Paris is a city so rich in art that the most visited museum in the world, the Louvre, draws in a staggering 8 million visitors per year. But while most of the attention goes to the history of art, its future − contemporary art − is very much alive in Paris. And while people would argue that Paris's contemporary art scene is somewhat sleepy compared to London or New York, one only has to make a tour of the galleries to be proven wrong.
Independent art galleries, alternative spaces, and restored monuments are plentiful in this city, all dedicated to showcasing artistic experimentation in painting, sculpture, photography, video, multimedia and installation. These white-walled, minimalist galleries may seem intimidating to some, but entrance is almost always free, and there's always some exciting event or opening (vernissage) happening in one of them.
A dense concentration of contemporary art galleries can be found in the Marais and Beaubourg, followed by Saint-Germain-de-Prés and the Champs Elysées area. As expected, the collections in these galleries are the polar opposite of what you'd find at the Louvre or Musée d'Orsay, but that doesn't make them any less important. Can't wait to get started? Here are some suggestions on where to head on over to.
76 rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris
A contemporary art gallery in the Marais founded by Emmanuel Perrotin, the French art dealer whose dedication to the arts knows no boundaries (in 1995, at the specific requests of an artist, he dressed up as a giant penis for an exhibit opening). Representing a slew of well-known names in the contemporary art scene like Takashi Murakami, Sophie Calle, Maurizio Cattelan and Bernard Frize among others, this two-storey gallery is the perfect place to take in a stunning, surprising exhibit.
Galerie Yvon Lambert
108 rue Vieille-du-Temple, 75003 Paris
Galerie Yvon Lambert has hosted collection after collection of innovative and intense art under its roof. First opened in 1966, it has moved twice before settling in its current rue Vieille-du-Temple location, where it continues to represent artists it believes in, both established and up-and-coming. Anselm Kiefer, Roman Opalka, Joan Jonas, Koo Jeong-A, and Loris Gréaud are just a few names the gallery supports. 2001 welcomed the Yvon Lambert library and bookshop, where you can browse art books, prints, art objects, and exhibition catalogues to your heart's content.
37 rue de Poitou, 75003 Paris
For a glimpse of works from artists who are renowned worldwide yet still relatively unknown in France, head on over to Inception Gallery. Founded by Frédéric Alquier, this gallery features both established and emerging international living artists; represented ones include Armando Romero, Richard Orlinski, Ran Hwang and Quentin Shih. Reception in this gallery is warm and accommodating; more often than not, whoever is manning the gallery will actually take the time to explain the works on display, a gesture much appreciated by art novices and experts alike.
Galerie Kamel Mennour
47 rue Saint-André-des-Arts, 75006 Paris
Along the busy rue Saint-André-des-Arts lies Galerie Kamel Mennour, a delightful space located in what was once a famous Parisian salon in the 18th century, the Hotel de la Vieuville. In its ten years of existence, this small gallery has exhibited big names in the art scene: Nobuyoshi Araki, Annie Leibovitz, Pierre Molinier, Huang Yong Ping and Sigalit Landau.
Galerie Daniel Templon
30 rue Beaubourg/impasse Beaubourg, 75003 Paris
As if having cofounded the celebrated bilingual contemporary magazine, Art Press, wasn't enough, contemporary art dealer Daniel Templon also has a gallery in the Marais which exhibits big names in the contemporary art scene like Daniel Buren, Jean-Marc Bustamante, Julian Schnabel and Keith Haring. It has gained international recognition and is now considered as one of the most important galleries in Europe. Definitely worth swinging by if you're in the area.
Jousse Entreprise Gallery
6 rue Saint Claude, 75003 Paris
This gallery may seem small from the outside, but following a narrow corridor from the main room leads you to a bigger exhibition space, all the better to accommodate the thought-provoking works of its resident artists: Julien Prévieux, Martin le Chevallier, Kishin Shinoyama, and Clarisse Hahn, to name a few.
8 rue Charlot, 75003 Paris
Housed in a charming 'hotel particulier' in the Marais is NextLevel Gallery. Founded by Isabelle Mesnil, it hosts six to seven exhibitions yearly. Subjects range from contemporary art and design to photography. This is a must-see venue to discover French and international artists and designers
Le CENTQUATRE (104)
5 rue Curial, 75019 Paris
If there is a Disneyland of contemporary art, it would have to be CENTQUATRE, a 40,000 square meter cultural and artistic space tucked in the 19th arrondissement. A former slaughterhouse-turned-funeral service area, it is now one of the busiest creative centers in Paris. It has an intensive program of festivals, spectacles, visual art exhibits, concerts and events, and is very family-friendly as well. And when you're done looking at the art, you can have a meal at the huge loft-style restaurant and spend an afternoon perusing the bookshop's eclectic art book collection.>
Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain
261 boulevard Raspail, 75014 Paris
Exhibits, conferences and productions are just some of the exciting events held at the Fondation Cartier in its commitment to make contemporary art more accessible to a wider audience. The building is huge and airy, its streaming light and high ceilings making it a unique venue for those hungry to discover the latest photography, design, fashion or art exhibit in the city. It also hosts Nomadic Nights, where concerts, screenings, performances and lectures are held for an evening in the space's garden. Climb the stairs to the library at the second floor and pick up an art book (or ten) from their lovely collection.
La Gaité Lyrique
3 bis rue Papin, 75003 Paris
Keeping up with the times, La Gaité Lyrique opened its doors to digital culture, aiming to encourage open-mindedness towards new media art forms. Themed exhibits, concerts, performances, lectures and projections are all part of La Gaité Lyrique's program. From film-making to animation, dance to motion design, software art and fashion, it has become a diverse melting pot for the future of art.
Even the suburbs have caught up: Versailles and Pantin are just some of the cities beyond the peripherique which host important contemporary art centers.
MAC/VAL - Vitry-sur-Seine
Place de la Libération, Vitry-sur-Seine, 94404
The first contemporary art museum to open outside the center of Paris, it has a collection dating back to the 1950s, holds exciting temporary exhibitions and cultivates rising artists with its art residencies. Installations from Christian Boltanski and Gilles Barbier share the same space as other contemporary artists of different nationalities.
La Maréchalerie - Versailles
5 avenue de Sceaux 78000 Versailles
La Maréchalerie puts Versailles on the contemporary art map. This beautiful, high-ceilinged center dedicated to contemporary art was restored in 2004 and stands opposite the school of architecture with which it is affiliated. Located just behind the Petite Ecurie of the Versailles castle, it's a venue worth checking out, and it's open everyday except Sundays starting from 2pm.
Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery - Pantin
69 avenue du General Leclerc, 93500 Pantin
Northeast of Paris in the Seine-St-Denis department is the sprawling 4700 square meter Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac − a gallery divided into four huge exhibition spaces, and a multimedia area for dances, performances, lectures, and screenings. Opened to the public in October 2012, the gallery debuted with Anselm Kiefer and Joseph Beuys exhibitions, which was a huge success attraction large public attention.
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