French Contemporary Art Glossary and Museum List

Equip yourself with essential French art vocabulary.

Dong Kingman, Paris Scene with Eiffel Tower, 2012, Kodner Gallery
Dong Kingman, Paris Scene with Eiffel Tower, 2012, Kodner Gallery


Paris Scene with Eiffel Tower by Dong Kingman

Dong Kingman, Paris Scene with Eiffel Tower, 2012, Kodner Gallery

France is the country of gastronomy, fashion, and culture. You may already know the musée du Louvre, the Centre Pompidou, the musée d’art moderne, or the musée d’Orsay, but did you know that France has over 10,000 museums? France was also the first tourist destination to reach 81.4 million foreign visitors in 2011!

Through this series of French glossaries, we want to provide you with the essential French art vocabulary that will give you a little je ne sais quoi. We also added a list of museums to visit when you go to France.

Let’s start with Contemporary Art.


English French
Abstract Expressionism l’Expressionnisme abstrait
Bay Area Figurative style l’École de San Francisco ou mouvement figuratif de la Baie de San Francisco
Body Art l’Art corporel ou le Body art
CoBrA le mouvement CoBrA (acronym for Copenhague, Bruxelles, Amsterdam)
Color-Field Painting le Color-Field Painting (a French variant of Color-Field Painting was known as Supports/Surfaces)
Conceptual Art l’Art conceptuel
Digital Art l’Art numérique
Feminist Art l’art féministe
Free Figuration la Figuration libre
Graffiti Art l’Art du graffiti
Happening Happening or Performance
Hyperrealism l’Hyperréalisme
Informal Art l’Art informel
Kinetic Art l’Art cinétique
Land Art le Land Art
Minimalism le Minimalisme
Narrative Figuration la Narration figurative
Neo-Dada le Néo-Dadaïsme
Neo-Geo Le Néo-Déo
New Realism le Nouveau Réalisme
New York School l’École de New York
Op Art l’Art optique
Performance Art la Performance artistique
Photorealism le Photoréalisme
Pop Art le Pop Art
Psychedelic Art l’Art psychédélique
Spatialism le Spatialisme
Transavantgarde Trans-avant-garde
Urban Art l’Art urbain
Video Art l’Art vidéo


Centre D’Arts Plastiques Contemporains de Bordeaux (CAPC)–Bordeaux
About: Located in an old warehouse built between 1822 and 1824, the CAPC is an impressive building with semi-dark naves and bright, furnished terraces on the roof. Founded in 1973, it became the museum of the city in 1983. In its collections, the CAPC presents Conceptual Art, Land Art, and Arte Povera, among other styles.
Did you know? The warehouse was completely restored in 1990 by the architect Valode Pistre, and then arranged by Andrée Putman (French, 1925–2013).
Address: 7, rue Ferrère -33000 Bordeaux
Open: 11:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. on Tuesday through Sunday, except for Wednesday 11:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m.
Closed: Monday

Centre National D’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou–Paris
About: Named after the President Georges Pompidou, who ordered its creation and located in the Beaubourg area of the 4th arrondissement of Paris, Pompidou Centre was designed in 1977 in the style of high-tech architecture. The Contemporary Art museum houses the Bpi (Bibliothèque publique d’information: Public Information Library), the Kandinsky Library, the Ircam (a center for music and acoustic research), and the National Museum of Modern Art, the largest museum of Modern Art in Europe. With its metallic structure, Pompidou Centre is a symbol of the Modern movement and presents Modern and Contemporary creations in a variety of fields, such as Fine Art, Design, music, cinema, and literature.
Did you know? In the James Bond movie Moonraker (1979), a fifth floor room of the building is featured as a character’s office, and was scripted in the film as being part of the space station of the villain.
Address: 19, rue Beaubourg, 75 004 Paris
Open: 11:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m. on Monday through Sunday
Closed: Tuesday

Centre Pompidou Metz–Metz
About: Located in the north east of France, the Centre Pompidou Metz is a branch of the Centre Pompidou Paris. Opened in May 2010, the museum features temporary exhibitions from the large collection of Pompidou Paris, and works also in close collaboration with the Mudam Museum of Modern Art of the Duchy of Luxembourg to present exhibitions. Designed by Shigeru Ban (Japanese, b.1957) and Jean de Gastines, the architecture of the roof is inspired by a Chinese hat purchased by Ban in Paris. Pompidou Metz features seasonal programming, including contemporary live shows in its theater, and organizes meetings and conferences in its auditorium. The purpose of the Contemporary Art museum is to present all forms of artistic expression, to raise wide public awareness to the major artworks from the 20th and 21st centuries, and to be part of the European cultural landscape.
Did you know? Since its inauguration, the Centre Pompidou Metz has become the most visited cultural venue in France outside of Paris.
Address: 1, Parvis des Droits de l’Homme, 57020 Metz
Open: 11:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. on Monday through Sunday, except for Saturday 11:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m.
Closed: Wednesday

Fondation Cartier Pour L’Art Contemporain–Paris
About: Created in 1984 as a center for Contemporary Art, the Fondation Cartier presents exhibitions featuring both established artists and young artists. The Fondation Cartier relocated in 1994 to a striking clear glass building designed by Jean Nouvel (b.1945). It features major Contemporary artworks from the 1980s in a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, video, sound, design, and photography. The Fondation Cartier also presents American Art, African Art, and Asian Art. Â
Did you know? The building is surrounded by a garden, designed by Lothar Baumgarten (German, b.1944), that is made up of 200 species of plants and 35 species of trees, including a Cedar of Lebanon planted by French writer Châteaubriand in 1825.
Address: 261, Boulevard Raspail – 75014 Paris
Open: 11:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m. on Wednesday through Sunday, except for Tuesday 11:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m.
Closed: Monday

Lieu D’Art et Action Contemporaine de Dunkerque (LAAC)–Dunkerque
About: Created in the early 1970s by Gilbert Delaine, the LAAC consists of a building and a sculpture garden. Formerly established as an association, LAAC’s goal was to gather a collection for the city. For each artwork bought, Delaine asked the artist to offer another artwork, which allowed him to collect 900 artworks in 1982. Presenting more than 1,500 artworks, including sculptures, drawings, prints, and photographs, the LAAC has one of the richest collections of CoBra work in France.
Did you know? The legend says that Gilbert Delaine, without any previous art knowledge, fell in love with art by reading an art magazine.
Address: Jardin de sculptures – Parking rue des Chantiers de France -59140 Dunkerque
Open: 10:00 a.m.–12:15 p.m. and 2:00 pm–6:00 p.m. on Tuesday through Sunday
Closed: Monday

Musée D’Art Contemporain de Marseille (MAC)–Marseille
About: Opened in 1994, the Musée D’Art Contemporain de Marseille presents artworks from the 1960s until the present day. In 1996, the MAC was the most visited museum in Marseille, in large part due to the exhibition L’Art au corps. In 2001, the MAC became a national museum.
Did you know? In 2013, Marseille-Provence was chosen to be the European capital of culture in 2013.
Address: 69, avenue de Haïfa, 13008 Marseille
Open: 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. on Tuesday through Sunday
Closed: Monday (closed temporarily to the public until May 24)

Musée D’Art Contemporain Du Val de Marne (MAC/VAL)–Vitry-sur-Seine
About: Inaugurated in 2005, MAC/VAL is the first Contemporary Art museum located in a Parisian suburb with a focus on the French Art scene since the 1950s.
Did you know? The MAC/VAL is surrounded by a public garden of that is 107,639 square feet.
Address: Place de la Libération, BP 147, 94404 Vitry-sur-Seine Cedex
Open: 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. on Tuesday through Friday, and 12:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m. on Saturday through Sunday.
Closed: Monday

Palais de Tokyo–Paris
About: Inaugurated on May 24, 1937, at the time of the International Exhibition of Arts and Technology of 1937, the Palais de Tokyo is dedicated to Modern and Contemporary Art. The building houses two museums: the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Palais de Tokyo / Site de création contemporaine. This Contemporary wing is hosted since 2002 in the western wing of the Palais de Tokyo and presents Contemporary Art through a variety of media, such as painting, sculpture, design, fashion, video, cinema, literature, and dance.
Did you know? The building is separated from the Seine river by the Avenue de New York, formerly called Avenue de Tokio (with an “i” from 1918 to 1945). The name “Palais de Tokyo” is derived from the name of the street.
Address: 13, avenue du Président Wilson, 75 116 Paris
Open: 12:00 p.m.–12:00 a.m. on Monday through Sunday
Closed: Tuesday

Audrey Fair is a French content manager at artnet.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.


Article topics
Subscribe or log in to read the rest of this content.

You are currently logged into this Artnet News Pro account on another device. Please log off from any other devices, and then reload this page continue. To find out if you are eligible for an Artnet News Pro group subscription, please contact [email protected]. Standard subscriptions can be purchased on the subscription page.

Log In