Visit the Grand Palais

The Universal Exhibitions that have taken place in Paris have fundamentally changed the face of the city. Visitors to the 1900 exhibition would have had the opportunity to discover three new landmarks, which would become icons in the way the Eiffel Tower had in 1889: the Pont Alexander III, the Petit Palais, and the Grand Palais. The former, dedicated to the arts remains a space which regularly hosts retrospective exhibitions and seminal installations by the world’s most important contemporary artists.

In contrast with many structures built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900, the Grand Palais was built to last. It was designed with the intention of housing the yearly art salons that would take place long after other buildings from the Universal Exhibition had been bulldozed. The palace is dedicated to the arts, the architectural style of which mixes both art nouveau and classicism, in a monumental alliance of iron and glass. The nave, the large central glass roof of the structure, combines grace and lightness, and stands as the largest glass roof in Europe. With a surface area of 72,000 m2, the Grand Palais offers myriad opportunities throughout the year to experience its stunning interior. The complex of buildings that surround the main palais include the Palais de la Découverte (children’s science museum), and the Galeries Nationales (a large exhibition space to the rear of the Grand Palais).

Temple of Art

The Grand Palais has been the site of major events in the history of art − in particular the famous Fauvism exhibition that took place in 1905 when paintings by Matisse caused immense controversy at the time. The word fauve, meaning wild, was used disparagingly by one critic to describe the work he saw. The term was cleverly used by those artists as an affirmative name for a movement that was in its early stages.

Every autumn the public are invited to discover the FIAC art fair, which was established in 1977, and is an important yearly event on the international art calendar. Important gallerists, collectors, specialists, and art fans assemble here to buy and exhibit their costly wares.

The antiques biennale also offers a wonderful opportunity to admire the beautiful objects assembled such as tapistries, ceramics, paintings, and furniture of every imaginable style and era. But it’s the unparalleled yearly Monumenta exhibition that gets most attention from the press. Every year a major contemporary artist is given carte blanche to create a work that will fill the cavernous space.

Regularly the national galleries of the Grand Palais propose a large retrospective, often with the collaboration of some of the world’s largest and most important museums. Shows over the past few years have included, Claude Monet, William Turner, Edward Hopper, and Andy Warhol. A recent exhibition explored the theme of bohemism in art and included the works of Picasso and the poems of Verlaine and Rimbaud.

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