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 art fairs like FIAC (Foire internationale d’art contemporain) and Paris Photo. 

Artist duo Christo and Jeanne-Claude recently staged their final work: L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, in the city where they first met. As its title suggests, the piece shrouded 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. 

Read our ongoing guide to the best Paris exhibitions for 2021

1. Exhibition: Martin Margiela 
Location: Lafayette Anticipations – Fondation d’entreprise Galeries Lafayette
Dates: until 2 January 2022

Martin Margiela best Paris art exhibitions 2021
Martin Margiela, Red Nails, 2019, lacquer on fibreglass. Courtesy the artist and Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp. Produced by Lafayette Anticipations

In October 2021, anti-fashion designer Martin Margiela underwent something of an art rebirth. At Lafayette Anticipations – Fondation d’entreprise Galeries Lafayette, his first show as a fully-fledged artist is radical, renegade and full of surprises. Margiela abruptly left the fashion world behind in 2009, and since then, has forged a career in art. Unexpected themes and motifs arrive as expected - visitors enter the show through the emergency exit, there’s a billboard dedicated entirely to a nondescript roll-on deodorant, a bus stop made of faux fur, body parts in varying forms, and human hairballs. Guillaume Houzé, president of Lafayette Anticipations, compares the whole experience to ‘walking through Margiela’s brain’. 

2. Exhibition: Claire Tabouret
Location: Musée National Picasso-Paris; Perrotin; Almine Rech
Dates: Until 18 December 2021

 Tanguy Beurdeley / Courtesy Almine Rech and Perrotin Best Paris exhibitions
View of the exhibition ’Paysages d’interieurs’ at Perrotin Paris. © Photo: Tanguy Beurdeley / Courtesy Almine Rech and Perrotin

French artist Claire Tabouret is currently staging a three-gallery takeover in Paris. At the Musée National Picasso-Paris, Tabouret draws on Picasso’s Three Women at the Fountain, with an intimate and tactile reinterpretation of the iconic work. Over at Perrotin gallery, the artist is presenting new landscape paintings. Through a striking chromatic system painted on coloured synthetic fur, the artist channels pieces by Giorgio Morandi, Pierre Bonnard, and Ferdinand Hodler. Elsewhere, at Almine Rech, the artist presents a new series of works devoted to self-portraiture and group paintings that simultaneously convey intimacy, remoteness and alienation.

3. Richard Serra: Transmitter
Location: Gagosian, Le Bourget
Dates: Until 30 April 2022 

 Richard Serra/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photography: Thomas Lannes
Richard Serra, Transmitter (2020). Copyright: Richard Serra/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photography: Thomas Lannes

Currently dominating Gagosian, Le Bourget’s space with curve appeal is Richard Serra’s Transmitter (2020). Made in weatherproof steel, the mammoth work resembles an ochre maze or a swirling metal ribbon that consumes all in its shadow. As the 82-year-old artist has said of his work: ‘I consider space to be a material. The articulation of space has come to take precedence over other concerns. I attempt to use sculptural form to make space distinct.’ In collaboration with Gagosian, the Centre Pompidou in Paris will present a three-day retrospective in early 2022 of Serra’s films and videos, drawn from the museum’s collection and the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

4. 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.’

5. Exhibition: Anni and Josef Albers: ‘L’art et la vie’
Location: Musée d’Art Moderne
Dates: until 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.’ §