Paris Art: Top Tips for Autumn


At the Milliner’s (detail), by Edgar Degas. “Impressionism and Fashion,” Musée d’Orsay. Courtesy Musée d’Orsay.

Paris art lovers go crazy during fall’s first months. The clouds lower, the air chills and all the action starts. This is la rentrée, the city’s big return to school, to post-vacation life—and to museums. This year, la rentrée debuts landmark changes. One is the unveiling of the Louvre’s new Department of Islamic Art. This structure, by Mario Bellini and Rudy Ricciotti, has been keenly awaited. The city also unveils the first glimpse of voies sur berges, a reclamation of the Seine-side roadways for pedestrian use. Add to this a Rolodex of great art—and everyone’s happy.

Artists’ rendering of the new Seine-side walkway (with a café run by the team from Rosa Bonheur). Photo: APUR/JC Chobley/Mairie de Paris.

Among the huge, star-studded shows are some true must-sees. At the Grand Palais, there is “Bohemias”: a look at the artist’s life, as seen from Rimbaud to le Moulin Rouge. The Palais is also mounting a retrospective of Edward Hopper. At the Louvre, “Late Raphaël” includes over a hundred works never before seen by Parisians. At the Musée d’Orsay, “Impressionism and Fashion” studies how painters reacted to actual style. The Musée des Arts Décoratifs offers its own look at two centuries of style in “Fashioning Fashion.” It also shows off the bling in “Van Cleef and Arpels” then, if you need an introduction to Gallic graphics, you’ll get it from the excellent “French Touch.” 

“Fashioning Fashion” (detail), Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Courtesy Historic Museum of Berlin.

The Centre Pompidou mounts a huge retrospective of that monstre sacré in a moustache Salvador Dalí. The (free) public gallery at the Hôtel de Ville presents costumes, stills and movie clips that show “Paris by Hollywood.” Continuing through March is an already-open winner—the Musée Rodin’s beautifully staged “Rodin: Flesh and Marble.” 

Paolo and Francesca in the Clouds (detail), by Auguste Rodin. “Rodin: Flesh and Marble,” Musée Rodin. Photo by Christian Baraja. Courtesy Musée Rodin.

There are great shows all over town. The Tuileries’s Jeu de Paume has that master Latin American lensman Manuel Alvarez Bravo. Two venues highlight the Venetian master Canaletto: the always-delightful Musée Maillol and the Muéee Jaquemart-André (which offer a chance to compare the painter with his rival Guardi). The Musée de l’Orangerie shows off expressionist Chaïm Soutine, whose work is also visible along with his pal Modigliani’s at the Pinacothèque de Paris. 

Rêverie, by Charles Amable Lenoir (detail). “Bohemias,” Grand Palais. Courtesy Grand Palais.

When it comes to contemporaries, there are also impressive names. The 104’s “By Nature,” a group show, includes the brilliant Kader Attia. Two female French art stars are featured in private galleries: Sophie Calle at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin and Camille Henrot at Kamel Mennour. (Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont does its bit with Shirin Neshat.)

Camille Henrot at La Triennale, “Is it possible to be a revolutionary and still love flowers?” Courtesy Galerie Kamel Mennour.

These are just the highlights of a stunning autumn calendar. Keep tuning in to catch up with more developments, Paris art pop-up shows, open studios, etc. Below is your link to la rentrée from the Paris mairie, featuring hours, admission prices—and more shows.

“Van Cleef & Arpels,” Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Courtesy Musée des Arts Décoratifs. 

Double-check each venue by website, then book in advance. Even with tickets in hand, there can be lengthy queues. For all large shows, if you want a good view, go early—or take advantage of late-night hours. Remember, too, most Paris art institutions close either Monday or Tuesday.

Related Links
Paris mairie’s website
Department of Islamic Art
Voies sur berges
Editor’s note: It’s more fun to see the town with a little help. Our do-it-yourself walking trips are available as pdfs or as apps for your iPhone or Android phone.