Travel Spotlight

Paris Update: Summer's Best Exhibitions

Indagare’s Paris contributor, Mara Hoberman, rounds up the summer’s best art exhibitions and where to eat after visiting.

Home to an astounding 134 museums, Paris is truly an art-lovers paradise. In addition to recently revamped and reopened favorites—Musée Picasso and Musée Rodin—the French capital is offering cultural exhibitions that include a diverse mix of monographic and thematic shows all over town. Between Paul Klee’s blockbuster retrospective at the Pompidou, Iceland’s hottest export Olafur Elaisson at Versailles and over 700 Barbie dolls at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (107 Rue de Rivoli), there is something to suit all ages and tastes. And speaking of taste, we’ve rounded up delectable dining options within walking distance (or a quick Uber ride) from each exhibition. A week’s worth of great art plus fabulous lunches, done and done.

Olafur Elaisson at Versailles 

Known for his awe-inspiring installations created with light and water, Olafur Elaisson’s latest work takes over Versailles with new, large-scale pieces inspired by the palace’s opulent architecture and extraordinary history. Fans of Elaisson’s spectacular waterfalls presented in New York City’s East River in 2008 can look forward to similarly magical interventions in Louis XIV’s 17th-century garden fountains. June 7–November 30, 2016

Eat At: Les Etangs de Corot Instead of rushing back to the city for lunch after visiting Versailles (or settling for mediocre food at the chateau), drive 10 minutes to Les Etangs de Corot—a four-star boutique hotel that offers two fabulous dining options. In keeping with the majestic Versailles experience, Michelin-starred Le Corot serves haute cuisine in a formal dining room where reproductions of the eponymous painter’s neo-classical landscapes hang next to hunting trophies. For something lighter, Les Paillotes is a charming open-air café overlooking a tranquil pond. The bucolic setting, which inspired many French Impressionist painters, makes for a glorious leisurely lunch. Complete the royal treatment with a facial or massage at the in-house Caudalie Spa, which uses products derived from grapes and vines. Note: Le Corot is open Wednesday through Sunday for lunch; Les Paillotes is open on weekends only for lunch.

JR at the Louvre 

Don't be alarmed if you visit the Louvre this spring and find something missing. JR, the prolific French street artist who has plastered distant and diverse locations—from the favelas of Brazil toNew York’s Times Square—with giant black-and-white photographs, has turned his attention to I.M. Pei’s iconic steel and glass pyramid that sits outside the museum. Using anamorphic techniques, JR makes the Pyramide du Louvre (reportedly the museum’s third top attraction after the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo) magically disappear. May 24–June 28, 2016

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="620"] Courtesy JR at the Louvre[/caption]

Eat At: Ellsworth A five-minute walk from the Louvre, tucked behind the romantic Palais Royal, Ellsworth’s long pale wood– and white marble–decorated dining room is an elegant, unfussy oasis in a neighborhood full of tourist traps. The eclectic menu ranges from health food (kale salad) to comfort food (Kentucky-style buttermilk fried chicken) and the wine list is excellent (open Tuesday through Saturday).

Other JR News… Of note for budding JR fans is his interactive exhibition, "You are here," at the Pompidou Center (until September 19). Designed for children ages 4-12, the installation is a model of a fictional city adorned with the artist’s signature large-scale portraits. Moderators are on hand to help little urban explorers discover how people live in various parts of the world. Rounding out his trifecta of Paris exhibitions, JR’s mural in the tunnels below the Palais de Tokyo features somber black-and-white pianos. The haunting imagery is a reference to the WWII occupation, during which the Nazis stocked thousands of stolen pianos in the basement of what is now France’s largest contemporary art center. Though JR’s artwork is not accessible to the public (for safety reasons), projects by other artists invited to participate in the Palais de Tokyo’s “Lasco Project,” which showcases graffiti arts in the museum’s basement, can be visited as part of a guided tour (Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 12:30 pm).

Barbie at Musée des Arts Décoratifs 

Paris’s “it girl” this season is less than one foot tall, well into her fifties, and a true fashion chameleon. Celebrating Barbie as a beloved toy and a timeless fashion icon, this exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs ((107 Rue de Rivoli, right next to the Louvre) features over 700 well-dressed dolls. Barbie’s miniature outfits range from Christian Lacroix and Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture to historical costumes like Marie Antoinette’s ruched ballgown and Queen Elizabeth I’s corseted, high-collared dress. Until September 18

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="620"] Courtesy Luc Boegly, Barbie at Musee Decoratifs[/caption]

Eat At: La Bourse et la Vie To continue with the American-in-Paris experience, take a scenic stroll through the Palais Royal courtyard and past the Galerie Vivienne ( 4 Rue des Petits Champs) to Chicago-born chef Daniel Rose’s latest culinary gem. Opened last fall to rave reviews, La Bourse et la Vie seamlessly combines delectable French cuisine, an upscale bistro ambiance and good old US-style service with a smile (open Monday through Friday).

Between Sculpture and Photography at Musée Rodin 

The intimate relationship between sculpture and photography, a fascinating aspect of Rodin’s own oeuvre, is thoroughly explored in this group show that brings together eight 20th-century artists: Mac Adams, Dieter Appelt, John Chamberlain, Richard Long, Gordon Matta-Clark, Giuseppe Penone, Markus Raetz and Cy Twombly. Also not-to-be missed is the Musée Rodin’s recently reinstalled permanent collection, whose new highlights include a room decorated exactly as it was when the sculptor lived and worked there (until his death in 1917), complete with original furniture, works by Rodin and objects from the artist’s own vast collection of antiquities. Until July 17

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="620"] Courtesy Markus Raetz, Musee Rodin[/caption]

Eat At: David Toutain A short promenade through the gardens of Les Invalides will bring you to David Toutain (29 rue Surcouf), the eponymous Michelin-starred restaurant of the chef who formerly presided over the kitchens of beloved Paris institutions like Loiseau, Passard, Veyrat and Agapé Substance. Toutain fans will be happy to find his signature savory-sweet flavor combinations (fried beets and blackberries, smoked beef carpaccio with wild strawberries) relocated to this airy, Nordic-style duplex (open Monday through Friday for lunch ).

Paul Klee: Irony at work at the Pompidou Center 

Paul Klee’s witty abstractions count among the Pompidou’s finest masterpieces, but it has been nearly 50 years since the Swiss-German artist had a major retrospective in France. Worth the wait, the current show provides an unprecedented look at Klee’s stylistic evolution, including references to Cubism, Dada, Surrealism and Constructivism. About half of the 250 works—among them paintings, sculptures, drawings and paintings on glass—have never before been exhibited in the country. Highlights include Klee’s illustrations for Voltaire’s Candide made in the 1920s and his large-scale 1938 masterpiece, Insula dulcamaraUntil August 1

Eat At: Grand Coeur Just a five-minute walk from the Pompidou Center, a picturesque 18th-century cobblestone courtyard is home to Argentine-born chef Mauro Colagreco’s upscale brasserie. Boasting one of Paris’s loveliest terraces, Grand Coeur is an excellent option for a traditional three-course meal. The wine list is superb (open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch).

Miquel Barceló: Sol y sombra at Musée Picasso 

Those visiting the Musée Picasso for the first time since its 2015 reopening are in for a double treat. In addition to the splendid rehanging of the permanent collection, a selection of works by Spanish artist Miquel Barceló marks the first contemporary art exhibition to be held at the renovated museum. Made between the 1990s and today, Barceló’s paintings, sculptures, ceramics and works on paper dialogue with many of the motifs found in Picasso’s oeuvre. Some of Barceló’s prints are concurrently on view at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (March 22–August 28, Quai François Mauriac).(Until July 31)

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="620"] Musee Picasso, Miquel Barcelo Sol Y Sombra[/caption]

Eat At: Clown Bar A few blocks from the Musée Picasso, just across the fashionable Boulevard Beaumarchais, the historic Clown Bar (once a canteen for the clowns performing at the next door Cirque d’Hiver) has also recently undergone a major renovation. Since reopening in 2014, the tiny restaurant has established itself as a hipster foodie hangout. Small plates and biodynamic wines are served in the lovingly restored Belle Époque interior (which is heavy on clown décor, but in a charming way) and on the sunny terrace (open Wednesday through Sunday for lunch).

In the studio: The Artist photographed from Ingres to Jeff Koons at Petit Palais 

Inviting visitors to peek inside the private, mythical world of the artist’s studio, the Petit Palais (Avenue Winston Churchill) presents over 400 photographs, along with paintings, sculptures and videos that depict the ateliers of artists including Ingres, Picasso, Matisse, Brancusi, Joan Mitchell, Miquel Barceló and Jeff Koons. From Francis Bacon’s chaotic clutter of newspapers, paint cans and heap of rags to Jeff Koons’ tidy modern workshop, much can be gleaned from seeing these artists’ creative environments. Until July 17

Eat At: Yannick Alleno au Ledoyen You won’t have to look far for a truly great meal near the Petit Palais. Just across the Champs-Elysées and inside a delightful manicured garden, Ledoyen is Yannick Alleno’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant. The food and service are impeccable, but what is truly special here is the one-of-a-kind fairytale Paris setting. The romantic white wedding cake pavilion dates from the reign of Napoleon III and has gorgeous views over the garden (open Monday through Friday for lunch).

Daniel Buren at the Fondation Louis Vuitton

Since mid-May, the distinctive glass “sails” of the Fondation Louis Vuitton have been lit up with all the colors of the rainbow. Designed to complement Frank Gehry’s signature fluid architecture, French artist Daniel Buren’s “Observatory of Light” is a permanent site-specific installation that will project 13 hues across the Fondation’s undulating structure. Colors change, appear and disappear, depending on the natural light according to the time of day and season.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="620"] Fondation Louis Vuitton Frank Gehry, Courtesy Todd Eberle[/caption]

Eat At: While out in the Bois de Boulogne, the former hunting grounds for the kings of France, take advantage of the bucolic setting with lunch at one of two lavish restaurants. Pré Catalan is a three-Michelin-starred gem with spectacular dining terraces overlooking the park, glam interior décor by Pierre-Yves Rochon and original ceiling friezes by Caran d'Ache. Slightly less formal, though still a grand affair, La Grande Cascade is a crystal-chandeliered dining room inside Napoléon III’s hunting pavilion. Both restaurants are magnificent and romantic, made for special occasions and celebrations.

Published onMay 20, 2016

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