The must-see exhibitions in Paris in 2020

The hardest part of exhibition-going in Paris is choosing which one(s) to see! From the d’Orsay to the Louvre and the Centre Pompidou to the Grand Palais, our editorial staff have scoured the capital for the must-see shows in 2020. So, in chronological order, here goes…

Gréco Retrospective at the Grand Palais

Until February 10, 2020

The Grand Palais’ retrospective dedicated to the exceptional work of Domenico Theotokopoulos, – better known as El Greco – is a French first, and you’ve got a couple more weeks to catch it.

Read more here.

Greco Retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris (External link)

‘The Golden Age of English Painting’ at the Musée du Luxembourg

Until February 16, 2020

The Luxembourg Museum has devoted an exhibition to the masters of English painting. First examining precursors like Reynolds and Gainsborough, it then looks at those who followed in their footsteps – as well as their competitors – such as John Hopper, William Beechey and Thomas Lawrence. Picturesque paintings addressing themes of family, parenting and childish innocence are on display. Contemporary politics and the wilderness are also addressed on the sidelines, with artists including George Stubbs, George Morland, Henri Fuseli and John Martin.

Read more here.

‘The Golden Age of English Painting’ at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris (External link)

‘The New World of Charlotte Perriand 1903-1999’ at the Louis Vuitton Foundation

Until February 24, 2020

An exhibition for design and sculpture enthusiasts, presented by the Louis Vuitton Foundation to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of Charlotte Perriand, one of the 20th century’s greatest designers. Although she may be remembered secondary to Le Corbusier, it was Charlotte who revolutionised the layout of the home, pioneering open-plan kitchens and loft spaces in 1930. Influenced by local architectural traditions such as wooden pieces from Japan and Vietnam, she became associated with Asia throughout her career; around 200 works of plastic art took inspiration from the customs of Japan, and those of Brazil too.

‘Leonardo da Vinci’ at the Louvre

Until February 24, 2020

The Louvre’s major retrospective dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci marks the 500th anniversary of his death. It’s an opportunity to (re)discover the exceptional collection of paintings and drawings by the Italian master kept at the Louvre, as well as a body of exceptional works assembled for the occasion. Don’t miss your last chance to go!

Read more here.

‘Leonardo da Vinci’ at the Louvre in Paris (External link)

‘Unexpected dialogues: Tyson / Monet’ at the Musée Marmottan Monet

Until March 1, 2020

Each semester, the Marmottan Monet museum invites a contemporary artist to respond to the permanent works in the museum’s collection. This time it’s Keith Tyson, inventor of The Art Machine, who has taken over an interactive retrospective between his own work as a science lover, and that of Monet, who loved playing with light. Tyson plays with two works by the great master: The Pont de l’Europe and the Gare Saint-Lazare, showing two ways of interpreting time, space and light. If Tyson has an obsession, it’s with light and how it affects the temporal dimension in his work. The two artists share a passion for science, the textures used in their art and expressing their relationship with the world.

‘La Fabrique du Geste: Hans Hartung’ at the Museum of Modern Art

Until March 1, 2020

This is an exhibition about risk taking and adventure – and who better to embody this freedom of creation than Hans Hartung, forerunner of abstraction who remained on the margins of cubism and surrealism for a long time? Through 300 works, this retrospective presents the Hartung method, distinguished by questioning authenticity, framing, photography, enlargement, repetition and identical reproduction of many works.

‘La Fabrique du Geste: Hans Hartung’ at the Museum of Modern Art (External link)

Soulages retrospective at the Louvre

Until March 9, 2020

The Louvre has invited Pierre Soulages for an dedicated exhibition for the very first time. The master of black, also known as the inventor of the ‘outrenoir’, brings out the contrast between black and light by working the material, by superposition and scraping, or by applying a single pigment. Soulages, whose dedicated museum is in Rodez, Occitanie, offers the opposite of just a monochrome work: “there are differences in texture: smooth, fibrous, calm, tense or agitated, which, capturing or refusing light, give birth to grey blacks or deep blacks”, he declares.

‘Versailles Revival 1867-1937’ at the Palace of Versailles

Until March 15, 2020

This retrospective pays homage to this place of power, frequented through the centuries by the aristocracy and great artists such as Marcel Proust ,who also lived here. Versailles was a ‘pleasure palace’ visited by historical figures such as the Empress Eugenie – a great admirer of Marie-Antoinette – and Queen Victoria, who came in 1855. The chateau’s influence included establishing an entire school of painting, historical painting, with entire scenes depicted and sublimated in the paintings exhibited here.

Read more here.

‘Barbara Hepworth’ at the Musée Rodin

Until March 22, 2020

Little-known in France, Barbara Hepworth revolutionised 20th-century British sculpture and was recognised among her male peers, notably by Mondrian and Picasso. She transformed matter into prose of organic poetry, by marrying forms and playing with volumes. Her great inspiration was nature, but her work was strongly influenced by the context of the Second World War, driving her to break away from everything that would bring back pathos and obscurity. Anyone who appreciates Hepworth’s work appreciates tranquillity; this is her signature style.

‘Je mange, donc je suis’ (‘I eat, therefore I am’) at the Musée de l’Homme

Until June 1, 2020

Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are. This is the answer the Musée de l’Homme wants to bring to visitors at its exhibition addressing food. It’s a retrospective on this vital need through time and cultures and modelled according to beliefs, ethics and climate. Food is treated from a social, cultural and historical perspective. Do foods have a gender? Why are some banned? What about the production and consumption of some of them, now considered harmful to health and the planet? All these questions are explored with a transdisciplinary approach echoing social debates and a change in the way we eat.

‘I eat, therefore I am’ at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris

‘Figure d’Artiste’ at the Louvre

Until 5 July 2021

The small gallery at the Louvre is home to ‘Figure of an Artist’, part of the exhibition cycle devoted to the great artistic figures of the Renaissance – notably da Vinci, Donatello and Michelangelo. Similar to the signature or the self-portrait, the transcription of the faces of artists throughout history is also a kind of recognition and authentication of their work.

‘Figure d’Artiste’ at the Louvre (External link)

James Tissot (1836-1902) at the Musée d’Orsay

March 24 – July 19, 2020

The mysterious and fascinating James Tissot – pseudonym of Jacques Joseph Tissot – was a major artist of the second half of the 19th century. This retrospective is the first dedicated to him in Paris since that at the Petit Palais in 1985. The painter began his career in the French capital at the end of the 1850s alongside Baudelaire, Manet and Degas, focusing on the variations of the Parisienne and the exploration of mystical and religious subjects. He notably produced hundreds of illustrations from the Bible, which made him famous at the end of the 19th century.

‘De l’Amour’ at the Palais de la Découverte

Until August 30, 2020

From love in art to love online via the art of loving, the Palais de la Découverte is revisiting this feeling through examining attachment, and using the filter of science, to try to solve its mysteries. In a beautiful tribute to Roland Barthes, it’s a fragment of a scientific discourse presented by the curators of the exhibition through poems, semantic fields and objects.