Six Culturalee Picks: Paris 

Paris is bursting with museums and galleries, and with the arrival of Paris Art Basel in 2023 and the enduring popularity of Paris Photo, La Cité de la Lumière has regained its Crown as the most important art world hub in Europe. 

Here are six Culturalee picks of exhibitions to see in Paris this winter:

Mark Rothko at Fondation Louis Vuitton/ Photo by Lee Sharrock

Mark Rothko @ Fondation Louis Vuitton 

The first retrospective in France dedicated to Mark Rothko (1903-1970) since the exhibition held at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1999 is on display at the Fondation Louis Vuitton. This extensive retrospective traces the career of the abstract expressionist back to his origins as a figurative painter, bringing together 115 works from important international institutional collections. 

Staged in the impressive Frank Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Bois de Bologne in Paris, the exhibition is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience Rothko’s seminal abstract expressionist masterpieces including the Seagram Murals, which were previously on display at Tate Modern in London, and the Phillips Collection of 1960, known as the first ‘Rothko Room’. Also on display is a display of rarely seen figurative early paintings by Rothko that kick off with his only self-portrait – a mysterious bespectacled artist of 1936 – and a series of paintings of the New York City subway executed in the 1930s. The early works are followed by a room featuring paintings that bridge the gap between figuration and abstraction, documenting Rothko’s breakthrough works that led to his most iconic abstract canvases. The final rooms of the exhibition feature a series of monochrome canvases in gray and black tones, juxtaposed with Giacommeti sculptures.  

Until 2nd April, 2024:

Sophie Calle at Picasso Museum/ Photo by Lee Sharrock

Sophie Calle @ Picasso Museum 

Sophie Calle’s solo exhibition “À toi de faire, ma mignonne” (It’s up to you, my darling) is an homage to Picasso staged at his eponymous museum in the Marais district of Paris. Calle curated the exhibition partly in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Picasso’s death, and partly as a way of looking back at her own illustrious career. The celebrated conceptual French artist takes over four floors of the Picasso Museum’s Hôtel Salé, which removed 90% of its permanent collection to make room for Calle’s ambitious exhibition. 

Calle has made a name for herself with unique conceptual projects that often involve documenting and photographing strangers or friends and writing extensively about the experience, and the exhibition includes many poignant artworks including a series of photographs of  blind and partially sighted people, which was inspired when Calle unearthed a letter in the museum’s archives to Picasso from the Association d’aide aux artistes aveugle (AAAA), a French association for the blind. The letter asked Picasso if he could donate a drawing to raise funds for the association. Sixty-five years later, Calle granted the association’s request with the help of the Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, by auctioning a Picasso ceramic during the run of the exhibition.

The ground floor rooms of the exhibition feature a series of photographs Calle took of around 20 Picasso masterpieces wrapped in brown paper, which were about to be shipped out of the museum. These included a 1937 portrait of Marie- painting of Marie-Therese and Picasso’s 1950 sculpture of a goat ‘La Chevre’.  

An exhibition highlight is Calle’s version of Picasso’s iconic ‘Guernica’ painting, which is presented in the form of a wall installation displaying 200 artworks from her own personal art collection by artists including Cindy Sherman, Damien Hirst, Christian Boltanski, Tatiana Trouvé and Miquel Barceló. Calle’s ‘Guernica’ wall installation was inspired by Mary Gabriel’s 2017 book ‘Ninth Street Women’, which centred around Arshile Gorky convincing artists to revisit ‘Guernica’, and the dimensions of her version of ‘Guernica’ – 11.5 feet by 25.5 feet – are the same as the dimensions as Picasso’s. The Guernica display feels particularly poignant now during a year when so many devastating conflicts are raging around the world.  

On the 3rd level of the exhibition there is a tribute to Calle’s parents, and a contemplation of her own mortality. In a conceptual master stroke, Calle decided to fake her own death and invited auctioneers from Hôtel Drouot to go through her estate. She exhibits around 500 items from her ‘estate’ including drawings, paintings, photographs and clothes, which are displayed with red velvet-covered walls in the style of an auction house sale. 

The exhibition culminates with an equally conceptual display on the top floor, of Calle’s unfinished projects, which she describes as “unfinished businesses”, and has framed, hung, and labelled with explanations such as “Censored,” “Too trivial,” “Technical Difficulty”. “À toi de faire, ma mignonne” is an intelligent, unexpected, multi-layered exhibition by one of France’s most intriguing conceptual artists.  

Until 7th January, 2024:

Iris Van Herpen installation view. Photo by Lee Sharrock

Iris Van Herpen @ Musée des Arts décoratifs

Held at the Musée des Arts décoratifs, from 29 November 2023 to 28 April 2024, the exhibition ‘Iris van Herpen: Sculpting the Senses’ pays tribute to one of the most forward-thinking fashion designers. A pioneer in the use of new technologies in her discipline, Iris van Herpen transgresses conventional clothing norms, while embracing both traditional Couture craftmanship and innovative techniques. 

Ranging from micro to macro, the exhibition questions the place of the body in space, its relationship to clothing and its environment, and its future in a rapidly changing world. A selection of over one hundred haute- couture pieces made by Iris van Herpen dialogue with works of contemporary art, by artists like the Collectif Mé, Wim Delvoye, Kate MccGwire, Damien Jalet, Kohei Nawa, Casey Curran, Rogan Borwn, Jacques Rougerie and design pieces by Neri Oxman, Ren Ri, Ferruccio Laviani, and Tomáš Libertíny, in addition to items from the spheres of the natural sciences, such as skeletons and fossils, thereby instilling a unique resonance with historical pieces. The exhibition will be presented in the Christine & Stephen A. Schwarzman Galleries, and curated by Cloé Pitiot and assistant curator Louise Curtis, with the scenography entrusted to the Studio Nathalie Crinière. The exhibition is immersive in the true sense of the word, featuring haute couture, film, sculpture, installations, objets d’art and soundscapes that take visitors on a journey into Van Herpen’s multiverse. 

Until 28th April 2024:

Claire Morgan @ Galerie Karsten Greve / photo by Lee Sharrock

Claire Morgan @ Galerie Karsten Greve 

Galerie Karsten Greve presents Irish artist Claire Morgan’s exhibition ‘I only dared to touch you once I knew that you were dead’, featuring the artist’s first series of figurative works in which women are central figures alongside animals. Over thirty new works are exhibited including paintings, installations, sculptures, drawings and prints. The exhibition explores vulnerability and fear of the unknown, evoking the era of mass extinction we are entering, inviting us to think about our own role in this collective act of destruction.

Claire Morgan, known for excelling in the creation of complex compositions featuring seeds, plants, insects, taxidermy and multicoloured plastic waste, has now added the human form to her artistic vocabulary. In this exhibition, the diversity of techniques is apparent in the use of bodily fluids collected during taxidermy for her drawings, the sculptures made of wax, fabric and animal skin and fur, and the ambitious, large-scale pastels on wood panels, which depict the complex and shifting relationship between a woman and a fox.

In her installations, the primal contact with fur, once living, awakens an instinctive vital force alternately reassuring and threatening. Like boatmen or messengers, the dead animals allow us to interact with the afterlife, to enter a space that was previously inaccessible. Throughout the exhibition, Claire Morgan’s works transcend the boundaries between fragility and strength, beauty and repulsion.

As well as mastering several mediums, Morgan captures the emotional resonance of the ephemeral in her work. In her mobiles, dead birds seem caught up in a moment of eternal suspension, attached so delicately that they seem to be in perpetual motion. In another work, a woman with outstretched hands holds a horizontal rope to which bird skins are tied. It is unclear whether the goal is to cover her own vulnerable body, to present them to us, or to make them fly again. 

Until 6th January, 2024

Anthony Gormley @ Musée Rodin

British sculptor Anthony Gormley takes over the beautiful Musée Rodin near Saint Germain with his solo exhibition ‘Critical Mass’, which features works from a 40-year career that explore the relationship of the human body to space and the built environment.  Some of Gormley’s sculptures are juxtaposed with those of August Rodin, and a focal point is ‘Critical Mass II’(1995), an installation comprised of 60 life-sized Gormley sculptures, displayed in the Museum’s garden and temporary exhibition space. 

Until 3rd January, 2024:

Julie Doucet’ Art Scrap Craft’ at Anne Barraut gallery 

Galerie Anne Perrault presents the first solo show of Julie Doucet in Paris, which features a curated selection of drawings and collages, emblematic comic strips and animated films.

The exhibition narrates the story of Barraut’s drawings and texts, which appeared from cutouts and collages and became poetry, first in fanzines and later in the cult publication ‘Dirty Plotte’ in the late 1980s, leading to the Grand Prix of the Angoulême Festival in 2022, awarded twenty years after she had given up the world of comics.

Julie Doucet’s drawings and texts relate to Linda Nochlin’s answers in her article “Why haven’t any great female artists? “. When she started working, artistic circles were so male-dominated that the rare women present did not dare call themselves feminists. They had to find strategies. Talking about sex and Tampax was one of them.

Until 20th January 2024:

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