The Palais de Tokyo is no stranger to evolution. It debuted as the Palais des Musées d'Art Moderne in 1937, housing France's modern art collection. In the eighties it accommodated the French state film school, La Fémis, and later on the Centre National de la Photographie and the Palais de Cinema. In 2002, the building (named after the former Avenue de Tokio) became the Palais de Tokyo, an exhibition space dedicated to modern and contemporary art.
And so in 2012, the evolution continues. Palais de Tokyo reopened after ten months of renovations, unveiling a monumental area of 22,000 square meters - making it one of the biggest modern art spaces in Europe. No expansions were made to the terrain; instead, floors previously closed to the public were opened up for exhibitions. Architects Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philppe Vassal utilized the existing yet unused space. The result: four floors dedicated to creative minds and catering to the contemporary spirit.
Whether a fanatic or novice of contemporary art, the Palais de Tokyo deserves a slot in one's Paris cultural itinerary. Why, you ask? Let me count the ways:
Over 30 to 40 exhibitions are to be held in the Palais de Tokyo yearly. The fact that there are no permanent collections housed in the museum makes the temporary exhibits even more dynamic and ever-changing. There is always something exciting happening within its walls, giving you every reason to keep tabs on this museum's latest exhibits. Check out their exhibitions agenda and their events agenda for various lectures, concerts, projections, talks and performances - some of these events are free to the public.
There are also guided visits which follow unusual themes. If you're interested in unearthing the building's little secrets, or simply want a quick tour of the museum, the Public Tours are open to everyone, as long as you're interested. Seek out a Visitor Experience Assistant once you're in the museum - they're available at any time of the day.
If you're expecting a sleek, white-walled museum, then you're in for a surprise. Instead, you'll find yourself in a place akin to an unfinished warehouse, or a construction site (which in some ways, it is). Explore its upper floors which are awash in light, and its lower floors which remain dark and somber. With its unpainted walls, exposed beams, and concrete floors, the massive space is unpolished and raw. Yes, the renovations cost 22 million euros, and this is exactly the look they were after, according to the center's president Jean de Loisy.
Visitors, too, are free to roam the galleries as they please. There are no directions or signages. So give in to the exhilarating liberty of exploring each exhibit according to your whim, at your own pace. How's that for freedom?
Night time in Paris doesn't mean that all cultural activities must end as well. A nocturnal visit to the museum makes for a very unique evening. The Palais de Tokyo holds a schedule conducive to night owls: it's doors are open from 12 noon up to midnight.
After taking in the art, head over to any of the two restaurants in the building. The Tokyo Eat has been around since 2002, and it's an art space in its own right, with various artists pitching in to the restaurant's surroundings: Stéphane Maupin's lamps, Ivan Fayard's tables, and Bernard Brunon's wall paintings. It's open until 2am.
The newly-opened Monsieur Bleu is another restaurant nestled in Palais de Tokyo's newest wing. Drop by for lunch, dinner, or drinks - and try to get a place at the terrace if you're there during the warmer months for an enviable view of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower. Like The Tokyo Eats, it stays open until 2am.
And if you have the sudden hankering to browse a bookshop in the wee hours of the night, then this is the place for you. Open till midnight, the bookshop of the Palais de Tokyo carries a wide range of art magazines, books, and publications and objects, where you can shop to your heart's delight.
Palais de Tokyo
13 avenue du Président Wilson, 75116 Paris
Metro: Iéna, Alma Marceau
Opening hours: Wed-Mon, 12 noon to 12 midnight
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