Paris’ 2023 cultural calendar promises a new season of surprising collaborations, refreshingly modern takes on old classics, and exhibitions that just might help visitors see the world differently.
If this is the year you promised to immerse yourself in art, Paris is the place to do it.
To mark the 50th anniversary of Picasso’s death, for instance, a British menswear designer revisits the artist’s masterpieces through a 21st-century lens, while the climate emergency serves as the urgent backdrop to a modern art collection. Provocative thoughts result.
Another big change to Paris’s art scene? The most visited museum in the world, the Musée du Louvre, has quietly reduced its daily capacity from 45,000 to 30,000 visitors over the last few months in the aim of improving the visitor experience, and is also considering extending opening hours from 6pm to 7pm this year. Expect to be jostled just a little less in the Grande Galerie.
From Manet to Basquiat, Van Gogh to Hockney, here’s a round-up of 10 of the biggest cultural events happening in Paris this year (with one detour to Provence) – all of which are sure to enrich and inspire.
1. Chagall, Paris-New York
Atelier des Lumières
On view: February 27, 2023–January 7, 2024
In this immersive digital art space, 140 video and laser projectors bring static paintings to life through music and movement. For the 2023 season, you’ll slip inside the visionary mind of Russian-French artist Marc Chagall in a new and immersive way. This multi-sensory installation re-interprets his dream-like, mystical and surreal visions of fiddlers, jugglers, beasts and clowns against a soundtrack of classical music, jazz and traditional Jewish instrumental music klezmer.
2. Avant l’Orage
Bourse de Commerce – Pinault Collection
On view: February 8–September 11, 2023
At one of the newest and most exciting art spaces in Paris, this intriguing exhibition will challenge you to think about the interplay between light and darkness, spring and winter, sunshine and rain, and the “human and non-human.” – all within the context of the current climate emergency. The multidisciplinary exhibition (whose name translates to “before the storm”) features paintings, photographs, digital art and installations from artists including Cy Twombly, Danh Vo, Frank Bowling, Anicka Yi and Pierre Huyghe.
3. Basquiat x Warhol. Painting 4 Hands
Fondation Louis Vuitton
On view: April 5–August 28, 2023
Between 1984 and 1985, American artists Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat – one a giant of Pop Art, the other a young exponent of Neo-Expressionism with a heavy dose of social commentary – collaborated to create 160 paintings together in an artistic partnership that expressed the pair’s deep friendship. For five months, 100 of these paintings will be featured at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in what’s being billed as the most comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the partnership ever.
4. Manet / Degas
On view: March 28–July 23, 2023
A partnership between the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée de l’Orangerie and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Manet / Degas puts the paintings of Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas together in a side-by-side fashion in what promises to be a blockbuster show. The presentation will let visitors compare and contrast the styles of these two 19th-century giants, who were at once best friends and rivals – and who together helped define modern painting in France. Expect to take in more than 100 works, some of which have never been brought together before.
5. Matisse: Cahiers d’art, le tournant des années 30
Musée de l’Orangerie
On view: March 1–May 29, 2023
Of the many exhibitions of the work of Henri Matisse over the years, few have examined the artist’s work in the 1930s, when he fell into a creative slump, embarked on a period of experimentation and found artistic renewal in the twilight of his career. This exhibition explores this pivotal decade through the archival pages of the influential art magazine of the time, Cahiers d’art, which regularly featured Matisse’s work. Look out for some noteworthy pieces on loan from American museums – including Large Reclining Nude and The Song – that rarely make appearances in France.
6. Ramses and the Gold of the Pharaohs
La Grande Halle
On view: April 7–September 6, 2023
If you’re the type to make a beeline towards the Egyptian collection of major museums, you’ll want to add a stop at La Grande Halle at Parc de la Villette, far from the tourist crowds. As the first European stop of its world tour (2021–2025), this immersive exhibition puts the riches of Ramses the Great on display, and features 180 ancient artifacts including sarcophagi, animal mummies, jewelry, royal masks, amulets and gold treasures. Virtual-reality experiences in 4D will also whisk you 3000 years back to ancient Egypt.
7. Picasso Celebration: Picasso in a new light
Musée National Picasso
On view: March 7–August 27, 2023
Anyone who loves art, design or (and?) fashion may be interested to learn of a new and unexpected exhibition at the Musée National Picasso, which enlisted British menswear designer Sir Paul Smith – best known for his mastery of tailoring and sartorial playfulness – as guest artistic director. Smith’s creative vision puts a new spin on old masterpieces in a show that offers a contemporary take on Picasso’s extraordinary body of work, on the 50th anniversary of his death.
8. Sarah Bernhardt
On view: April 14–August 27, 2023
Long before the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Angelina Joie, there was Sarah Bernhardt, the 19th- and 20th-century French actress and artist who arguably launched the cult of celebrity. In Sarah Bernhardt: The woman who created the star at the Petit Palais, you’ll get an intimate look at the woman who brought the words of playwrights like Shakespeare and Racine to life – and who captured the global public’s fascination. The exhibition features more than 400 items, including stage costumes, photos and posters of the actress, alongside the woman’s personal wardrobe, writings, paintings and sculptures.
9. Van Gogh at Auvers-sur-Oise: The last months
On view: October 3, 2023–February 4, 2024
Coinciding the 170th anniversary of Vincent van Gogh’s birth, the Musée d’Orsay explores the final days of the artist’s life, when he settled in a small commune northwest of Paris. The first exhibit dedicated entirely to these last two months of his life will feature some of Van Gogh’s most iconic works, including The Church of Auvers-sur-Oise and Wheatfield with Crows. For a truly in-depth Van Gogh experience, after visiting the exhibition take the hour-long train ride from Paris to Auvers-sur-Oise and see for yourself how the village and its largely intact wheat fields inspired the painter. Van Gogh is also buried in the town.
10. David Hockney: Works from the Tate Collection
Musée Granet, Aix-en-Provence
On view: January 28–May 28, 2023
Along with his artistic debts to French masters Matisse and Cézanne (plus France transplants Picasso and Van Gogh) British artist David Hockney’s relationship with France became even more personal when he chose to settle in Normandy in 2019. In partnership with London’s Tate Britain, the Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence dedicates 7530 sq ft to a retrospective on the artist’s prolific career, with more than 110 paintings, prints, photographic collages, drawings and digital works on loan from London and from private collections.