Is Paris the world’s Best City for Art right now?
Ideal for amateurs and serious collectors alike.
Passage de Dauphine is a hidden alley between Rue Mazarine and Rue Dauphine in Saint-Germain-des-Près, in Paris’s 6th arrondissement. It’s the kind of place you discover in Paris almost by chance, on the way from the Louvre to Boulevard Saint-Germain.
It used to be a place mainly for residents, or people seeking a popular cozy café, but it now attracts art lovers from around the world. That’s because the alley is now home to one of Paris’s new and innovative galleries: Ketabi Bourdet.
The gallery is special in that it displays contemporary art along with design from the 1980s and ’90s. Artists like Inès Longevial are shown alongside a Robert Wilson chair from 1990.
“As contemporary art and design gallerists, we realized that our collectors were often the same people: design collectors never let their walls stand empty, and art collectors like to furnish their homes with historical or contemporary design. Since we’re passionate about both areas, and we both collect art and design ourselves, it felt only natural to start a gallery containing both,” says Charlotte Ketabi-Lebard.
Each solo show at the gallery covers a designer or an artist, but they mix the two for group exhibitions.
“We bring the art and furniture pieces together into new arrangements, which our collectors like to explore and sometimes recreate in their own homes,” says Ketabi-Lebard.
Art fairs and major galleries
Exciting new galleries opening up in Paris may not exactly come as a shock, but it is quite a development that more and more art connoisseurs are now talking about the French capital as perhaps the most important place for the international art world today.
“Paris today, along with Seoul, is the world’s hottest art metropolis. Major international galleries are opening exclusive branches, young artists are leaving Berlin for the cool suburbs of Paris, and to cap it all the world’s leading art fair, Art Basel is launching Paris+ in the Grand Palais Éphémère,” says Michael Elmenbeck, gallerist and art advisor.
The Paris+ art fair was organized by art fair giant Art Basel for the first time in October 2022, providing firm proof of the city’s rising significance – although there have been other signs too. In recent years, for instance, new art institutions like the Pinault Collection at the Bourse de Commerce have opened, attracting an amazing selection of art-loving tourists and experts alike.
Paris today, along with Seoul, is the world’s hottest art metropolis.
Paris is in many ways the cradle of modern art. Cubism started here, and greats like Auguste Rodin, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse worked here. Up until the Second World War, Paris was the unchallenged capital of the world of art, and today a visit to the permanent exhibition at Centre Pompidou is like stepping into a living book on modern art history.
Moving back in time, not far away is the Musée d’Orsay, by far the world’s most important collection of impressionist art, and just a stone’s throw from there is the Louvre, probably the most famous art museum of all.
As Paris now also takes the lead in contemporary art, this broadens the array and boosts access to art. Now there really is something for everyone, to an extent Paris has not seen since its heyday.
Art for all tastes
The Pinault Collection is housed in the newly renovated Bourse de Commerce, and just like the Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Bois de Boulogne, it is a constantly changing arena for modern art. One thing you can be sure of when visiting any of these institutions, is that you’ll be seeing art of the very highest class. The Fondation Louis Vuitton, for example, has hosted some incredibly popular exhibitions of modern art from Russian collectors, but as with the Pinault Collection there are also some of the biggest names in contemporary art, such as Philippe Pareno, Ugo Rondinone, Marina Abramovic and Yayoi Kusama.
It’s also a great idea to choose an area and visit a variety of different galleries and museums. In the previously mentioned Saint-Germain-des-Près, for example, is the renowned Kamel Mennour gallery, but the area is also packed with ‘primitive’ art and antiques – and you can also hunt down the picturesque Rue de Furstemberg and visit the Eugène Delacroix museum.
An afternoon spent in Marais can take you to the well-known Perrotin gallery, which has grown into an international institution since starting in 1990, and to Sans Titre, which helps artists at the beginning of their careers. If you have children, a visit to the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (the hunting and nature museum) is recommended, with its mixture of stuffed animals, objects and hunting-related paintings, while the newly renovated Carnavalet Museum is a must for lovers of Paris history and classical art.
Also, spread around Paris, are former artists’ homes that are now museums. Favorites include the Musée Zadkine, a tranquil oasis just south of the Luxembourg Garden, and the Musée Gustave Moreau, a bombastic monument to an artist whose esthetic today feels almost kitschy.
It is this sheer variety that makes the Paris art scene, and the range of art it has to offer, perhaps the best in the world. Within just a few hundred meters you can see some of the most important works in art’s history, visit an art fair, and explore new hybrid galleries on small backstreets. Charlotte Ketabi-Lebard agrees.
“Paris is becoming the most important gathering-place for the art world in Europe. Art Basel, a great many galleries of the highest class, and the emergence of a new generation of galleries like us are all proof of this. France is an incredibly dynamic stage with serious, important collectors, and major museums, foundations and biennials. The art scene is flourishing, and artists from around the world are coming to Paris to work and study. All these factors are aligning to bolster Paris’s position on the international scene day by day,” Charlotte Ketabi-Lebard concludes.
22 Passage Dauphine, 6th arrondissement
Bourse de Commerce – Pinault Collection
2 Rue de Viarmes, 1st arrondissement
19 Rue Beaubourg, 4th arrondissement
1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur, 7th arrondissement
Fondation Louis Vuitton
8 Av. du Mahatma Gandhi, 16th arrondissement
47 Rue Saint-André des Arts, 6th arrondissement
Musée Eugène Delacroix
6 Rue de Furstemberg, 6th arrondissement
Musée Gustave Moreau
14 Rue Catherine de La Rochefoucauld, 9th arrondissement
100bis Rue d'Assas, 6th arrondissement
Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature
62 Rue des Archives, 3rd arrondissement
76 Rue de Turenne, 3rd arrondissement
13 Rue Michel le Comte, 3rd arrondissement
23 Rue de Sévigné, 3rd arrondissement
Text by Daniel Björk