Five Art Activities in Paris That Are Not Museums
Paris is famous in part for its museums. Le Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Musée National Picasso…the list goes on. These are surely gems, (must-sees during your lifetime, in my opinion) but a trip to Paris spent waiting in lines, paying for expensive exhibitions, and getting lost within overwhelming collections may be less than ideal for some. And maybe you’ve already been there, done that. If you’re looking for underground art, want to discover a unique art experience, or simply want some artsy alternatives to fit in between museum visits, here are some great options:
1) Visit the Taschen bookstore
I am a coffee-table book addict. A quality hardcover catalogue is like a work of art in itself. The Taschen publishing house—famous for its high-quality art, fashion, and photography books—has a brick-and-mortar store in Paris. The bookstore features publications ranging in topics including classical sculpture, modern architecture, contemporary photography, and travel documentation. Visit the store to see some of the publisher’s most iconic volumes on display.
See my post on how to start a coffee table art book collection here.
2) Gallery hop in Le Marais
While I hate to compare Paris to New York City (even though I do it every week), Le Marais can be considered the equivalent to Chelsea, when it comes to the gallery scene. The cobblestone roads and numerous small, independent galleries within walking distance of each other make it the perfect place to discover the Parisian contemporary art scene. A definite departure from the ancient sculptures and canon masterpieces, check out Le Marais to see how today’s artists are changing the creative sphere.
See my post on how to successfully gallery hop here.
3) Hunt for Invaders
If you’ve ever walked down a Parisian alleyway, you have likely noticed some street art. Street art culture is well and alive in the city, and one of the most infamous and omnipresent of these artists is known only as Invader. His work resembles pixellated video game symbols and characters—made in mosaic tile—and can be found all over Paris’ metro stations and street corners. No two pieces are alike. His art is now in over 30 countries, but his work is most concentrated in Paris.
4) Enjoy the Exterior of Museums
Ok, so technically, you are still traveling to the museums themselves. But making the mission to simply focus on the facades, architecture, or surroundings of a museum is an art activity that requires no tickets or standing in lines. Some examples: I.M. Pei’s iconic glass pyramids at the Louvre are available for photo-ops right on the grand courtyard. Centre Pompidou is an architectural maven, and I doubt most visitors can say they’ve taken the time to explore and examine all four sides of the structure. Fondation Louis Vuitton’s entrance features a massive minimalist water fountain and is surrounded by the gorgeous Bois de Boulogne park.
5) Witness an art collective at 59 Rivoli
An underrated and still-underground treasure of the Parisian contemporary art scene can be found at 59 Rivoli. A former squat, the building is now an art gallery and artist residency, featuring more than 30 unique studios. The structure is dominated by a giant spiral staircase, and the journey upwards is decorated with boldly painted murals, graffiti, and poetry; each floor branches out into different artists’ studios. Come at the right time, and you can even catch a few artists while they are working. Respective artists also sell their works within their studio space, and it is a great place to discover up-and-coming art. The building also features an exhibition space and concert hall.
See more art posts here.