Paris celebrates spring with pharaohs, fashion and surrealism: must-have exhibitions of the season

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and tables are full on the terraces of Paris’s iconic cafés. Spring has apparently spread to the French capital, and after being away for almost two whole years as a result of the pandemic, tourists are back in droves. Paris is ready to welcome them back with a bewildering array of pharaohs, costumes, feminists, surrealists and Peruvian treasures. Below is a selection of the most anticipated art galleries in Paris over the coming months.

1 – Pharaoh of the Two Lands, Louvre Museum (April 28 – July 25)

Already famous for its glass pyramid, the Louvre takes its passion for all things Egyptian even further with a large exhibition dedicated to Pharaoh Taharqa, the former king of Napata, the ancient capital of a vast kingdom in Nubia, located in what is now northern Sudan.

Around 730 B.C., the Nubian King Bianchi conquered Egypt and established the 25th Dynasty of Kush kings, who for more than 50 years ruled a kingdom stretching from the Nile Delta to the confluence of the White and Blue Niles. The most famous of these kings is the pharaoh Taharqa.

The exhibition tells the story of the kings of Napata, and the exhibition focuses on the pioneering role of this historical figure and his vast kingdom, which is located today in central Sudan. An impressive collection of statues and other artwork will immerse you in a history dating back thousands of years.

Statue from the exhibition of Pharaoh Taharqa at the Louvre from April 28 to July 25. © Musée du Louvre 2 – Gaudi, Musée d’Orsay (April 12 – July 17)

Escape to Barcelona by entering the extraordinary world of Art Nouveau by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi at the first major exhibition in Paris dedicated to him in 50 years. In this immersive view, you will discover the architect’s studio, his innovative work techniques, his collaborators, and his mega projects.

Seven of Gaudí’s architectural creations have been included in the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO; A recognition of the genius of the man who changed the face of Catalonia at a time when social and political upheaval was pushing artists to innovate and evolve.

Drawings, models and furniture never before shown in France will provide insight into the huge world of this unique artist as he developed for his major works, from gardens to palaces, including the Güell Garden and the palace, Casa Milàand, of course, the unmissable Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Photo of the Sagrada Familia celebrated by Antoni Gaudi, on September 16, 2020 in Barcelona. © Paul Barrena, AFP 3 – Yves Saint Laurent in six museums in Paris (until May 15)

Although museums sometimes collaborate to organize a large exhibition, it is very rare for six of them to work together for one huge exhibition. The Center Pompidou, the Louvre, the Museum of Modern Art, the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée Nationale Picasso, and the Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Paris present Yves Saint Laurent in Museums, an exhibition that spans across these art institutions in Paris.

A creation by Yves Saint Laurent is on display at the Louvre until 15 May. © Stéphane de Sakutin, AFP On January 29, 1962, young Yves Saint Laurent presented his first personal collection at the age of 26. It was an exceptional fashion show that propelled him into the ranks of top fashion designers, where he remained until his death in 2008. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of his first fashion show, each museum highlights the designer’s connections to French art and the public. groups.

>> READ MORE: Paris museums celebrate ‘totally eclectic’ French designer Yves Saint Laurent

4 – Tuyen, Museum of Modern Art (March 25 – July 24)

The Museum of Modern Art dedicates an exhibition to the Czech surrealist artist Twain. Titled “Toyen, Lykart Absolu” (Toyen, Absolute Solitude), she uses drawing to explore solitude. The painter and poet Marie Serminova chose the pseudonym Toyen in reference to the French Revolution as well as the French word for citizen “citoyen”.

Born in Prague in 1902, Twain traversed the 20th century “always at the junction of the most exciting things that happen there.” A surrealist painter, she joined forces with fellow Czech artist Jindrich Steyrski in the 1920s to create “Synthetic,” a movement she claimed was “a perfect identification of the painter with the poet” and formed “a startling preconception of the ’50s’ lyrical abstraction,” according to the Museum of Modern Art.

She fled to Paris in 1948, rejecting the totalitarian rule of her country in the Soviet era, and joined the Surrealist group. She occupied a key position in the movement, continuing to the end her “quest to connect desire and representation”.

This unique retrospective exhibits 150 of her works (paintings, drawings, collages, books from museums and private collections) in five parts.

Toyen’s Minuit painting from 1961 as part of the main exhibition at the Musee d’art moderne, March 25-July 24. © Musee d’art moderne 5 – Charles Ray, Center Pompidou & La Bourse de Commerce (until June 20)

A key figure in contemporary American sculpture, Charles Ray is shown for the first time in not just one French gallery but in a double show at both the Center Pompidou and La Bourse de Commerce. Created in dialogue with the artist, it offers a journey through a landscape that engages mind and body together, with a cast that illustrates the different directions of his work.

Ray’s work is incredibly diverse, from portraits (a form he no longer uses) to gleaming stainless steel sculptures, colossal statues of people, recreated vehicles, and tree trunks. But a sense of humor runs all the time, and his work always seems to be very labour-intensive. “I never think about sculpture,” he said at the press opening of the Pompidou Gallery.

There is a fascinating story behind every piece Ray makes, with references to current events, art history, literature, or Ray’s private life. This is a gallery where the wall texts and audio guide (read by Ray himself) add a lot to the experience.

Autumn 91 by Charles Ray, at Center Pompidou until 20 June 2022. © Center Pompidou 6 – Machu Picchu and the Treasures of Peru, Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine (April 16 – September 4)

You might not be able to travel to Peru, so Machu Picchu comes to you in this immersive exhibition that lets visitors enter the environment through augmented reality.

Follow in the footsteps of nearly 3,000 years of pre-Columbian civilizations to discover the secrets of Machu Picchu in a major new exhibition featuring nearly 200 original objects from one of Peru’s greatest museums.

Visitors will be able to admire the masterpieces, symbolic and archaeological objects brought together for the first time in Paris, some of which have never left Peru before. Featuring headdresses, funeral masks, tiaras, and more, it has been described as one of the most impressive gold sets ever.

Funeral mask at the Machu Picchu Gallery at the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, April 16 – September 4 © Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine 7 – Romantic Heroines, Musée de la Vie Romantique (April 6 – September 4)

They were fighters, artists, writers, musicians, artists: they were all women at the heart of the exhibition at the Musée de la Vie Romantique. Sappho, Joan of Arc, Marie Stuart, Heloise, Juliet, Ophelia and Atala are revealed under the brushstrokes of these artists. Their dramatic history and heightened emotions helped shape a romantic portrait of women in the 19th century.

Who are the women who caught the attention of the artists and how were they represented? More than a hundred paintings, sculptures, manuscripts and art objects reveal these heroines, celebrated or invented by Romantic artists, who left their mark on the culture and imagination of the time.

The show is divided into three main sections: heroines of the past, heroines of the novel, and heroines on stage. The strong connections between literature, the performing arts, and the fine arts are explored when Shakespeare meets Eugène Delacroix, while Antoine-Jean Gros becomes fascinated with Greek mythology.

8- Simon Hanta, Louis Vuitton Foundation (May 18 – August 29)

To celebrate the centenary of Simon Hanta’s birth, the institution is presenting an important retrospective of more than 130 works by the artist, many of which have never been shown before.

Hantaï (1922-2008) is best known for his shimmering abstract works, he devised the folding (folding) technique in which cloth is wrinkled and knotted before being uniformly painted and then spread out to reveal an array of patterns.

Hanta was born in Paya, Hungary, and moved to Paris after receiving a government scholarship to study there. In Paris, he met writer André Breton in 1952 and quickly became associated with the Parisian surrealists, completing several animal-themed fantasy paintings before confronting Jackson Pollock’s work and breaking with surrealist ideologies in 1955. Pollock’s kinetic paintings and works inspired abstract expressionists directly Hantaï’s shift towards massive abstraction. The Foundation’s exhibition will mainly focus on works from this key period from 1957-2000.

A tabula by Simon Hanta from 1975, as part of the Louis Vuitton Foundation’s retro exhibition that runs from May 18 to August 29. © Fondation Louis Vuitton

9 – Pioneers: Artists in Paris in the 1920s, Musée du Luxembourg (until July 10)

Women are once again at the heart of this exhibition, which celebrates the creative pioneers who overcame discrimination and marginalization in the first half of the twentieth century in Paris. Visitors are reminded of the essential roles of women artists in critical art movements, from Fauvism to abstraction via Cubism, Dada and Surrealism, but also in the realms of architecture, dance, design, literature, and fashion as well as scientific discovery.

The visual and conceptual explorations presented here underscore their courage in the face of entrenched norms that confine women to certain occupations and stereotypes. Through the many upheavals of the early twentieth century, a number of major female artists began to emerge. Their numbers increased after the Russian Revolution and World War I, which intensified challenges to the patriarchal model for practical, political, and social reasons. Women gained more power and visibility, and artists gave these pioneers a face that truly represented them.

10 – Giovanni Boldini: Pleasures and Days, Petit Ballet (March 29 – July 24)

“Vous êtes un monstre de talent” is how the famous French impressionist Edgar Degas described his fellow painter and friend Giovanni Boldini. A retrospective of this Italian artist at the Petit Palais explodes with color; The last Boldini exhibition was held in France more than 60 years ago.

Born in Italy in 1842, Boldini was a close friend of both Degas and Marcel Proust, and became one of Paris’ most famous artistic talents in the early 20th century. He achieved great success during his lifetime, becoming the painter of choice for international wealthy clients. In Paris, the fashion capital of the world, he was especially loved by rich princesses and heiresses, and his work is a testament to the times.

Giovanni Boldini’s portrait of Miss Bell, 1903. From the Petit Ballet Gallery. © Petit Palais

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