For years, the
Paris art scene was associated with the masters of the past – Monet and Manet,
Picasso and Degas – while the contemporary art scene was overshadowed by New
York and London. No longer. In the past decade, thanks to new galleries, major
museum overhauls and artistic centres opening up in previously gritty
neighbourhoods, the City of Light has undergone a serious art renaissance.
No one would
tell an art lover to skip the Louvre. But for those
who want to explore today’s Paris, including its cutting-edge art scene, hip
boutiques and modern restaurants, these are our top picks.
One of the biggest gallery openings of the past decade, the Gagosian’s Parisian outpost debuted in 2012 in a 17,760sqft 1950s
airport warehouse in the city’s northern suburbs. Redesigned by Pritzker
Prize-winning starchitect Jean Nouvel, the cube-like white space is flooded
with light through skylights and tinted windows. Mezzanines provide different
perspectives on large-scale pieces – perfect for viewing works like the
modernist mobiles of Alexander Calder or the installations of Anselm Kierfer –
and an adjacent airstrip allows easier access for collectors with private jets.
cultural spaces planned for the outskirts of Paris include the Frank
Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton pour la Création, a cultural centre in the Bois de Boulogne that will
display the lavish contemporary art collection of billionaire and Louis Vuitton
CEO Bernard Arnault; and Jean Nouvel’s Philharmonie de
Paris, the new auditorium for the Paris Philharmonic orchestra in
the Parc de la Villette, both expected to be completed in 2014.
light-flooded industrial printing shop in Montparnasse that opened in 1880, was
where Paris’ lithography renaissance took place, with Matisse, Chagall, Picasso
and Miró using the printing stones and
inkpots. Today, the workshop is put to use by art-world celebrities such as
David Lynch and Karl Lagerfeld. Pop in to watch artists rendering images,
etching old limestone plates and sending their inked stones through massive,
whirring antique presses to produce prints.
artists have long drawn inspiration from Africa, a relationship recently
reinforced thanks to an influx of African immigrants into the city. For a
window on the colonial connection, head to La Maison de la Revue Noire. The intimate gallery, located in a sunny little
Montparnasse townhouse, grew out of the eponymous art and culture magazine that
ran from 1991 to 2001. It features paintings, photography, drawings and video exhibitions
from developing countries in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.
While not a new opening, Yvon Lambert, in the hip Marais
district, remains a top draw: the gallery has been at the forefront of the
city’s art scene for more than 30 years. The main space shows international
names such as Conceptual Art movement founder Sol LeWitt, while up-and-comers such
as South African video artist Candice Breitz are featured in the basement. For a window on up-to-the-minute art
news, stop at the gallery bookshop for independent, edgy magazines and lush
tomes in both French and English. Also make sure to pop into Galerie Xippas, which was restored in 2003. The gallery, which wraps
around the glass roof of Yvon Lambert, features works such as the large format
photography of French artist Valérie Belin and the realist still life paintings of
Anglo-Canadian Lisa Milroy.
Few cities have
one top-notch contemporary art museum, let alone three. In Paris, the
grandfather of the bunch is the Richard Rogers- and Renzo Piano-designed Centre Pompidou, which opened in 1977 in the 4th
arrondissement. The Pompidou now has a collection of more than 50,000 works
from the 20th and 21st Centuries, plus performance spaces
and a public library. From February through June, the exhibition Paparazzi! explores the line between photographer and celebrity
with works by Andy Warhol, Richard Avedon and Cindy Sherman.
2012 after a renovation, the Palais de Tokyo near the Trocadéro is the largest contemporary art
museum in Europe without a permanent collection. The funky space, a mix of
industrial grit and Art Deco grandeur, hosts about 40 exhibitions a year,
concentrating on French artists, while its late-night film screenings and indie
rock performances have turned it into a nightlife destination.
In the 14th arrondissement, the Fondation Cartier pour l'Art
Contemporain offers edgy international
exhibits – from painting to performance art, fashion to graphic design – in a
light-flooded glass building designed by Jean Nouvel. Through April, the blockbuster
show America Latina explores Latin
American photography from the 1960s through today.
With a dedicated art concierge, an onsite contemporary gallery, an auction space and an art bookstore, Le Royal Monceau, located near the Arc de
Triomphe, is the perfect home base for a Paris art weekend.
Originally opened in 1928, the hotel has hosted everyone from Walt Disney to
Coco Chanel, and received a new lease on life in 2010 courtesy of a Philippe
Starck makeover. Have the concierge arrange for you to hang out with street
artists in the up-and-coming Belleville neighbourhood; create walking tours of
gallery districts such as Montparnasse; and hook you up with private
after-hours visits to contemporary museums such as the Pompidou.
No longer simply spots for art-weary tourists to take
a break, gallery and museum restaurants in Paris have become foodie
destinations in their own right. The latest to get notice is Monsieur Bleu, which opened in May 2013 in the Palais de Tokyo’s new
wing. Perched above the quays of the Seine, with sweeping views of the Eiffel
Tower, the restaurant features modernist lines in black, white, jade and
chartreuse. Chef Benjamin Masson’s menu mixes brasserie fare – steak tartare,
frogs’ legs – with haute comfort food (lobster rolls, anyone?) for the
late-night set that flock in for cocktails and DJ sets until 2 am.
next day over the city’s latest brunch obsession, Le Bal Café near the Place de Clichy. Alice Trattle, formerly of
London’s Michelin-starred St John restaurant,
opened up this chic neo-Brit spot in the Le Bal photography
and cultural centre in 2012. For brunch, try a traditional fry-up with grilled
onions, thick-cut bacon, eggs and scones. Or opt for lunch fare such as
woodpigeon with beets, followed by stichelton cheese with fresh biscuits and
chutney or a homemade cheesecake. Trust us, it’s a work of art.