Paris Cultural Calendar

Places, people, and things not to miss this season.

Femmes Vitales

The always adventurous Centre Pompidou is in the midst of one of its most radical experiments yet. For a full year its permanent galleries of contemporary art are showing works by female artists only. No Pollock, no Yves Klein, no Warhol, no Koons: Instead of art history’s usual boys’ club, there’s Sonia Delaunay, Joan Mitchell, Louise Bourgeois, Diane Arbus, Lee Bontecou, and Sophie Calle, in a special installation dubbed “Elles@centrepompidou.”

Why should a world-famous museum deprive itself of the creative expression of half the human race? Indeed, it’s hard to imagine, say, the Museum of Modern Art or the Tate Modern putting the guys in storage for 12 months. “Women are sufficiently numerous and progressive to give a representative view of today’s art on their own,” says Camille Morineau, the organizing curator. Pompidou director Alfred Pacquement adds that “it’s a sort of manifesto. The absence of men for one year is the price to pay for our way of working.” In other words, shaking things up as usual. The display of some 500 works will remain up through at least May 2010.

Judith Benhamou-Huet, art columnist for Le Point and Les Echos and author of Global Collectors (Phébus)

Palace Coup

Whenever I go to the Château de Versailles, I always rediscover it. The buildings, the gardens—everything has codes, signs, and rituals that you could spend years deciphering. Its magnificent opera hall was just renovated and offers a very interesting program. The château has opened up to contemporary art events, such as last year’s Jeff Koons exhibition. This fall an artist I love, Xavier Veilhan, is installing several new sculptures around the grounds, through December 13.

Arthur Nauzyciel, artistic director of the Centre Dramatique National d’Orléans/Loiret/Centre

New Avant-Garde

Look back at the history of modern art in Paris, and the names of legendary dealers—Durand-Ruel, Vollard, Kahnweiler—loom large. These days the city has few figures who could claim the mantle from those giants. But that doesn’t mean Emmanuel Perrotin isn’t trying.

Having started dealing out of his apartment 20 years ago, Perrotin, 41, now oversees a blue-chip roster of 40 artists, from Japanese impresario Takashi Murakami and Indian star Bharti Kher to French icons Bernard Frize and Sophie Calle to American hip-hop musician–cum–designer Pharrell Williams. It’s an ambitious, global, youthful program that Perrotin runs out of two galleries in the Marais, one occupying an elegant 18th-century hôtel particulier. (He also has an outpost in Miami that’s on hiatus but will showcase paintings by Frize during Art Basel Miami Beach in December.) This fall he’s using both Paris spaces for a splashy show of works by Murakami (through October 17), including several riotous, cartoonish self-portraits and a series of circular flower paintings inspired by the 17th-century Japanese artist Ogata Korin. That will be followed by the first Paris solo show of fast-rising Iranian artist Farhad Moshiri.

The industrious Perrotin also financed the fabrication of most of Xavier Veilhan’s sculptures for his high-profile exhibition at Versailles (see “Palace Coup”). And buzz has already started over the dealer’s plans for a 2011 show with lightning rod Damien Hirst. “This project is close to my heart, since I set up Hirst’s first solo show in 1991,” says Perrotin. “I expect he will surprise us yet again with his capacity to always push boundaries.”

Stephen Wallis, deputy editor

Design Diva

For anyone who believes a beautiful dress can be a work of art, the exhibition on French designer Madeleine Vionnet at the Musée de la Mode et du Textile, through January 31, 2010, is exquisite validation. Vionnet is the insider’s haute couturière—a major exponent of the bias cut and a creator of both coolly sensual and feverishly ephemeral effects. Eveningwear was her métier, and the liquid dress made out of four squares of ivory georgette, from winter 1920, is her masterwork.

Harold Koda, curator of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Artists in Residence

Nicknamed “the mourning factory” by the 1,500 municipal undertakers who once worked in the massive steel-and-brick structure, Le Centquatre is one of the city’s most dynamic arts centers. Its residency program recently hosted red-hot film director Christophe Honoré (In Paris; Love Songs) and trip-hop musician Tricky, who recorded his latest album there. This fall Le Centquatre is presenting an installation by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone and a film series by Brit Tacita Dean. “It’s more of a production site, both for rising and established artists,” says codirector Frédéric Fisbach. “We’re sort of the anti-museum.”

Elisabeth Franck-Dumas, contributing editor

All That Jazz

To hear great music, visit the club New Morning ( The owner, Madame Farhi, is more than 80 years old, but she’s there every night. The vibe is great, and people come from around the world. When I was in music school, I mailed programs for the club to get free tickets, and I saw so many legends play. There is also Le Baiser Salé (, a secret spot near the Châtelet where famous musicians regroup after midnight to jam until 4 A.M. It’s the place I had my very first gig in Paris.

Angelique Kidjo, singer, who won a Grammy for her 2007 album Djin Djin

Renoir Revisited

Truth be told, Renoir’s late paintings have a bad reputation. He lived well into the 20th century, and after being the Impressionist painter everyone knew, he changed completely. Yet a lot of the artists we associate with modernism, including Picasso and Matisse, were very interested in Renoir. He’s a painter’s painter, and his late works have to be seen to be understood. “Renoir in the 20th Century,” which is at the Grand Palais (September 23–January 4, 2010), offers an exciting new take on the artist.

J. Patrice Marandel, curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where the show travels next

Cut to the Chasse

One of the city’s most fascinating—and idiosyncratic—museums is the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, in the Marais. The displays are a surprising mix of contemporary and historical art and artifacts. Don’t miss the taxidermy halls and beware, the Albino boar speaks! The collection includes incredible works by Janine Janet, who did window displays for Christian Dior, Balenciaga, and Givenchy in the fifties. Her sculpture The Faun, made of plaster and covered in birch bark, gives the uncanny impression that you could step from the gallery right into an enchanted wood with the faun as your guide.

Betony Vernon, jewelry designer

The Cine-File

Americans may take the credit for Hollywood and popcorn, but the French are worshipers of l’art du cinéma, and their temple is the Cinémathèque Française (, a museum and multiplex with an archive of some 40,000 films, several of which are screened in its three theaters every day. Frank Gehry’s cubist building not only looks like something out of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, it houses that movie’s robot girl. And the head of Norman Bates’s mother from Psycho, too.

At La Pagode (, the 1890s theater itself is the main attraction, with Orientalist flourishes such as bronze Foo dogs, gilded wooden pheasants, dragon sconces, and a bamboo garden. Of course, the French are great fans of American Westerns, film noirs, and comedies, which you can always find at the city’s three Action Cinémas (, shown strictly in version originale (v.o.), meaning they’re never dubbed.

Rhoda Koenig, cultural reporter

Performance Picks

You can always count on an innovative experience at the Théâtre du Rond-Point, where this season’s initial offerings include Kaj Munk’s play Ordet (La Parole), starring Pascal Greggory and featuring the medieval singers Ensemble Organum, through October 10 ( The Comédie-Française, more brilliant than ever, is performing Molière’s L’Avare through February 21, 2010 ( And the Théâtre de la Ville’s tribute to the late German dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch, November 11 through 28, is sure to be an event (

Brigitte Lefèvre, dance director, Opéra National de Paris

Ancien Paris

Everyone has his own special places in this city, and I suppose I favor the older Paris of the Bourbons. I always recommend a trip to the Marais, the aristocratic center before the 1789 revolution. The streets are beautiful and there are lots of hôtels particuliers where French noblemen would escape the rigors of court life at Versailles. One you can visit is the Musée Carnavalet (, where you walk through rooms occupied by the archetypal letter writer of the 17th century, the Marquise de Sévigné. It is also the city’s best museum of the revolution.

A little distance away, still in the Marais, is the ravishing Place des Vosges. Built in the early 1600s by King Henry IV as a model for town planning, it’s even lovelier today.

Anyone interested in the Paris of Marcel Proust must visit the Musée Nissim de Camondo ( Comte Moïse de Camondo built it in 1911 to house his spectacular collection of 18th-century French furniture and paintings. He gave it to the nation in memory of his only son, who was killed in World War I.

And don’t miss the enchanting Parc Monceau nearby. I filmed a scene from my movie Separate Lies there, and it remains a favorite. I particularly like the monument to Guy de Maupassant, featuring a languid Parisienne reading one of his novels. How fitting.

Julian Fellowes, actor, director, and writer, whose novel Past Imperfect was just published by St. Martin’s Press