Art students of all ages will find inspiration in Paris’ myriad art fairs, markets and museums.
Paris has beckoned artists population to the banks of the River Seine for ages. Monet, Picasso and Dalí painted there, while some of the most notable works in the world, like Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People and the Venus de Milo are on display. An array of the finest galleries in the world showcase the most up and coming talent of the contemporary art world.
No other city can claim such a vast and varied influence on the world of art and no other city is a better place to explore art history, from medieval to modern. In one afternoon, you can go from contemplating the Mona Lisa’s smile to speaking with a painter selling his work at an artists’ market.
For any teenager with a growing interest in art and art history, this capital city of art offers the perfect setting for an in-depth exploration. Beyond the sometimes too popular Louvre and Musée d’Orsay, you can find museums, galleries, markets and fairs catering to every taste and the chance to get closer to works than you’ll ever get to the Mona Lisa.
This, of course, is not to say the Louvre and the Mona Lisa aren’t a must for any first-time visitors. It’s just the queue and the crowd can sometimes be overwhelming; the most famous painting in the world attracts many visitors. To avoid the lines, and maybe get to the Mona Lisa before the masses, get the Paris Museum Pass (€30-€60, about $40-$90). Valid for two to six consecutive days, the pass provides unlimited admission to more than 60 museums and monuments in the city and surrounding area. Visit the Louvre, the immense impressionist collection at the d’Orsay and many smaller museums.
Smaller, more intimate museums worth checking out: the Musée de l'Orangerie, on the Place de la Concorde at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées, houses a fine collection of impressionist and post-impressionist works by Cézanne, Matisse, Monet, Picasso and Renoir; the Musée Rodin, in the Hôtel Biron in the 7th arrondissement, is the former residence of sculptor Auguste Rodin, with a garden full of his work including the renowned and oft-imitated The Thinker; the Musée Picasso, located in the Hôtel Salé in the Marais district, displays a collection of works from each period of Picasso’s career, including sculptures, paintings and manuscripts. Each museum gives you the chance to see the original work of some of the masters without a massive gaggle of surrounding tourists snapping photographs, the subseqent calm sure to aid in art appreciation.
Like the masters before them, artists today still flock to Paris to hone their craft. Small galleries can be found in many neighborhoods, and markets and fairs occur regularly throughout the year, giving any art student the opportunity to witness firsthand not just the work of contemporary artists, but the dedication necessary to attempt a career as a working artist. Talk with (or gesture with, if your French is lacking) artists as they share their work at the Marché Parisien de la Création, an art market near the Montparnasse Tower, and open every Sunday throughout the year. More than 100 artists share their paintings, photographs, sculptures and jewelry in a fine alternative to the historic but a bit overrun Montmartre, the past neighborhood of Van Gogh and others in the shadow of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica.
Another option is the Grand Marché d’Art Contemporain, held every April and October, an eclectic show where more than 500 artists are asked to focus on a different theme (such as “the face” and “horses”). A special showcase also brings attention to emerging artists, some showing their work for the first time.
Additionally, Artparis at the Grand Palais in April, presents an outline of modern and contemporary work from a large gathering of galleries from France and around the world along with the work of French artists.
While one of the pleasures of any trip is stumbling on something unexpected, sometimes it’s good to know when and where to go. To find out what art fairs and markets will occur during your visit, one of the best resources is the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau Web site, parisinfo.com. From special passes and discounts like the aforementioned Paris Museum Pass, to museum hours, to a calendar of exhibitions and fairs, you can find information about almost any event happening during your stay.
Another excellent source to discover art-related news is ParisMuse. The Web site offers current news in the Parisian art world along with English language tours. Instructors are native English speakers and experienced teachers currently living in Paris while working on publications and dissertations in art history, and would surely aid in getting the most out of any art focused trip to Paris.
Traveling with Context Another excellent blog and source for Paris info: www.contextparis.com