For centuries, Paris has served as an epicentre for the arts. Home to some of the most lauded museums and art schools, it’s served as a cultivator of radical art – from the impressionists, surrealists, dadaists and far beyond.

In contemporary times, the French capital continues to live up to its reputation as the ‘​​city of art’ with a thriving community of artists, and landmark incubators for contemporary creativity, from the Centre Pompidou to the Palais de Tokyo, and leading art fairs such as FIAC (21 – 24 October 2021), Art Paris (9 – 12 September 2021) and Paris Photo (11 – 14 November 2021). 

Next month, artist duo Christo and Jeanne-Claude will posthumously unveil their final work: L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, in the city where they first met. As its title suggests, the piece will shroud the Parisian architecture icon in 25,000 sq m of silvery-blue polypropylene fabric, a testament to the duo’s fearless artistic vision, their adoration for the city, and its lasting relevance in the contemporary art landscape. 

As life tentatively re-finds its rhythm, we distil the best Paris art exhibitions to add to your summer calendar. 

Exhibition: King Houndekpinkou: ‘Dans Mon Jardin...’ 
Location: Galerie Vallois
Dates: Until 2 October

King Houndekpinkou, Le Triboutellis à Sève Noire, 2021 - best Paris exhibitions
King Houndekpinkou, Le Triboutellis à Sève Noire, 2021. Glazed ceramics: blend of white and black stoneware from Iowa, U.S – Tamba, Japan – Sè, Benin – Bizen, Japan. White and black glazes. Photography: King Houndekpinkou

Paris-based artist King Houndekpinkou’s ceramic art creations blend ancestral pottery traditions with space-age video game aesthetics. The artist, of Beninese origin, fuses seemingly disparate influences – from Japanese craft, African Voodoo and pop culture – to create small and large-scale sculptures that feature bursts of bold colour, playful spikes and cracked surfaces. As he told writer Minako Norimatsu in a profile for our September 2021 issue, ‘It can take a combination of hundreds of these powders to obtain a particular colour or texture. Sometimes I rework a piece that is ostensibly finished, applying another layer of glaze and firing it again. Then a new piece is born!’

Exhibition: Damien Hirst: ‘Cherry Blossoms’ 
Location: Fondation Cartier
Dates: until 2 January 2022

Portrait of Damien Hirst at his ’Cherry Blossoms’ exhibition at Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris
Portrait of Damien Hirst at his ’Cherry Blossoms’ exhibition at Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris

Damien Hirst, once-enfant terrible of British art, is currently dominating the Jean Nouvel-designed Fondation Cartier galleries. Not with pickled sharks or medical apparatus as one might readily assume but Cherry Blossoms. These vast new paintings, divided into single panels, diptychs, triptychs, quadriptychs, and even a hexaptych, are saturated with vivid colours, and dizzying clusters of erupting buds that attract viewers, but also consume them. As the artist says ‘The Cherry Blossoms are about beauty and life and death. They’re extreme – there’s something almost tacky about them.’

Exhibition: ‘Martha Jungwirth: Recent Works’
Location: Thaddaeus Ropac
Dates: Until 16 October 2021

 Susanne Längle. © Martha Jungwirth / Adagp, Paris, 2021, part of the best Paris art exhibitions
Martha Jungwirth, Antiphon, 2020, oil on paper on canvas. Courtesy Thaddaeus Ropac, London · Paris · Salzburg · Seoul. Photo: Susanne Längle. © Martha Jungwirth / Adagp, Paris, 2021

Created during the pandemic, ​​Austrian artist Martha Jungwirth’s first show at Thaddaeus Ropac is an expressive, emotionally charged diary of isolation. Within a sea of the artist’s characteristic reds, violets, yellows and magentas, viewers can decipher animal-like and abstract figures in the paintings, ranging from intimate scales to more imposing polyptychs. As the artist says of her new pieces: ‘I was confronted with my own self during the pandemic, because I was completely isolated. I don’t live from reality, I live from art. The vitality of life, the sensations, all that was missing - the impressions from the outside world, from other art and artists.’

Exhibition: Lars Von Trier 
Location: Perrotin
Dates: Until 2 October 2021 

Lars von Trier, Melancholia, Justice of Ophelia, 2011 – 2021 © Lars von Trier and Zentropa Entertainments - ART von Trier, Freeze Frame Gallery. Courtesy Perrotin
Lars von Trier, Melancholia, Justice of Ophelia, 2011 – 2021 © Lars von Trier and Zentropa Entertainments - ART von Trier, Freeze Frame Gallery. Courtesy Perrotin

He’s the radical Danish filmmaker known for Dogville (2003), Antichrist (2009), Melancholia (2011) and Nymphomaniac (2013). Lars Von Trier’s films are not easy to watch, or forget; they are harrowing, aesthetically groundbreaking and as turbulent to view as they were to make. At Perrotin Paris, Von Trier is exhibiting a series of photographs for the first time, in collaboration with Jens-Otto Paludan and Malou Solfjeld. It’s not the traditional ‘behind-the-scenes’ showcase. Instead, it unfolds like a memento of Von Trier work through 24 photograms – individually poignant, intense and rousing, brush with the innards of the human condition. 

Exhibition: Anni and Josef Albers: ‘L’art et la vie’
Location: Musée d’Art Moderne
Dates: 10 September 2021 – 9 January 2022

 Anni Albers, Black White Yellow, 1926 / 1967 best Paris art exhibitions
Left: Josef and Anni Albers in the garden of the master’s house at the Bahaus, Dessau, circa 1925. The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. Right: Anni Albers, Black White Yellow, 1926 / 1967. Conception: Anni Albers, 1926 Réalisation: Gunta Stölz, 1967. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. © 2021 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/ArtistsRights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris, 2021

The creative bond between Anni and Josef Albers was one built on mutual respect and a belief that art has the power to transform our perception of the world. At Musée d’Art Moderne, the first exhibition in France dedicated to the couple surveys their unique contribution to building the foundations of modernism. Through 350 paintings, photographs, furniture, drawings and textiles, ‘L’art et la vie’ unfolds like a conversation between the pair, who brought function to the heart of their thinking, prioritised the democratisation of art and forged a path for the next generation of creators. As Anni Albers once said: ‘We learn courage from art work. We have to go where no one was before us.’ §