A Guide to the Best and Most Famous Art Galleries in Paris
With acclaimed art galleries and a wealth of smaller independent spaces, Paris is one of the art capitals of the world.
When it comes to art, few cities in the world have as much to offer as Paris. The choice can be overwhelming – even the most enthusiastic art lover in the world couldn’t cover it all in one trip. So, with that in mind, read on to discover the most famous art galleries in Paris, along with a few off-the-beaten-track creative gems that we here at Plum Guide love too.
The most famous art galleries in Paris
Take a look at some of the most famous art galleries in Paris (if not the world) that you definitely won't want to miss during your trip to the city.
Standing on the Right Bank, just north of the western tip of the Île de la Cité, is the Louvre, one of the world’s most-visited museums. It holds a collection that spans artwork from antiquity to the mid-19th century. Famous for being the home of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, it also boasts many masterpieces by Italian Renaissance painters and Flemish and Dutch painters of the Baroque period.
In addition, here you'll find exhibitions dedicated to decorative arts; Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiquities; sculpture; ancient Egyptian artefacts; and Near Eastern antiquities. Queues for the Louvre can be extremely long, so it is worth buying your ticket in advance. If you want to stay central and close to the museum, our home The Prizewinner is the perfect place for you.
Musée de l’Orangerie
From the Louvre, it’s just a short stroll to the western corner of the Tuileries Gardens, next to the Place de la Concorde, to the gates of the Orangerie. This gallery is perhaps most famous for its two elliptically shaped rooms hosting eight canvases from Monet's Water Lilies cycle.
The Orangerie also boasts a very large collection of works by world-renowned impressionist and post-impressionist painters, including Cézanne, Matisse, Modigliani, Picasso, and Utrillo. Tucked away in the basement you will find the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume Collection of impressionist and Ecole de Paris paintings, which include works by Matisse, Renoir, Derain, Rousseau and Soutine.
If you just can’t get enough of the Impressionists, then make your way across to the Left Bank of the Seine, where you’ll find the Musée d’Orsay. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1914, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. It also houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world. Once a train station, the platforms became too short for use in the 1900s and the building was converted. The fifth floor features a famous clock, through which you can admire a view of Paris.
Inspired by the awe-inspiring view from the Musée d’Orsay's iconic clock? Enjoy similarly stunning vistas from your home away from home, with our guide to the best Airbnbs in Paris with a view.
Centre Georges Pompidou
The Pompidou Centre is home to the Musée National d’Art Moderne de Creation Industrielle. Now, that’s certainly a mouthful but we'll forgive the museum the linguistic challenge it presents – not least because it houses Europe’s leading collection of modern and contemporary art. With over 100,000 works from all over the world, the gallery covers 1905 to the present day, and includes works from Giorgio de Chirico, René Magritte, Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock, Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, and Yves Klein.
As well as the chance to admire more contemporary artworks than you can shake a stick at, the museum also has collections drawing on architecture, design and industry. Contents aside, the building itself, designed by world-renowned architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, is worth a once-over.
Palais de Tokyo
Palais de Tokyo, in the 16th arrondissement, is huge and home to more than one museum - the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (the City of Paris Museum of Modern Art) in the east wing, and the Site de Création Contemporaine (literal translation: the Site of Contemporary Creation) in the west wing. Exhibitions highlight the European and international art scenes of the 20th century, as well as displaying monographic and thematic exhibitions of trends in today's art. The Museum of Modern Art is dedicated to the art of the 20th and 21st centuries, while the building's west wing is devoted to temporary exhibitions of contemporary art that rotate approximately every six weeks.
Independent art galleries in Paris
Beyond the most famous art galleries in Paris, the French capital is home to a plethora of high-calibre (and often cutting-edge) independent galleries. Here are a few to get you started…
Located on Boulevard Raspail in the 14th arrondissement, the Fondation Cartier is set in a striking glass building designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and surrounded by gardens created by artist Lothar Baumgarten. The Foundation hosts major contemporary art exhibitions, both themed and specially commissioned across a variety of media, as well as special events known as Soirées Nomades (Nomadic Nights).
Bugada & Cargnel
Founded in 2002, this gallery occupies a former 1930s’ garage in a free-hold industrial building in the 19th arrondissement, and represents French and international emerging and established artists. The gallery is open to the public from Tuesday to Saturday. Quite simply, très chic. And if you want to embrace all things cool and cultured during your trip to Paris, the stay in one of our equally chic homes like Le Belleville.
Gallery Kamel Menour
In the heart of Saint-Germain Des-Prés, within the 17th-century La Vieuville mansion, the Gallery Kamel Menour offers the chance to peruse artwork by emerging artists, as well as major exhibitions from prominent international painters, including Anish Kapoor, Lee Ufan and Daniel Buren. It also has a second gallery space just two blocks away, which makes it doubly worth the trip.
With three spaces in the Marais, this strendy independent gallery exhibits the works of an impressive line-up of leading contemporary artists. You can expect to see names such as Takashi Murakami, Sophie Calle and Pierre Soulages on the wall plaques. Stay nearby in this contemporary space a short walk from Bastille Square.
Frac – Île de France
If you’re interested in seeing 700 works by young, up-and-coming, and mostly French artists, you should check out Frac Île-de-France (Regional Fund for Contemporary Art of the Ile-de-France region) in the Plateau, northwestern Paris.
While getting lost in the many galleries of Paris is a winning winter activity (a popular choice for things to do in Paris in December, for example), a whole artistic world exists outside the walls of Paris's established art galleries. Quite literally on the walls, in fact. Unsurprisingly much of the city’s street art is to be found adorning the walls of the less central arrondissements, but it’s worth kicking off our exploration with a nod to the Lasco project at the Palais de Tokyo, which has been inviting street artists to adorn the walls of its subterranean passages since 2012. In addition, Jef Aérosol's iconic 1980s’ Chut can be admired just across from the Centre Pompidou. This piece, amongst others, stood at the heart of the 1980s’ street art movement.
Much of the best street art that Paris has to offer can be found in the Belleville neighbourhood, which spans the 11th and 20th arrondissements. You can begin your exploration along the 2km-long stretch of Rue Saint-Maur in the 11th arrondissement The Rue Saint-Maur intersects with the Rue Oberkampf, where you’ll find Le Mur (The Wall) – a project commissioned by the French Street Art Association, inviting artists from around the world to paint murals which are displayed for two weeks at a time. You can watch new artists at work on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of every month. Stay nearby in one of our stylish homes like Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud along Canal Saint Martin.
Following the work supported by the #Parismursmurs project around the city will lead you to the work of well-established artist Olivier “2shy” in the 3rd arrondissement.
For the adventurous, the Rue Saint Laurence in the 20th arrondissement is worth a visit, as is the Boulevard de Villette which features a massive modern fresco by Parisian artist Yann Lazoo overlooking a community garden. On a bridge over the railway tracks leading in and out of the Gare du Nord, linking the 18th and 19th arrondissements, you’ll find a 497m-long wall full of art, created in December 2015 in honour of the life and achievements of civil rights activist, Rosa Parks. And finally, nestled in the 20th arrondissement is the Rue de Cascades, where you will find an impressive Van Gogh-inspired mural by Australian-born artist James Cochrane.
One cannot talk about the Parisian art scene without at least mentioning its wealth of sculptures. If you have time to wander through the beautiful palace gardens at the Jardin de Luxembourg, you will come upon dozens of sculptures by France’s most famous sculptors, dating back as far as the 16th century.
More dedicated sculpture enthusiasts will be enthralled by the Musée National Rodin. Set within the Hôtel Particulier, the mansion where Rodin lived at the end of his life, the museum contains an unrivalled collection of the sculptor’s work. The Kiss, the Cathedral, the Walking Man, portrait busts and early terracottas are exhibited indoors, while many of Rodin's classic sculptures, including the Thinker, outside in the gardens. The walls are hung with paintings by Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, Carrière and Rodin himself.
So, now you know all about the best independent space and most famous art galleries in Paris. Next up, why not take a look at our seven-day Paris itinerary?