Pompidou Centre, on the Boulevard de la Villette, at the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie and at the Persépolis media library in Saint-Ouen. In the northern suburb of Pantin, don’t miss the impressive illumination of the Grands Moulins, designed by Eric Michel, and the graphic red neon sign by Pierre di Sciullo on the roof of the Centre National de la Danse.

The Passage de l'Ourcq, the bridge where the Boulevard Périphérique crosses over the canal, has a light installation called “De passage” where light is projected onto the roof. And finally, the Rue Saint-Maur boasts a work by Ugo Rondinone, consisting of the song title "Cry Me a River" in rainbow colours installed high up on the wall of a building.

Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac

37 quai Branly, Paris, 75007

Located on the banks of the Seine, near the Eiffel Tower, the Musée du Quai Branly - Jacques Chirac exhibits 3,500 works of art......

Cité des sciences et de l'industrie

30 avenue Corentin Cariou, Paris, 75019

At the heart of the largest landscaped park in Paris, there is an original and spectacular place. You just have to step foot......

Parc de La Villette - Plein Air

Exhibition and Trade Show venue
211 avenue Jean Jaurès, Paris, 75019

Built on the site of former abattoirs and designed by the architect Bernard Tschumi, the Parc de la Villette is the largest urban......

Musée Rodin Paris

77 rue de Varenne, Paris, 75007

Situated in the heart of Paris, the Musée Rodin benefits from an exceptional location a few steps from the Eiffel Tower and the......

Musée Zadkine

100 bis rue d'Assas, Paris, 75006

Close to the Jardin du Luxembourg, the Musée Zadkine, tucked away in the greenery of a sculpture-filled garden, is the home and......

Jardin Tino Rossi

Park, garden, promenade
2 quai Saint-Bernard, Paris, 75005

You can enjoy a walk along the waterfront at the Jardin Tino Rossi. It stretches along the Seine riverbanks, from the Institut du......

Parc départemental de l'Île Saint-Germain

Park, garden, promenade
170 quai de Stalingrad, Issy-les-Moulineaux, 92130

Il fait bon se promener dans ce parc de 18 hectares labellisé Eve® (espace végétal écologique), à la faune et la flore......

Musée de la Sculpture en plein air

Quai Saint Bernard - Square Tino Rossi, Paris, 75005

The open-air sculpture museum along the Quai Saint-Bernard between the Pont de Sully and the Pont d’Austerlitz provides a......

Domaine national du Palais Royal

Park, garden, promenade
Place Colette, Paris, 75001

Created by the Cardinal Richelieu in 1633, the Palais Royal and its gardens, just a short walk from the Louvre, housed royal......

Fontaine Igor Stravinsky

Place Igor Stravinsky, Paris, 75004

Located next to the Pompidou Centre, the Igor Stravinsky fountain designed by the artists Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle......

Le mur des je t'aime

Square Jehan Rictus, Paris, 75018

The I Love You Wall, a work of art conceived by Frédéric Baron and Claire Kito, is a must-see for couples from all over the world......

Jardin des Tuileries

Park, garden, promenade
Place de la Concorde, Paris, 75001

The Tuileries Gardens take their name from the tile factories which previously stood on the site where Queen Catherine de Medici......

Jardin du Luxembourg

Park, garden, promenade
Rue de Médicis - Rue de Vaugirard, Paris, 75006

Situated on the border between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter, the Luxembourg Gardens, inspired by the Boboli......

Paris La Défense Art Collection

15 place de La Défense, Paris La Défense Cedex, 92974

The Musée à Ciel Ouvert was built in 1972 thanks to an amibitious policy of public orders and offers you a unique journey through......