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Your Paris Olympics Guide That Goes Beyond Sports

Paris Olympics 2024: Diverse Art Collections, Cultural Immersion, Relaxation and Inspiration

Gilly Beal & Deborah Bine

As the Olympic flame makes its way to Paris, the city of lights prepares not just a sporting spectacle but a feast for the cultural side of you, too. If your heart races at the sight of a brushstroke more than at the finish line, you’ll find Paris a treasure trove of art during the games. Some top picks for art exhibitions and cultural experiences are available during this global event.

 

A Paris Olympic Guide That Goes Beyond Sports

Paris Olympics 2024: For Diverse Art Collections 

Fondation Louis Vuitton: A Symphony of Art and Architecture

The Fondation Louis Vuitton is a must-visit destination during the Paris Olympics, both for its unique architectural splendor and cutting-edge exhibitions. Gilly Beal, a British artist living in Uzès and a contributing writer for Barefoot Blogger, recently delved into this Parisian gem; designed by the legendary Frank Gehry, the museum’s futuristic glass structures and daring design create a visual spectacle that perfectly complements the innovative art it houses. Since its inauguration in 2014, the museum has hosted many exhibitions from international artists, making it a “must-visit” location for contemporary art lovers.

The foundation features two major concurrent exhibitions this summer: Ellsworth Kelly’s “Shapes and Colors, 1949-2015” and Henri Matisse’s “The Red Studio.” 

Kelly’s retrospective celebrates his 100th birthday and comprehensively explores his minimalist style and bold use of color, showcasing over 100 works across various mediums. This marks the first exhibition in France to offer a broad overview of the work of this significant artist of the second half of the 20th century.

Ellsworth Kelly’s “Shapes and Colors

 

Meanwhile, the Matisse exhibition offers a unique opportunity to learn more about his iconic 1911 painting, “The Red Studio,” acquired by New York’s MoMA in 1949. The large canvas depicts the artist’s studio filled with paintings, sculptures, furniture, and decorative objects. This exhibition reunites the artworks shown in The Red Studio for the first time since they left Matisse’s studio in Issy-les-Moulineaux, a suburb of Paris.

Paris Olympics 2024: For Cultural Immersion 

Musèe D’Orsay: Revolutionary Virtual Reality

Musée D'Orsay,

Over at the Musée D’Orsay, a revolution of a different kind awaits you. Marking the 150th anniversary of the groundbreaking 1874 Impressionist exhibition, the museum offers an innovative virtual reality experience. This isn’t just viewing art; it’s about stepping into the past. Visitors can literally walk alongside Monet, Renoir, and Degas, experiencing the revolutionary spirit of the time as if they were part of the salon. This blend of technology and art history is designed to give you a completely immersive insight into the birth of Impressionism, making it a first-of-its-kind exhibition that’s as educational as it is visually mesmerizing.

 

Louvre: An Olympic-Sized Cultural Offering

The Louvre, possibly the most iconic museum globally, is always a centerpiece of Parisian culture. During the Olympics, the museum will maintain its regular exhibitions with extended hours and special guided tours designed to accommodate the influx of international visitors. This provides a perfect opportunity to explore its vast collections, from ancient civilizations to Renaissance masterpieces like Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” and the stunning “Winged Victory of Samothrace.”

 

“Olympism: Modern Invention, Ancient Legacy,” at the Louvre from April 24 to September 16, 2024, explores the history of the modern Olympic Games and its roots in ancient Greece and features artifacts and artworks related to the Games’ history​  (www.tickets-paris.fr).

If you are looking for a different kind of Louvre experience—one without the crowds, where you can spend more time with each piece, and where fewer people are just trying to snag a picture of the Mona Lisa—visit the Louvre at night. It’s my favorite way to explore the museum. This hour-and-a-half evening tour, starting at 6pm, is led by a certified guide with deep knowledge of the pieces and their history. It’s so interesting to learn about the pieces that they love.

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Stroll Through Parisian Art: From Pompidou to Rodin

The Centre Pompidou challenges the eye with its high-tech architectural design and an extensive modern and contemporary art collection for a more modern twist. It’s a cultural hub where art intersects with cinema, literature, and performance arts.

The Musée Rodin offers a uniquely Parisian experience. The Rodin Museum is a particular favorite. The museum, set in Rodin’s former residence, features a captivating garden where you can wander amongst some of his most famous sculptures, such as “The Thinker” and “The Gates of Hell.” It’s an intimate glimpse into the artist’s life and work, with the added charm of his personal artifacts displayed inside the elegant mansion.

 

Exploring Paris’s Smaller Museums

Paris is also home to numerous smaller museums, which are treasures in their own right and often overlooked. The Musée de l’Orangerie, for instance, is famous for its intimate collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, including Monet’s “Water Lilies” series displayed in two oval rooms, designed according to the artist’s specifications.

Another hidden gem is the Musée Marmottan Monet, which houses the most extensive collection of Monet paintings in the world. Located in a former hunting lodge on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne, it offers a serene retreat from the more crowded tourist spots.

In Paris, Art is Everywhere

Paris Olympics 2024: For Relaxation and Inspiration 

During the Olympics in Paris, whether you’re marveling at the futuristic architecture of the Fondation Louis Vuitton, stepping into history at the Musée d’Orsay, or enjoying the peaceful gardens of the Musée Rodin, there’s an endless array of wonderful experiences when you simply walk down the street. So, pack your sketchbook and walking shoes, and prepare to be inspired by the historic and artful architecture

  • Eiffel Tower: Perhaps the most famous symbol of Paris, the Eiffel Tower, designed by Gustave Eiffel, is considered a marvel of engineering and a piece of art. Its intricate iron lattice structure has been admired since its completion in 1889 for the World’s Fair.
  • Louvre Museum: Originally a royal palace, the Louvre is home to thousands of art pieces and is a historic and artistic monument. The glass pyramid entrance, designed by I.M. Pei, adds a modern creative touch to classical architecture.
  • Notre Dame Cathedral: This Gothic masterpiece is renowned for its stunning façade, intricate sculptures, and stained glass windows. Despite the fire in 2019, Notre Dame remains a significant piece of art and architecture. 
  • Palais Garnier Paris Opera House, designed by Charles Garnier, is an exquisite example of Beaux-Arts architecture. Its lavish interiors, grand staircase, and ceiling painted by Marc Chagall make it a work of art.
  • Sainte-Chapelle: Known for its stunning stained glass windows, Sainte-Chapelle is a Gothic chapel that offers a breathtaking display of medieval artistry.
  • Centre Pompidou: Designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, this modern art museum is an architectural icon with high-tech architecture and an exposed structural system. It is considered a work of contemporary art in its own right.
  • Arc de Triomphe: Napoleon commissioned this monumental arch after his victory at Austerlitz. It features intricate sculptures and reliefs commemorating French military victories.
  • Pont Alexandre III: This ornate bridge, completed for the 1900 Exposition Universelle, is decorated with Art Nouveau lamps, cherubs, nymphs, and winged horses. It is often considered one of the most beautiful bridges in the world.
  • Palais de Tokyo: This contemporary art center is housed in a building that is an example of early 20th-century architecture. It showcases modern and contemporary art and is a hub for artistic innovation (Paris Je T’aime).
  • Sacré-Cœur Basilica: Located at the highest point in Paris on Montmartre Hill, it combines Romanesque and Byzantine architectural elements and offers stunning city views, making it a spiritual and artistic landmark.
  • National Assembly: Six contemporary art sculptures grace the steps of the Palais Bourbon to celebrate the Olympics.  The sculptures by renowned French artist Laurent Perbos were inspired by the Venus de Milo. Each sculpture is assigned an Olympic discipline: basketball, boxing, javelin throwing, para-archery, surfing, and tennis.

Practical Tips for Navigating Paris During the Olympics

Visiting Paris during such a busy time requires some planning. Here are a few tips to make your cultural excursions as enjoyable as possible:

  • Advanced Planning: Many venues will be busier than usual, so book your tickets online to avoid long lines.
  • Morning Visits: Try to visit popular spots in the early morning to enjoy a quieter atmosphere.
  • Stay Hydrated and Prepared: Security measures may be heightened, so pack light and bring a reusable water bottle. Some venues may hold onto your bottle at the entrance, but you’ll appreciate having it once inside.
  • Seek Out Special Events: Many museums offer special events, workshops, or late-night openings during the Olympics. These can provide unique experiences and deeper insights into the exhibitions.

 

 

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