8 Must-Visit Stops for Your Paris Trip if You Love Art or History

From abstract paintings to street art, there’s no shortage of ways to entertain, educate, and explore beyond the Olympics.

Black sculpture of a headless man on a horse inside gallery

We Are Here is just one of the exciting new exhibitions in Paris.

Courtesy of Petit Palais

Before Olympics mania descended upon the City of Light, spectators were more likely to immerse themselves in the worlds of Monet and Louix XIV than they were Ledecky and Biles. The good news this summer: Both are possible! The following exhibitions and activities will sate your inner aesthete and your inner historian.

Matisse, The Red Studio and Ellsworth Kelly, Shapes and Colors, 1949–2015

  • Where: Fondation Louis Vuitton
  • Dates: May 4–September 9, 2024
  • Hours: 11 a.m.–p.m. on Wednesday; 11 a.m.–8 p.m. on Thursday; 11 a.m.–9 p.m. on Friday; 10 a.m.–8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday; and 11 a.m.–8 p.m. on Monday
  • Admission: €16

In very meta fashion, part of this exhibition remarkably reunites the 10 pieces of artworks seen in Matisse’s infamous The Red Studio—and alongside the painting itself, on loan from MoMA—for the first time since leaving Matisse’s atelier in Issy-les-Moulineaux, a suburb just outside of Paris. The artworks, created between 1898 and 1911, include paintings, sculptures, and ceramics.

In celebration of American abstract artist and painter Ellsworth Kelly, about 100 of the artist’s often monochromatic works are also on display at Foundation Louis Vuitton, including a permanent, site-specific piece finished in 2014 in collaboration with the museum architect Frank Gehry.

History Tours at the American Library in Paris

  • Where: The American Library in Paris
  • Dates: Fridays through August 30, 2024
  • Hours: 11 a.m.
  • Admission: Free, but preregistration is required

Discover how Paris’s only American library was born, courtesy of a free tour in honor of the community’s 104th anniversary (hint: The founding involves World War I). Located on the Left Bank, not far from the Eiffel Tower, this newly renovated private library is full of incredible stories beyond those told in the pages on its shelves.

Sculpture of a spray can with wings inside gallery

We Are Here explores street art within the historical halls of the Petit Palais.

Courtesy of Petit Palais

We Are Here

  • Where: The Petit Palais
  • Dates: June 12–November 17, 2024
  • Hours: 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Tuesday–Sunday
  • Admission: Free

For the first time in its 124-year history, the smaller of the two stately monuments in the center of Paris opens its exhibition space to artists whose work is normally seen on the street. Artists include American Shepard Fairey, aka Obey—known for his famous “Hope” poster of Obama during the 2008 election, French mosaic fanatic Invader, and Seth, whose colorful, childlike figures grace various parts of the city, especially in the street art–strewn 13th arrondissement. More than 200 pieces from more than 60 international artists will grace these hallowed halls.

The Birth of Department Stores: Fashion, Design, Toys, Advertising, 1852–1925

  • Where: Musée des Arts et Décoratifs
  • Dates: April 10–October 13, 2024
  • Hours: 11 a.m.–6 p.m., Tuesday–Sunday
  • Admission: €15

Shoppers delight! In the first of a two-part exhibition, this display takes visitors beyond the racks and dressing rooms into the heart of Parisian glamour with a history lesson on its fashion temples, beginning with the establishment of Le Bon Marché on the Left Bank and then Printemps, La Samaritaine, and Galeries Lafayette on the Right. From posters to clothing, the 700+ curated pieces present the importance of this new style of commerce and explain how it gave rise to female-focused consumerism.

Fashion on the Move #2

  • Where: Palais Galliera
  • Dates: April 25, 2024–January 5, 2025
  • Hours: 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday; 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Thursdays
  • Admission: €12

The city’s fashion museum has selected 300 items from its permanent collection that are tied to movement, piggybacking on the summer’s sports festivities. Clothing designed for such physical activities as horse riding, tennis, golf, and bicycling will be juxtaposed against garments that were worn about town. There’s also an entire section devoted to bathing suits, swimming costumes, beachwear, and related accessories. After all, the bikini debuted at Paris’s Piscine Molitor in 1946.

Painting of a woman wrapped in black and white shawl in a green field near two dog-like animals

Leonora Carrington’s Green Tea is one of the works featured in Surrealism.

Courtesy of Centre Pompidou

Surrealism: The Centenary Exhibition

  • Where: Centre Pompidou
  • Dates: September 4, 2024–January 13, 2025
  • Hours: 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday; 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Thursdays
  • Admission: €15

The city’s most new-age-y museum will unveil a tribute to a new-age-y style: surrealism. In celebration of the movement’s 100th anniversary, the Pompidou will retrace the genre’s history through a labyrinthian exhibition that will boggle all senses. Beginning with André Breton’s Manifesto, which will be on loan from the National Library of France, Surrealism will showcase the poetic principles and imaginations of those who participated, including, of course, Dali, Magritte, and Miro, alongside others such as Tasuo Ikeda of Japan and Rufino Tamayo of Mexico.

Egyptian Pharaohs from Cheops to Ramesses II

  • Where: Atelier des Lumières
  • Dates: February 9, 2024–January 5, 2025
  • Hours: 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Monday–Thursday; 10 a.m.–10 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Sunday
  • Admission: €17

When that canicule (heat wave) hits—and it will!—there’s no cooler place than the immersive, digitally forward Atelier des Lumières. The space blends music and laser lights in the 11th arrondissement, and, for its latest exhibition, the dark space presents projections of ancient Egypt, featuring giant sphinxes, pyramids, temples, and more. It’s a trip that allows visitors to journey back in time thanks to the wonders of technology.

Eva Jospin–Versailles exhibition

  • Where: Palace of Versailles, L’Orangerie
  • Dates: June 18–September 29, 2024
  • Hours: 9 a.m.–6:30 p.m., Tuesday–Sunday
  • Admission: €24 (covers the whole estate)

Contemporary exhibitions return to the Palace of Versailles with the display of exquisite embroidery over 1,000-feet-long by French artist Eva Jospin. Located in the Orangerie, the tableau depicts a natural landscape originally inspired by pieces found at Rome’s Palazzo Colonna and Virgina Woolf’s novel A Room of One’s Own. Produced by craftsmen and women in Mumbai, the piece was also presented during Dior’s Autumn–Winter 2021–2022 haute couture show under the creative direction of Maria Grazia Chiuri.

Sara Lieberman is a New York–born journalist who lived in Paris for the better part of the last decade. Her writing also appears in Condé Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Hemispheres, and the Infatuation.
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