Here Are Some Excuses for You to Visit Paris—Plus, There’s a Lot of Art to Love in the South of France
From the City of Light to Provence and the Côte d’Azur, a trip to France never gets old.
They say Paris is for art lovers, and it’s not hard to see why—in the City of Light, anything and everything can be elevated to an art form, from the Arc de Triomphe to a loaf of bread.
Of course, the capital is hardly the only place in France with an art scene. From the gritty port city of Marseille to the countryside idyll of Aix to the ever-splashy Côte d’Azur, Provence has long been a magnet for creatives of all stripes.
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PARIS: Days 1–4
See and Do: After going online-only last year, Paris’s Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (FIAC) is back IRL with 160 Modern art, contemporary art, and design galleries from 25 countries participating in its 47th edition (from October 21–24, 2021).
The fair will occupy the Grand Palais Éphémère and the Galerie Eiffel, sustainably designed by architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte to mimic their namesake monuments on the Champ-de-Mars. (The temporary structures are hosting all of the exhibitions, fashion shows, and sporting events that would normally be held in the glass-roofed Grand Palais Nave, which is closed for renovations until the 2024 Olympic Games.)
Fifty additional galleries will present exclusive digital exhibitions via FIAC’s online viewing rooms. And October 10 will see the return of Gallery Night, with 100 art spaces across Paris open late (until 10 p.m.). Meanwhile, FIAC Hors les Murs will bring art outdoors and across the city, from site-specific installations at the Jardin des Tuileries to Alexander Calder’s monumental sculpture Flying Dragon (1975) on the Place Vendôme.
Beyond the fair, following a three-year restoration led by Japanese architect Tadao Ando, the ca.-1889 Bourse de Commerce (Paris’s former stock exchange) reopened this spring as a museum with 10 galleries to house François Pinault’s 10,000-work-strong collection of contemporary art. The inaugural show, “Ouverture,” contains nearly 200 pieces, from a group of never-before-shown works by the elusive David Hammons to a quasi-replica of Giambologna’s Renaissance statue The Abduction of the Sabine Women, which the Swiss artist Urs Fischer sculpted in wax. Doubling as a candle, it melts in dialogue with the 19th-century iconography painted on the walls of the glass-domed Rotonde (until December 21, 2021).
The Marais recently welcomed a couple of fun Italian imports, including the Kengo Kuma-designed Massimo De Carlo Pièce Unique, which shows just one artwork at a time—currently from the American multimedia artist Doug Aitken (until October 17, 2021). Situated in a former leather wholesaler, Galleria Continua is running its inaugural, JR-curated show—“Truc à Faire”—until October 31, 2021, featuring works by the likes of Anish Kapoor and Ai Weiwei displayed alongside books and groceries on hundreds of shelves in a presentation that is, as the French photographer and street artist put it, “halfway between a cathedral and a supermarket.”
Lévy Gorvy also recently set up in the Marais, tapping Luis Laplace to restore a space originally designed by Jean Nouvel. From October 7 until November 13, 2021, the gallery is showing the third chapter in its four-city exhibition, “Mickalene Thomas: Beyond the Pleasure Principle.” It is premiering a series of the artist’s large-scale “Resist” paintings, which feature silk-screened images and archival photos focused on Black American Civil Rights activism from the 1960s to the present.
Nearby, Lafayette Anticipations – Fondation des Galeries Lafayette gave Martin Margiela carte blanche for “Martin Margiela”—not as a designer, but as an artist (October 20, 2021–January 2, 2022). The legendary and legendarily enigmatic fashion figure designed the exhibition as a total artwork that visitors enter through the emergency exit, with disappearance and transformation as themes. More than 40 of his multimedia works are on public display for the first time.
Avenue Matignon is becoming something of an art hub in the 8th arrondissement. Home to the expanding headquarters of Christie’s, it recently welcomed new locations from Marais galleries Almine Rech and Emmanuel Perrotin. And it is here that London’s White Cube has its Paris office, which is hosting a show featuring Georg Baselitz, Tracey Emin, and Takis during FIAC (October 18–November 12, 2021).
Two influential galleries focused on African contemporary art are also moving in. The Abidjan- and Dakar-based La Galerie Cécile Fakhoury will open its first space outside the African continent at 29 Avenue Matignon later this month, showing new works by Senegalese painter Kassou Seydou and Ivorian American mixed-media artist Ouattara Watts (who worked closely with Jean-Michel Basquiat), among others.
Star Chicago art dealer Mariane Ibrahim—who lived in France before moving to the U.S. in 2010 and has championed Black artists from across the African diaspora, from the Ghanaian market star Amoako Boafo to the American photographer Ayana V. Jackson—is unveiling her first international outpost in a three-level Haussmann building at number 18. The first exhibition, “J’ai Deux Amours,” pays homage to the namesake Josephine Baker song, with new works by the gallery’s roster of multicultural artists (until October 13, 2021).
Eat and Drink: Food lovers have been flocking to Forest, the new restaurant at the Musée d’Art Moderne, where the young Parisian chef Julien Sebbag serves up a menu that is an artful and eco-conscious ode to plant life along with cocktails inspired by the elements. After spending the summer on the terrace overlooking the Eiffel Tower, the restaurant has moved into a minimalist indoor-outdoor space.
Rose Chalalai Singh, chef-owner of the fashion world’s favorite Thai restaurant in Paris, Ya Lamaï, recently opened her tiny Rose Kitchen at Le Marché des Enfants Rouges, the city’s oldest covered market, in the Marais. With a menu of Thai comfort foods featuring recipes passed down from her grandmother, it is already a go-to spot for the art and style sets, hosting dinners for everyone from Chanel to Gagosian.
Stay: Leave it to LVMH to open the most stylish new hotel in town. Designed by the architects Peter Marino and Edouard François with 72 rooms and suites, not to mention its Dior Spa, Cheval Blanc Paris has the vibe of a private residence—one that just happens to be ideally situated between the Marais, Île de la Cité, and the Louvre. Between the Vik Muniz canvases and the staircase featuring woven metal crafted by Sophie Mallebranche, art is a central part of its appeal.
Worth a quick detour: Airelles Château de Versailles, Le Grand Contrôle recently opened as the first and only hotel within the Palace of Versailles grounds. Built ca. 1681 by Jules Hardouin-Mansart—the preferred architect of Louis XIV—to host European ambassadors and artists, the site was restored to its original splendor over the course of four years. Expect 14 old-meets-new rooms and suites with Baroque art and objets, plus exclusive access to the palace, the Trianon Domain, and the Orangery gardens. Airelles also has a new hotel in Saint-Tropez, Chateau de la Messardière.
Fly from Paris to Provence
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PROVENCE–ALPES–COTE D’AZUR: Days 4-7
See and Do: After more than a dozen years in development, June saw the launch of Luma Arles, a 27-acre campus devoted to creativity and contemporary art in the ancient Roman city of Arles, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its centerpiece is a twisting, 12-level tower that Frank Gehry designed from 11,000 gleaming, stainless steel panels inspired by the region’s rock clusters as well as Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Selldorf Architects turned four former train factories into performance spaces to accompany the galleries inside, which host commissions by artists Etel Adnan, Ólafur Elíasson, and Rirkrit Tiravanija, while Koo Jeong A created a glow-in-the-dark skatepark outside. All of this is the brainchild of Swiss mega-collector and philanthropist Maja Hoffmann, with Tom Eccles, Philippe Parreno, and Hans Ulrich Obrist as advisors.
Since it opened ca. 2013 along the seaport in Marseilles, with an exhibition space designed by Roland Carta and Rudy Ricciotti and another in the historic Fort Saint-Jean, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations, or Mucem, helped bring a new wave of interest to the gritty capital of Provence. Its collections span all things Mediterranean, from Neolithic artifacts to contemporary art. The latest exhibition, “The grand Meze,” focuses on the food (until December 31, 2023).
Halfway between Aix en Provence and the Luberon Regional Nature Park, you’ll find Château La Coste, a biodynamic vineyard that has grown into a destination for site-specific art and architecture. Over the past decade, Louise Bourgeois, Renzo Piano, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and others have been invited to choose a part of the landscape that speaks to them and create a work to live there. This year, the Château unveiled the Richard Rogers Drawing Gallery, cantilevering off a hillside above the ancient Roman ruin of La Quille. On view there now are abstract works by the Korean artist Park Seo-Bo (until November 15, 2021). Next year will see the opening of an Oscar Niemeyer pavilion.
In the Côte D’Azur, the late, great Eileen Gray’s seaside Villa E-1027 just reopened to the public after a €5.5 million ($6.4 million) restoration spearheaded by the Association Cap Moderne, a local nonprofit that also saved Le Corbusier’s nearby Cabanon. The multidisciplinary Gray designed the airy villa, inside and out, to foster a sense of well-being; built between 1926 and 1929 with her companion and fellow architect Jean Badovici, it had since fallen into disrepair, in part due to wear and tear from the Mediterranean climate. Artisans from six countries repaired and recreated every aspect of the Modernist masterpiece—from the concrete structure to the nickel-plated steel writing table to the abstract natural-fiber rugs—using the Irish designer’s original methods and materials; a few of its Le Corbusier murals were also restored.
The Paris-based Fondation Carmignac has turned the tiny, protected Ile de Porquerolles—the setting for Jean-Luc Godard’s French New Wave classic, Pierrot le Fou—into a contemplative destination for contemporary art. After a 15-minute ferry ride from the mainland, visitors are greeted with an herbal tea made from local flora and asked to remove their shoes before exploring the Villa Carmignac and its sculpture gardens, which are hosting “The Imaginary Sea” until October 17, 2021. Partly inspired by the villa’s architecture, with its water-filled ceiling, the exhibition features aquatic works such as Bruce Nauman’s One Hundred Fish Fountain and a new, Neptune-like installation by Miquel Barceló; afterwards, you’re invited to wade barefoot into the actual sea.
Eat and Drink: The renowned French chef Hélène Darroze just took over the kitchens at Château La Coste and its on-site hotel, with its 28 villa suites. Set in a terraced, glass-walled pavilion that seems to levitate above a mirror basin with a Louise Bourgeois sculpture of an embracing couple suspended from the ceiling, her new restaurant—Hélène Darroze at Villa La Coste—focuses on fruits and vegetables from the region, with a wine list featuring the estate’s own organic varietals.
Make time to visit Menton, “the pearl” of the French Riviera, even if only to dine at Italian-Argentine chef Mauro Colagreco’s Mirazur. The biodynamic restaurant holds three Michelin stars, a Michelin Green star, and the number one spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Its new “CosmoCuisine” menu follows the lunar phases: Depending on the day, you’ll be immersed in one of the four “Mirazur Universes”—Root, Leaf, Flower, or Fruit—featuring plant-focused dishes that largely pluck from the kitchen gardens.
Colagreco has a new restaurant, Ceto, that takes inspiration from the sea, which it overlooks from the top floor of the soon-to-open Maybourne Riviera. Built on a rocky peninsula above Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, the Jean-Michel Wilmotte-designed hotel—from the London-based group behind Claridge’s and The Connaught—will have specially commissioned art, objects, and furnishings from local artists and makers alongside work by everyone from JR to Le Corbusier and Gray.
Stay: The Luma Foundation’s Maja Hoffmann brought the Cuban American artist and sculptor Jorge Pardo to Arles, where he turned a historic hôtel particulier into L’Arlatan—which is basically a bookable work of art. Pardo designed each of its 34 rooms with handcrafted mosaic-tile floors and walls (at least in the bathrooms) as well as doors that double as canvases for his figurative paintings. Almost all of the furnishings and fixtures were made by hand in his studio.
The family-run, art-filled Hotel Lou Pinet recently opened with sunny 1960s vibes in Saint-Tropez courtesy of the Paris-based architect and interior designer Charles Zana. Expect 34 bright, spacious rooms and suites with abstract tapestry headboards and bespoke ceramic lamps, each with its own private garden and outdoor lounge.
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