Top 10 visual art shows to see in Paris in 2019
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Tutankhamun’s treasures, major works by Leonardo da Vinci, Victor Vasarely’s optical illusions, Pablo Picasso and his muse Dora Maas - 2019 looks set to be a memorable year for exhibitions in Paris. Here is our guide to the Top 10 shows.
1. Nara’s Buddhas, Paris Musée Guimet , January 23 – March 18, 2019
This exhibition offers a very rare opportunity to see inside the world famous Nara temples from southern Japan and experience the intrinsic spirituality of their Buddhist statues. Nara was the country’s capital from 710 - 784 and is the location of some of Japan’s oldest temples. This will feature a number of statues that have never left Japan before. It will showcase a standing wooden Jizo Bosatsu statue and standing wooden statues of Kongo Rikishi from a collection that has been protected and passed down by Kofukuji Temple. It will also include a dramatic wooden statue of Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha, the luminous guardian of deceased children.
2. Vasarely - The Sharing of Forms, Centre Pompidou, February 6 – May 6, 2019
You will be rubbing your eyes as the paintings move and change shape in front of you at the Centre Pompidou’s first major French retrospective dedicated to Hungarian optical art master Victor Vasarely. Through three hundred works, objects and documents, this exhibition shows how to look at and understand the world of Vasarely. In 1930, a 24-year-old Vasarely moved to Paris and it was here that his progression into abstraction began. But it was in the 1950s that he laid the foundations for what would become Op Art and his own opticokinetic art. This show is a long overdue opportunity to see how Vasarely’s vision developed.
3. Julien Creuzet, Palais de Tokyo, February 20 - May 12, 2019
Carry with you a pocketful of irony when approaching Julien Creuzet’s latest show. “It's the strangeness, I had to leave for too long, the far away, my home is in my black dreams. It's the strange, strangled words, in the drowning. I screamed alone in the water, my fever (...) will be the title of Julien Creuzet's exhibition or not" will apparently be the title of Creuzet’s solo show at the Palais de Tokyo. Or not. Creuzet grew up in Martinique and the tidal movement of the seas, the coming and going, has always played a part in his work. It will be fascinating to see how he fills Palais de Tokyo’s huge halls.
4. “The Courtauld Collection: A Vision for Impressionism”, Fondation Louis Vuitton, February 20 – June 17, 2019
The ephemeral beauty of impressionist art will be celebrated at this landmark exhibition in the Fondation Louis Vuitton. Samuel Courtauld was not just one of the greatest art collectors of the twentieth century, his passion helped to actively pioneer the impressionist movement, encouraging others to engage with it. This exhibition brings together over 100 works that all belonged to Courthald, who was himself of Huguenot origin. Highlights include works by Manet, Cézanne, Gauguin, Renoir, Degas, Modigliani and Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. There will also be ten J.M.W. Turner watercolors that belonged to Samuel Courtauld’s brother Stephen.
5. Oceania, Musée du Quai Branly, March 12 – July 7, 2019
Two-headed Tahitian gods, pearl shell mourning dresses, phallic totem poles: this remarkable survey of Melanesian, Micronesian and Polynesian art demonstrates how radical art can be when it is free from supervision. This was one of the greatest successes in London’s Royal Academy, where it was displayed at the end of 2018 to mark the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook’s voyages to the Pacific Islands. It spans a vast region, from Australia and New Zealand up to Hawaii in the north and the Pitcairns in the south, the rest is mainly sea. But there is an unexpected coherence and conversation between the ritual and worship images. Do not miss the grand finale, Lisa Reihana’s video projection ‘In Pursuit of Venus [Infected]’ where she has fascinatingly brought 19th century French wallpaper to life. Who knew wallpaper could be so casually beautiful and brutal.
6. Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh, Grande Halle de la Villette, March 23 – September 15, 2019
Celebrating the 100th year anniversary of discovering the tomb of the Boy King Tutankhamun, Egypt is sending 150 masterpieces to tour all over the world. “Please see them before they return back to Egypt forever,” said Dr. Mostafa Waziry, Secretary General of the Ministry of State for Antiquities, Egypt. Yes, you read that correctly, this will be your only opportunity to see these glistening treasures outside of the Egyptian capital. This exhibition includes a number of the young sovereign’s personal objects that accompanied him in both life and death: gold jewellery, sculptures and ceremonial objects.
7. Picasso and War, Musée de l’Armée, April 5 – July 28, 2019
Painting was a weapon for Spanish artist Pablo Picasso - to be wielded on the side of communism. From a very young age and throughout his life, Picasso (1881- 1973) experienced major conflicts. Picasso spent almost half his life in exile in France after the Spanish civil war as he refused to return to Spain while Franco was alive. And, because he was a member of the French Communist party, he was never allowed to visit America. War and its motives, peace and its symbols infuse his work - even his still life paintings of food. This new exhibition will explore his relationship to war and his own particular historical stance.
8. Dora Maar, Centre Pompidou, June 5 – July 29, 2019
It is fitting that Dora Maar should have a major retrospective at the same time as the Picasso exhibition. Maar was a highly acclaimed French photographer, painter and poet. She was also introduced to Picasso in 1935 and famously became his companion and his muse. This exhibition aims to discover the artist behind the celebrated face, from her surrealist activity to her work in fashion. Curated in partnership with J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and London’s Tate Modern, this will also explore Maar’s social and political commitment.
9. Toulouse-Lautrec, Grand Palais, October 9, 2019 – January 27, 2020
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was a complex character, who knew how to play on his infirmity and create a central place for himself in the ebullient Parisian life of the late 19th century. For many, he was the painter who truly captured the bohemian world, the scenes and the backstage of the cabaret, the swirl of lives being exotically lived. And, with this the first major retrospective in 25 years, the Grand Palais invites you to waltz into the heart of this prolific artist's masterpieces who, despite his death at the age of 36, left behind him some 737 paintings, 275 watercolours and 369 lithographs, and over 5,000 drawings.
10. Leonardo da Vinci, Louvre, October 24, 2019 – February 24, 2020
Very possibly the biggest show of them all in 2019, this has been left until the end of the year and promises a unique group of artworks by Leonardo da Vinci that only the Louvre could bring together. The exhibition will pay tribute to the Florentine genius on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of his death. And this major international cultural event will feature some outstanding loans, notably from the Royal Collection of Queen Elizabeth II, which includes the world’s finest group of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci. Do not miss this.