The Best Exhibitions in Paris in 2015
Paris is a difficult city to visit. Yes, you’ve read it correctly, we did say difficult…
Sure, not in the typical difficult-difficult kind of way, otherwise it would be hard to reach the status as the most visited city in the world. In fact, we’ve been there just two weekends ago and we loved every minute of our stay there. Paris is ‘difficult’ for a way more pleasant reason: it offers a lot of options and the multitude of choices could almost-almost paralyse you. What to visit? Where to go? How can you squeeze everything into your stay? Can you even?
The answer to that last question is simple: non, pas de tout. We imagine that even if you live a Parisien life, there’s just too much to choose from to be able to indulge yourself in it all. But that should, of course, never stop us from going and see as much as we can, there is always plenty to keep our senses stimulated for quite a while. This is Paris after all.
2015 is no exception. There is a lot happening around the city and with the impressions freshly in our minds, we thought to share what events are taking place in the French capital this year. For our recent visit we did the homework and we narrowed down the options from an art perspective to some of the best exhibitions you can visit in 2015, starting from the beginning of the year, and later as well.
FURTHER READING: The Best Exhibitions in Europe in 2015
Centre Pompidou in 2015
Ever since it opened in the 1970’s the Centre Pompidou has been in the forefront of modern art. Centre Pompidou’s Musée National d’Art Moderne (not to be confused with the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the MAM) has the second largest modern and contemporary art collection in the world after New York’s MoMa, and is also the stage for some of the best temporary exhibitions put together. This year is no exception.
Jeff Koons Retrospective
Until 27 April 2015
One of the biggest names in contemporary art, the American “macho-artist” Jeff Koons, had his major breakthrough into the international art scene thanks to an exhibition he was part of 28 years ago at the Centre Pompidou. This retrospective takes aim at what happened in Jeff Koons life since, or rather his large creation of work and the importance it has. It’s shiny, it’s glittery, it’s fluorescent, and some love it – and maybe-maybe even more hate it. But it leaves few indifferent. What we can say for sure is that we had a great time and we definitely left with many questions in our heads: is Koons an artist or a masterful marketer? You’ll have to judge for yourself to come closer to the answer.
Le Corbusier: The Measure of Man
From 29 April until 3 August 2015
This promising exhibition aims at presenting the work of Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, aka Le Corbusier. While the Swiss giant is known primarily for his modernist architecture and urban planning, he was also an active painter and sculptor and not only interested in constructions, but also in the human body. This exhibition will focus on this latter topic and Le Corbusier’s thoughts around the human proportions and its role as a universal principle defining all aspects of architecture and spatial composition. It sounds like it will present some sides of the artist that not many would automatically think of.
Centre Pompidou – Practical Details
Of course, the Centre Pompidou is much more than just its exhibitions, the space and the permanent collection will keep you highly entertained. Besides the main exhibitions, there are also others going on in parallel to the ones mentioned here above. Among the many good things with the Centre is for instance their opening hours: it’s open daily until 9 pm and certain nights during special weekends even later. Admission fee is currently €13 and you can purchase your ticket in advance or at the site in the automatic ticket booths to avoid the usual lines.
The Pinacothèque de Paris in 2015
The Pinacothèque de Paris is a young institution in the city of cultures, established as recently as 2007, but with yearly two million visitors it has quickly gained a dominating reputation, largely thanks to its brave attempt to rethink art history through the exhibitions organised.
In the Time of Klimt, The Vienna Secession
From 12 February until 21 June 2015
Gustav Klimt was at the centre of the Art Nouveau movement in Vienna at the previous turn of century, where as you surely know the movement went under the name of Secession, aptly describing the break from the conventions of the time. At the heart of this exhibition – displaying over 180 works taken from the collections of the Belvedere Museum in Vienna – is the life and oeuvre of the artist himself, from his early years as a student to his great masterpieces like Judith I and the Beethoven Frieze. The exhibition is, however, not only about Klimt, there is considerable space dedicated to the first years of the Secession movement, where masterpieces like the first works by Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka are also displayed, and Viennese art forms in general.
Pressionism, the Masterpieces of Graffiti on Canvas from Basquiat to Bando
From 12 March until 13 September 2015
With this exhibition the Pinacothèque certainly lives up to its reputation as the place where art history is constantly being reconsidered. This exhibition brings together some 100 paintings on canvas by the greatest artists of the so called Street Art world. The aim of the exhibition is to highlight the hidden history of the often misunderstood movement, where street art is lumped together with all kind of graffiti and often simplified to the banalities of tagging. Very few people know that the artists made famous for their works in public places also left and leave behind great productions in the traditional setting of the studio and displayed in galleries. This exhibitions brings to the attention of the public great works by the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Bando and Keith Haring from the period of the 1970s to the late 1990s.
The Pinacothèque – Practical Details
The Pinacothèque comprises of two parts, where the main one is accessed from the Place de la Madeleine side, while the other section is entered from the Rue de Vignon side of the same complex, reached by the Métro lines 8, 12 and 14, stop Madeleine. The museum is open daily from 10:30 am until 6:30 pm and on Wednesdays and Fridays the hours are extended until 8:30 pm. You have to buy separate tickets for each exhibition, €14 for Klimt and €13 for Pression. If you’d like to avoid the lines you can buy your ticket for an additional €1.50 from the site of the Pinacothèque.
Philharmonie de Paris in 2015
A part of the Paris Philarmonic is reserved for the Museum of Music, which ever since it opened in 1997 has become world renowned for its collection and presentation of musical instruments. But not only – regularly they put on exhibitions on the theme of music, which cover different artistic disciplines and areas from the music world. Like this year, a world-renowned exhibition that has been attracting the attention of the world on different continents: David Bowie.
David Bowie Is
From 3 March until 31 May 2015
The David Bowie Is exhibition is a stunning visual look into Bowie’s life, career and cultural impact, made possible by his smart decision to keep an archivist in employment. The insight into who Bowie really is exceeds most people’s expectations and there are plentiful aspects of his life that will be much better understood thanks to the exhibition, be it his interest for technology, his almost obsessive collector-mania, his inherent self-criticism or the obvious but spectacular fact of him being a style-icon without any comparison. This exhibition is in equal part about Bowie the person as Bowie the creator: his art – paintings and illustrations – takes up a huge part of the exhibition and show the incredible talent and imaginative mind he possessed since early childhood.
The Philarmonie de Paris – Practical Details
The regular price to the ‘David Bowie Is‘ exhibition is €12 and the ticket gives access to the permanent collection of the music instruments. The Philarmonie is located in the north-eastern part of the city, on Avenue Jean-Jaurès, reachable by the 5 Métro, five stops from Gare du Nord. The exhibition is closed on Mondays and is open until 8 pm on Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, until 6 pm on Tuesdays and until 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. During the weekends it opens at 10 am, the other days at noon.
Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
Not to be confused with the above presented Centre Pompidou, this museum devoted to contemporary art in all its form is just a short distance from the Eiffel Tower and has been open since 1961. Its permanent collection consists of some 8,000 works with numerous pieces by Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Henri Matisse, Alberto Giacometti, Georges Braque and Yves Klein. While more often than not the choice is for narrower exhibitions, occasionally they put on shows attracting larger public too.
Andy Warhol, exhibition: Shadows
From 2 October 2015 until 7 February 2016
This exhibition consists of two abstract photographs only: but the two photographs create an enormous installation work of 700 square metres (!) and are 130 metres long in total. This is a little-known work of Andy Warhol’s, yet, his biggest-scaled ever and this will be the first time ever presented outside of the United States. It is by many considered a work that summarises the pop artist’s main characteristics in his work, such as repetition and the occupation of space.
Musée d’Art Modern de la Ville de Paris – Practical Details
The Musée d’Art Modern de la Ville de Paris is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm, with late opening hours on Thursdays when the exhibition part of the museum keeps the doors open until 10pm. The nearest Métro stations are Alma-Marceau or Iéna, both on the 9 line, with address on 11 Avenue du Président Wilson. The permanent collection is possible to visit for free, while temporary exhibitions are normally priced in the range of €5-11.
Grand Palais in 2015
Grand Palais was built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900 to replace the Palais de l’Industrie that was in its place earlier. If we’d like to be in a pompous mood, we could quote one of the original motivations for its existence as a “monument dedicated by the Republic to the glory of French art”, reflecting the idea of hosting the great artistic events of the city of Paris. More than a century later, this is still a fact today, although it might not have the same central role in the Parisian art scene as expected from it back then. One of the main characteristics of the Grand Palais is its ‘boundarylessness’, putting on shows of a great variety, from the Antiques to today’s fashion world.
From 8 April until 22 June 2015
This exhibition is a joint production between the Grand Palais and the Louvre and the idea of it is to highlight the main achievements of the leader of the Spanish school, Diego Velázquez. The official artist of the Spanish King, Philip IV, at the height of Spain’s dominance of the world, Velázquez remains one of the most timeless names in art history, rivalled only by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian, Caravaggio and Rembrandt.
American Icons – Masterworks from the SFMOMA and the Fisher Collection
From 25 March until 13 July 2015
This exhibition will present sixty emblematic art works from the San Francisco MOMA and the Fisher Collection, which is nowadays curated by the museum. The exhibition will host many of the greatest 20th century American artists, such as Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Diebenkorn, Chuck Close and a good handful more. From Paris the exhibition will by the way move on south to Aix-en-Provence, where it will be visiting the Musée Granet (11 July to 18 October), in case you head that way instead.
The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gautier
From 1 April until 3 August 2015
A retrospective over the hugely successful career of the French fashion designer is returning to Paris after visiting nine previous destinations worldwide (Montreal, Dallas, San Francisco, Madrid, Rotterdam, Stockholm, Brooklyn, London and Melbourne). The exhibition features from the first dress created by the designer in 1971 to his most recent haute couture and ready-to-wear collections, and it also includes costumes worn by Kylie Minogue and Beyoncé and haute couture dresses worn by Nicole Kidman.
Grand Palais – Practical Details
The Grand Palais is located just off the Champs Elysée on 3, Avenue du Général Eisenhower. The regular opening hours are daily from 10 am to 8 pm, and usually open late on Wednesdays and Saturdays until 10 pm (the American Icons exhibition is not open late on Wednesdays). The regular entrance fee is €13 (€12 for American Icons) and to avoid the lines you can purchase your tickets online (additional €1 per ticket in fee). Online purchase has some disadvantages: you have to commit to a certain time and be comfortable with your French when purchasing, since the site isn’t available in English.
The Versailles in 2015
The Versailles unlikely needs a formal introduction, but what many might not realise is that the palace is not only about the past, but also has an important role in contemporary art. Each summer a contemporary artist is invited to the Versailles and after Lee Ufan in 2014 and Giuseppe Penone in the year before that, in 2015 it’s time for the great sculptor Anish Kapoor.
Anish Kapoor at the Gardens of the Palace of Versailles
From June until October 2015
The Indian Mumbai-born Anish Kapoor has lived and worked in London since the 1970s. He is known especially for his geometric or biomorphic sculptures and has soon been collecting all the possible prizes you just can win as a living artist. This exhibition at the Versailles gardens will bring “a political perspective on power and its depiction” with it, in the year marking the 300-years anniversary of Louis XIV’s death.
Versailles – Practical Details
In high season the Versailles Gardens are open daily from 7 am until 7 pm for cars, and 8:30 pm for pedestrians. The Versailles Palace itself has more restricted hours from 9 am to 6.30 pm and is closed on Mondays, even during the high season. The admission, called “Passport” is €18 for a day or €25 for the 2-days pass and you can buy it online at the chateauversailles.fr, just note that you are forced to pick a day in advance and there are some additional fees. On the other hand, you can reduce your time queuing for tickets significantly. It is good to know though that admission to the Gardens is free for pedestrians (€3 for cars, plus parking). At this stage, it is however not known if the Anish Kapoor exhibition will be in the free part of the garden or not. The best way to get to Versailles from Paris is with the RER C train from the Saint-Michel and Champ de Mars station. Always plan a full day for Versailles, less is just not enough to see it all.
Le Louvre in 2015
While we can agree that the Louvre is “Le Louvre” and if you want to go it’s rarely going to be for the temporary exhibitions. However, occasionally it can be an added extra to see something you don’t expect, especially if you are a returning visitor. This time around there are two exhibitions to keep an extra eye on: American Encounters – The Simple Pleasures of Still Life and Mark Lewis – Invention at the Louvre. I think it’s fair to say that you’re better off focusing on Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, but at least now we told you.
Louvre – Practical Details
The Louvre is open daily, with the exception of Tuesday, from 9 am until 6 pm. There are late opening hours on Wednesdays and Fridays (hurray) until 9:45 pm. To avoid the long lines outside the Louvre we highly recommend you to buy your ticket in advance online. The time you spend in the queue you can use better. Unfortunately, the Louvre is not that advanced yet to provide you with electronic tickets so you will still have to go and pick it up from the stores listed on the website.
In low season, October to March, there’s an additional good news if you time your visit around the first Sunday of the month: you can enjoy the permanent collection entirely free, with the exception of the time investment in lining up.
The Henri Cartier Bresson Foundation in 2015
The Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation in Paris has been open since May 2003, established by the biggest photographer the world has ever seen together with his wife Martine Franck (also of world photography-fame) and their daughter Mélanie, just a year before his death in 2004. The reason for the Foundation is to preserve the legacy of the photographers while providing a platform for discussing photography and photo journalism, among others through the biannually awarded HCB Award.
Pieter Hugo: Kin
From 14 January until 26 April 2015
The latest project of the South African giant of contemporary photography, Pieter Hugo, goes under the name ‘Kin’ and its focus is on the artist’s own home country, South Africa. The project was carried out over eight years and in many ways it is similar to previous projects that Hugo had in other parts of Africa, like Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia. The big difference is that this time the theme is in fact close to home and the photographers conflicted relationship to his own country is at the centre of the attention. Pieter Hugo depicts subjects and locations of personal significance through landscapes, portraits and still life photography, all the while the complex issues of colonization, racial diversity and economic disparity never leave the focus of the attention. A must-see.
Patrick Faigenbaum – HCB Award Winner 2013
From 13 May until 26 July 2015
Patrick Faignebaum is the winner of the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson Award for 2013 and this exhibition is showcasing the project he won for, entitled ‘Kolkata‘. The project highlights a less dynamic part of India through the portrayal of a local artist Shreyasi Chatterjee and her family, in the context of this historically important part of the British Indian Empire.
Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson – Practical Details
The Henri Cartier-Bresson is located in the Montparnasse area on 2, Impasse Lebouis, at the line 13 Gaité metro stop. The regular admission fee is €7 and it is open Tuesday to Sunday from 1 pm to 6:30 pm and Saturday from 11 am to 6:45 pm. Wednesday nights the museum is open until 8:30 pm.
Paris Magnum at the Hotel de Ville
Until 28 March 2015
While on the theme of Henri Cartier-Bresson: as one of the founders of the world’s most prestigious photography cooperative agency, Magnum (established together with Robert Capa, David “Chim” Seymour and George Rodger), he was in the forefront of changing journalism forever. Paris for the Magnum Agency, being based in the French capital, has always held a central role in the photographers lives. There is currently an exhibition at the Hotel de Ville – Paris Magnum, The capital through the eyes of the greatest photographers – definitely worth visiting, a testimony of 150 images looking back at 80 years in the development of Paris, from the 1930 until today, seen with the eyes of some of the most prestigious Magnum Photographers.
The exhibition is free and open Monday to Saturday from 10 am till 6.30 pm. If you walk by, this is an occasion not to be missed.
Other Important Art Dates in Paris
These were what we think are the best exhibitions in Paris in 2015. While the French capital has constantly something going on, it’s not only the exhibitions you should keep an eye on, but also some good-to-know dates, for knowing when something a little bit out of the ordinary happens. There’s for instance the Parisian Museum Night in mid-May when you can round off your nightly museum visit with a glass of red wine on a terrace. The big Parisian art fair, FIAC, is every year held in October; if you have some extra money to spend, this could be the occasion. And there’s more.
A Tip: Paris Museum Pass
If you are sure that your Paris visit will be an intense museum-hopping occasion it is worth considering getting a museum pass. A pass is valid for individual visitors and offers free admission – without waiting in line – to the permanent collections of more than 60 museums and monuments in and around Paris, including the Louvre. The prices are as follows:
In this post we evaluated whether or not the Paris Museum Pass is actually worth your money. This is one tip we can give you, but if you would like to for instance beat the crowds and save money, check out our article with useful tips for Paris.