My first morning in Paris, I made a beeline for the Musée d’Orsay — a stunning Beaux-Arts rail station in the late 19th century — that now houses an incredible collection of Impressionist formerly at the Jeu de Paume. The M’O also features special exhibits which are worth seeking out and I particularly enjoyed Marlene Dumas “La Spleen de Paris, an homage to Baudelaire on the 200th anniversary of his birth. [For all museums and other public places, be sure to buy your tickets in advance and have your Pass Sanitaire or other proof of vaccination to show at the entrance.] As the Musée d’Orsay is enormously popular, I recommend visiting either early on Sunday, or on Thursday evenings when it stays open until 9:45 p.m.
At the other end of the spectrum, the sparsely populated Musée de l’Armée at Les Invalides has a wonderful exhibit commemorating the 200th anniversary of Napoléon’s death. Napoléon? Enclore! features the works of contemporary artists from Marina Abramovich to Yan Pei-MIng spread throughout the complex interacting with the museum’s collection focused on military history across the centuries including the iconic portrait of Napoleon on His Imperial Throne by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. My personal favorite shown above is a work by Pascal Convert: Memento Marengo, a 3D-printed copy of the skeleton of Napoléon’s legendary steed captured by the British at Waterloo. [NB: the exhibit closes on February 22, 2022. However, if you can’t get to Paris before then, the website is excellent.]
A relative newcomer as a museum, the 18th century circular building that now houses La Bourse de Commerce – Pinault Collection was constructed between 1763 and 1767 by the City of Paris for the storage and sale of wheat. François Pinault commissioned Tadao Ando to repurpose the building, which reopened to the public in February 2020. The juxtaposition of contemporary art (the entire collection includes 10,000 pieces by 400 artists) with the historic structure makes for an enhanced viewing experience.
Just around the literal corner from La Bourse de Commerce, the Centre Pompidou aka Beaubourg is now an astonishing (to me, at least) 35 years old. The museum was wildly unpopular when it first opened due to its now signature “inside out” style, and the fact that it displaced the historical food markets of Les Halles.
These days visitors flock to its exhibits of modern art mostly unaware of the controversy. I was fortunate enough to catch the Georgia O’Keefe Exhibit which has now closed. (NB: If you are in Basel, it will be at the Fondation Beyeler January 23 – May 22, 2022).
Although she may be best known for her flowers and images of the Sonoran desert, my two favorites from this show are from her time in Lake George, New York. Worth noting that there are a variety of ticket options for this museum, so be sure to purchase one that includes the permanent collection, as well as any special exhibits.
On the opposite side of town, the Fondation Louis Vuitton opened in 2014 next to the Botanical Gardens in Paris’s Bois de Boulogne (regular shuttles run from the Arc de Triomphe or you can take a taxi). Frank Gehry designed the building and drew inspiration from glass buildings including the Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées.
The Morozov Collection: Icons of Modern Art is currently on view and a must see, as this is the first time it has traveled outside Russia. I had seen some of these works when I was in Moscow, but the depth and breadth on display is breathtaking.
The Musée de l’Orangerie may be best known for Monet’s Les Nymphées (Water Lilies) – eight murals displayed in their own gallery, which was donated to the museum in 1922. It also houses the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collections of Impressionist and Post Impressionist art including masterpieces by Renoir, Degas, Cézanne and Picasso, among others.
As a contemporary counterpoint: David Hockney’s A Year in Normandy, inspired by a visit he made to the famous Bayeux Tapestry (a 70-meter work of embroidery relating the exploits of William Conqueror that dates to the 11th century).
Hockney’s work is 80 meters long and comprises 100 works made on his iPad over the period of a few weeks at the beginning of the lockdown in 2020. It is a remarkable testimony to the 84 year-old artist’s vision and versatility. I felt it was a fitting end to my art-centric week.
Paris is home to around 130 museums — so I need at least twenty more trips to visit all of them (although I have been to many of them in previous years)! Let the planning begin! In the meantime, I look forward to your comments, suggestions and/or questions. Vive La France!