Many structures built for the Universal Exhibitions of the 1900 were torn down after the completion of the fair, but the Grand Palais was spared. For Europe in the late 19th century, these world fairs were a gathering point for all of the continent to come together and reveal their latest innovations and inventions. Construction of the massive building took three years with 1,500 workers. The appearance of Art Nouveau was ever-present at this exhibition, and the Grand Palais was no exception. The outside of the structure features Art Nouveau-style ironwork and work by prominent sculptors such as Alfred Boucher and Camille Lefèvre.
After the completion of the Grand Palais, it immediately began to be used as an exhibition space. The showcases were mostly dedicated to modern innovations, such as the automobile, aviation, and household appliances. The famous Salon d’Automne, an annual art exhibition that began in 1903 with works from artists such as Pierre Bonnard, Albert Glees, Henri Matisse, and Albert Marquet. Notably, the first Matisse retrospective after his death was held at the Grand Palais.
During the World War I, the Grand Palais was used as a military hospital, and during World War II, it housed two Nazi propaganda exhibitions. As Paris was being liberated at the end of WWII, the Parisian resistance set up their headquarters in the building.
The Grand Palais was given historic monument status in 2000, which enabled the French government to move forward with renovation plans that were desperately needed. While progress has been made, the Palais is still currently undergoing restoration.
Today, the Grand Palais houses art exhibitions, the biannual Chanel fashion shows, Paris Photo, an annual equestrian show, and many other events and activities. According the Grand Palais, there is something for everyone with exhibitions surrounding fine arts, fashion, photography, music, dance, cinema, theatre and even sports. With something for everyone, there is no excuse not to visit the Grand Palais as soon as possible.