Paris has long been synonymous with burgeoning arts and cultural flair. With such a wealth of public galleries, creative events and white spaces, no selection of the top 10 contemporary art galleries can be comprehensive. Aside from Centre Pompidou or Le Laboratoire, there are iconic pioneers of art, such as Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. Our selection includes both the established, as well as the ones to watch, on Paris’s contemporary art scene.
Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain
Better known as Fondation Cartier, this contemporary art museum celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this year, marking the Cartier firm’s departure from jewellery into the arts. For the past twenty years, the space has been based in the 14th arondissement of the capital in a light-flooded glass building designed by Pritzker Prize architect Jean Nouvel. Often lamented for being a longer excursion from the centre of Paris than other alternatives, the idyllic woodland garden surrounding the venue is an added delight. The permanent collection bolsters the thread of artistic debuts, while innovations include the hugely popular Nomadic Nights, which focus on the performing arts, enabling a discourse between different creative genres and themes.
Modus Art Gallery
Set in the oldest planned square in Paris, Place de Vosges, this often-overlooked gallery describes its vision as a reference point for both contemporary and modern art in the Marais district. It would, however, be valid to say that their influence should be felt further afield. The collections at Modus are singular and unique, showcasing a range of styles, media and talents. This eclecticism is driven by the gallery’s notable presence at art fairs globally, which seeks to bring back the best to the historic centre of arts in France. A wander around the current exhibitions would afford a visual assault of colour and texture from Ibizan-based Marta Torre’s creations of painting and sculpture. The curves and ladders that pervade the solid results of Isabel Miramontes sketches from live models are echoes in the iconic work of the recently deceased French sculptor, Philippe Hiquily. The cutout simplicity of his La marathonienne is well worth a visit.
Modus Art Gallery, 23 Place des Vosges, Paris, France, +33 1 42 78 10 10
For those who have a little more time to spend, and want a day’s escape from the clamour of central Paris, La Maréchalerie in Versailles is easily accessible by mainline train services and bus. Part-tourist attraction, part-religious icon, the building was formerly a passageway, the two ends of which overlook the Castle and town respectively through striking, full bay windows. The gallery prioritises artists whose work is dedicated to, or inspired by, ways of diverting or reconfiguring circumstantial urban constraints. Until 22 March 2014, their ten-year anniversary exhibition promises to be a time-capsule insight into the formative decade of the gallery, inviting all those who have exhibited over the years to gather in a truly celebratory retrospective.
La Maréchalerie, 5 Avenue de Sceaux, Versailles, France, +33 1 39 07 40 27
Located in the vibrant Marais area, Xippas, as it is lovingly shortened, is something of an artistic powerhouse. With showrooms and galleries across Greece, Switzerland, Uruguay as well as France, there is a confidence in their aim to be an international platform for contemporary forms. Created in 1990 by Renos Xippas, the gallery space is one of the largest dedicated to fresh and established artists across Paris. The inner venue itself is custom-made with distinguished architectural features such as a transparent staircase and ghost wall, designed by Barthélémy and Grino. Ycan Salomone, a homegrown French painter, is one of the most stunning featured artists, showcasing magical watercolours, which depict the everyday in innovative, intimate ways.
Galerie Xippas, 108 Rue Vieille du Temple, Paris, France, +33 1 40 27 07 16
La Maison Rouge
Don’t anticipate what the name suggests. Instead, the white space of La Maison Rouge, founded on the initiative of Antoine de Galbert, is driven by the need to feature a spectrum of new contemporary artists, which is the reasoning behind only displaying temporary collections. Monographic shows nestle alongside experimental displays from independent curators or private art collections. As well as fuelled by a desire to highlight the many facets of contemporary art, the curators seem to have the ubiquitous French café culture on their minds. Three times a year, visitors will be able to relish a pop-up café space, mixing décor with delectation from any gourmand’s cultural favourite: Rose Bakery.
La Maison Rouge, 10 Boulevard de la Bastille, Paris, France, +33 1 40 01 08 81
Agnès B – Galerie du Jour
Often missed in the shadow of the undeniably touristy Centre Pompidou, Agnès B is named after the owner and media face of the gallery, who explains ‘we say gallery, but we could also say a place for showing the other faces and the side issues of things’. Featuring about ten different shows per year, the gallery has quietly become renowned for its mix of cherry-picked painters, photographers and sculptors. In 2009, the gallery also added its own library, which is a paper palace of press cuttings, reviews, books, objets d’art as well as the in-house publications which are reinvented each edition, featuring a new artist and capturing their style and motivations in glossy pages.
Agnès B – Galerie du Jour, 44 Rue Quincampoix, Paris, France, +33 1 44 54 55 90
A relative veteran on the Parisian contemporary arts scene, Galerie Yvon Lambert has nurtured its vision to showcase pioneering artists of conceptualism (including Lawrence Weiner), minimalism (notably, Carl Andre) and land art since its opening in 1966. The gallery’s pivotal aims to present artistic projects which are ambitious, innovative and intense resonate, for example, in Mounir Fatmi’s show, entitled They were blind, they only saw images. Combining multimedia elements of installation, photography and sculpture, this exhibition looked at the role that vision plays in the viewing of, and consideration of art. The established library is the perfect place to pick up a book to keep the memory of Yvon Lambert long after you return home.
Yvon Lambert, 108 Rue Vieille du Temple, Paris, France, +33 1 42 71 09 33
Tucked just out of sight of Centre Pompidou, Galerie Laurent Godin sits unprepossessingly on Rue de Grenier Saint-Lazare. With three main rooms, the exhibition space is undeniably compact, but each show is allowed to breathe, with fluidity between exhibitors and a freedom to wander, with knowledgeable staff on hand to talk you through the nature of the work. Although the gallery platform is dominated by two-dimensional work, paintings and photography, their website indicates their championing of contemporary artists with wide-reaching horizons, including sculptors and plasticiens. Paul Czerlitzki’s first solo exhibition, Roots, affords a fascinating exploration of the potential of technology and scanning techniques in recreating the real in a way that is self-consciously imitative and implicitly artificial. For those who like to be told a story through art, Laurent Godin’s exhibitions are unlikely to disappoint.
Laurent Godin, 5 Rue du Grenier St Lazare, Paris, France, +33 1 42 71 10 66
A local favourite, this wonderfully little-known art space is nestled beneath the laced steelwork of the Eiffel tower. Millésime Gallery seeks out the best fresh French talent, and prides itself for being the stepping-stone to wider dissemination of each artist’s work and ambitions. A particular highlight of this pocket-sized tour-de-force is the photo-framing workshop Cadre Art, with which Millésime Gallery is affiliated. Drop by at the close of a rainy day and the manager Juliette Murcia is ever ready to offer a preview of the unfinished, unframed artworks, with a general atmosphere of energy, movement, and process. Of particular recent interest was Vincent Fillon’s exhibition of layered, ephemeral photographs, and Sandrine Delage’s long-awaited work capturing the mirrors that often go unnoticed, omnipresent within the natural world.
Millésime Gallery, 41 Avenue de la Bourdonnais, Paris, France, +33 6 82 55 57 96
Bugada & Cargnel
Formerly known as Cosmic Galerie, Bugada & Cargnel is certainly one to watch. Established by the pair from whom the name derives, the gallery has become the hub of burgeoning artistic life in the Belleville region of Paris. The stunning showroom offers an atmosphere of discovery and drama, occupying 500 square metres in a former industrial garage dating from the early 1930s. Artists represented by the gallery are a mix of emerging and well-known, for instance Parisian multimedia artist Cyprien Gaillard and Mat Collishaw, one of the Young British Artists working with photography and video, have graced this space. There was also a great deal of general interest around the exhibition The Figure in the Carpet. Drawing its name from a Henry James short story, those behind this show (Étienne Chambaud, Julian Charrière, Ayan Farah) weave the original narrative’s secrets into an oeuvre that seeks to show a vivid surface resulting from the process of abstract painting, but one which the artists are fully cognizant of.
Bugada & Cargnel, 7 Rue de l’Équerre, Paris, France, +33 9 53 55 10 62
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