Paris Exhibitions Not To Miss 2017-2018

“Paris is a veritable ocean,” wrote Honoré de Balzac in his novel Father Goriot. Balzac was conveying the mysteries of Paris that will always remain out of reach, but whenever I have a couple of days in the city and try to decide which museum exhibits to visit, I feel the same sentiment. Is it possible to see everything, explore everything, touch everything that Paris has to offer? Of course not, but trying to do so is a heady pleasure in itself. Below are my highlights from this summer in Paris. If you scroll further down, you will find an additional list of coming attractions.

Christian Dior at the Musée des Arts décoratifs until 7 January 2018

An exhibit that will make you appreciate the genius of Christian Dior and his obsessive attention to detail. Covering several floors of the Musée des Arts décoratifs, a few steps from the Tuileries Garden, the exposition traces the rise of the fashion house. It starts from the early days when Dior contemplated a career in political science and art and ends with the tenure of Maria Grazia Chiuri, the current artistic director. There is a special section on perfume.

The exhibit gets very crowded, so buy your tickets online.

Portraits of Cezanne at the Musée d’Orsay until 24 September 2017

Cezanne is known above all for his shimmering landscapes and still lifes that inspired Picasso and Matisse with their bold use of shapes and shadows. Yet, he was also a prolific portrait painter, leaving more than 200 such artworks (including 26 portraits of himself and 29 of his wife, Hortense Fiquet). The Musée d’Orsay’s exhibit gives a sense of Cezanne’s mastery at depicting his sitter’s personalities and emotions.

The exhibition will end in a month, but if you’re in London, the National Portrait Gallery will host the same collection from 26 October 2017 to 11 February 2018, and Washington’s National Gallery of Art will show it from 25 March to 1st July 2018.

Clothes in Spanish Tones at Maison de Victor Hugo until 24 September 2017

Victor Hugo was fascinated with Spanish culture, and the exhibit at his house overlooking the Place des Vosges gives a glimpse into the rich world of Spanish costume. Dresses from all regions of Spain are presented with short explanations of the significance of ornaments and details. Photographs of men and women in traditional dress complete the exhibit.

Olga Picasso at the Musée Picasso until 3 September 2017

Olga Picasso is one of the most important muses in Picasso’s career. Born as Olga Khokhlova in the Ukrainian town of Nizhyn, she studied classical dance in St. Petersburg and joined the Ballet Russes. She left dance a year after marrying Picasso in 1918. This period overlapped with the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 that brought death and grievance to Olga’s family. The early paintings of Picasso capture her melancholy mood and sadness, depicting the young woman reading or writing. But as Picasso’s infatuation with Olga wore off, his brush rendered as a menacing creature, all teeth and jagged lines. Eventually she disappears as an abandoned wife.

Although the exhibit presents Olga through Picasso’s eyes and paintings, it also includes photographs and letters that give a better sense of her as a person–and a more poignant edge to her tragedy.

Japanese landscapes, from Hokusai to Hasui at the Musée Guimet until 2 October 2017

A month ago I saw a collection of photographs depicting modern Japanese landscapes that left me profoundly depressed. There was not an image in sight that didn’t have the fluorescent glow of vending machines or the mind-numbing ugliness of concrete pylons. The depressing part was the comment by one American art critic that praised such depredations of natural environment as “innovative,” “futuristic,” and “uniquely Japanese.” Given current trends, I may allow that environmental blight is in our future, but I beg to differ that such a view of nature is part of the Japanese aesthetic.  To understand how the Japanese saw their environment one should turn to the 19th century masters of landscape paintings and ukiyo-e, woodblock prints.

The Musée Guimet holds one of the best collections of Asian art, and its exhibit showcases the finest examples of Japanese woodblock prints, including the famous Great Wave by Hokusai. The artworks are precious and sensitive to light, which is why they are displayed only for short periods of time. Until October 2nd, you have a chance to see how Japanese artists saw their ideal landscape and how they navigated the delicate balance between tradition and modernity. (The print by Utagawa Hiroshige I used as an illustration also can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.)

The museum’s exhibit on gold and the Buddhist art is also worth visiting for some of the rarely seen manuscripts and elaborate gold thread embroideries.

Derain, Balthus, Giacometti at the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris until 29 October 2017

Three friends, three artists, three visionaries. André Derain (1880-1954), Balthus (1908-2001) and Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) gave 20th century art the forms we still recognize today. The exhibit presents more than 350 artworks and shows how theater, literature, poetry and fashion influenced the trio. The curators captured the exuberance and delight that their experiments inspired. And did you know that Germaine Cellier, the infamous creator of Robert Piguet Fracas and Bandit, was painted by André Derain?

Upcoming Exhibitions 2017-2018 and Beyond

The website of Paris Convention is a good place to learn of the exhibitions that take place in the city. Here I’ve selected a few that caught my interest–Impressionists, Surrealists, Baroque, Picasso on dance, the Baltic art, Maria Callas, and Leonardo da Vinci.

‘Monet the Collector’ at the Musée Marmottan Monet from 14 September 2017 until 14 January 2018

Impressionists from the Ordrupgaard collection at Jacquemart-André museum from 15 September 2017 until 22 January 2018

‘The Art of Pastel, from Degas to Redon: the Petit Palais collection’ at the Petit Palais from September 15, 2017 until April 8, 2018

Maria by Callas at La Seine Musicale from 16 September until 14 December 2017

Glass in the Middle Ages at Musée de Cluny from 20 September 2017 until 8 January 2018

Christians from the East, 2,000 years of History at Institut du Monde Arabe from September 26, 2017 until January 14, 2018

‘Rubens, Portraits of Princes’ at the Musée du Luxembourg from 4 October 2017 until 15 January 2018

‘André Derain: 1904-1914 The Radical Decade’ at the Centre Pompidou from 4 October 2017 until 29 January 2018

‘Gauguin, the Alchemist’ at the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais from 11 October 2017 until 22 January 2018

Émile Guimet’s travels in Asia at Musée Guimet from 18 October 2017 until 26 February 2018

Degas, Dance, Drawing. Homage with Paul Valéry at Musée d’Orsay from November 28, 2017 until February 25, 2018

Mary Cassatt, an American in Paris at Jacquemart-André museum from 9 March until 23 July 2018

Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) at the Musée du Louvre from 28 March until 23 July 2018

Chagall, Malevich, El Lissitzky at the Centre Pompidou from 28 March until 23 July 2018

Young Tintoretto at Musée du Luxembourg from March until July 2018

Symbolism in art in the Baltic states at the Musée d’Orsay from 10 April until 15 July 2018

‘Mediterranean Picasso’ at the Musée Picasso in the spring 2018

‘Picasso and Dance’ at the Opéra Garnier from 13 June until 16 September 2018

Picasso’s Blue and Pink periods at the Musée d’Orsay from 18 September 2018 until 6 January 2019

Venice in the time of Vivaldi and Tiepolo at the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais from September 2018 until January 2019

Leonardo da Vinci at the Musée du Louvre in the fall 2019

Photography by Bois de Jasmin.

Painting 1: Olga Khokhlova-Picasso by Pablo Picasso. Painting 2: The Cat in the Mirror (2) by Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski), via wiki-images.



  • Jeremy: I have a poster of that Balthus painting! August 24, 2017 at 8:58am Reply

    • Victoria: His work is so much fun! August 24, 2017 at 11:39am Reply

  • Tina: Perfect! I’m planning a trip to Paris for October. Hope to catch the Dior exhibit at the very least. August 24, 2017 at 9:11am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s definitely worth it! Just try not to go on the weekend, since it gets very crowded. August 24, 2017 at 11:39am Reply

  • Annie: Wow! The Cezanne exhibit will be in my city. 🙂 August 24, 2017 at 9:37am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s excellent. Hope that you can see it. August 24, 2017 at 11:40am Reply

  • Qwendy: Hi Victoria! Thanks so much for the Conventions link …. I am continually frustrated by the lack of consolidated info on Paris exhibits, et voila! I LOVED the Spanish costumes at the wonderful Musee de Victor Hugo ….. And this very unusual jewelry exhibit ‘Medusa: Jewellery and Taboos’ at the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris until 5 November 2017
    Happy end of summer xxx August 24, 2017 at 12:40pm Reply

    • Victoria: I didn’t have time to see the jewelry exhibit, but it did look interesting.

      There is always so much going on in Paris that having a list is helpful. August 24, 2017 at 4:46pm Reply

    • Tamara K: The embroidery from the Spanish exhibit looks beautiful! August 25, 2017 at 3:14am Reply

      • Victoria: Yes, it’s quite intricate, although that costume in particular belonged to a noble woman playing dress up (sort of like Marie Antoinette dressing up as a shepherdess at Petit Trianon), so it was more elaborate than what people wore day-to-day. August 25, 2017 at 5:27am Reply

  • Tamara K: Thank you for the links! It will be useful to me. August 25, 2017 at 3:13am Reply

  • Richard Goller: What a wonderful round-up, Victoria. Although I know it was not your intention, I am thoroughly envious here on the southern tip of Africa. The Japanese landscapes show sounds particularly interesting. R August 25, 2017 at 1:34pm Reply

    • Victoria: When I was putting this post together, I realized that many museums above have good online resources. Not the same as seeing them in person, perhaps, but still, fascinating. August 27, 2017 at 11:29am Reply

  • Aurora: Embarrassment of riches in Paris! Thank you, Victoria. I’m just back from Provence (it was heaven, especially visit to Valreas which used to belong to the popes) and won’t have a holiday for a good while but I’ll keep your handy schedule of exhibitions. I still haven’t managed to go to the V&A for Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion and now I wonder whether it might include perfume (I have a large bottle of Quadrille which I love). August 25, 2017 at 2:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, it would be disappointing if they didn’t, since perfume was an important part of his fashion collection.

      Valreas sounds beautiful. August 27, 2017 at 11:30am Reply

  • Sandra: I saw the Cezanne exhibit yesterday, two thumbs up August 27, 2017 at 10:58am Reply

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