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Art exhibitions in Paris, September 2016 - February 2017

René Magritte, La Décalcomanie, 1966
René Magritte, La Décalcomanie, 1966 Photothèque R. Magritte / Banque d’Images, Adagp, Paris, 2016

No doubt about which show will pack in the crowds in Paris this season – René Magritte at the Pompidou can count on a large fan base that goes beyond the cognoscenti. As can Oscar Wilde, whose personal effects will be on show at the Petit Palais, while there should be a riot of colour at the Grand Palais, where Mexican muralists, and currently trendy Frida Kahlo, are on show.


René Magritte, the Treason of Images. Centre Pompidou, 21 September 2016 - 23 January 2017. The French used to make jokes about the Belgians being a bit thick. Nowadays the media prefers to portray them as lovable eccentrics. Magritte fits the bill with his surrealist images of bowler-hatted men raining from the sky, a man seeing the back of his own head in a mirror and a pipe that is declared not to be a pipe. The Pompidou promises an “unprecedented” approach to his work with famous and less well-known paintings on show.

The poster for Mexico 1900-1950 at the Grand Palais
The poster for Mexico 1900-1950 at the Grand Palais

Oscar Wilde, Insolence Incarnate, Petit Palais, 28 September 2016 – 15 January 2017 should also prove popular, if the number of fans who flock to his grave in Père Lachaise cemetery is anything to go by. Wilde was an “ardent Francophile” and fluent French-speaker, the blurb informs us. He died in a cheap Paris hotel room after serving prison time for homosexuality in Britain. We will be able to see 200 manuscripts, photographs, paintings, drawings, caricatures and personal effects in an exhibition that hopes to make up for the fact that Paris omitted to mark the centenary of his death in 2000.

Mexique 1900-1950
, Grand Palais, 5 October 2016 – 23 January 2017. Following independence from Spain in 1821 and a series of wars and revolutions, Mexico became the home of a vibrant school of mural painters. Diego Rivera was the giant of the movement but Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siquieros were also major painters. Although all left-wing, they differed, at least temporarily, in their politics, Rivera welcoming Leon Trotsky to the country, while Siquieros tried to assassinate him, a task which Ramon Mercador later succeeded in carrying out. The work of Rivera’s wife, Frida Kahlo, who also enjoyed warm relations with the Russian anti-Stalinist, is now more fashionable than her husband’s and will feature in the show ... Plus another Belgian, Georges Prosper Remi, better-known by his pen-name Hergé, the creator of Tintin. Not clear how he would have cohabited with the Mexicans in real life, however. He was a fervent royalist and published in the Nazi-controlled Le Soir German occupation, leading to his being blacklisted after the end of under the World War II. More recently some of his works, notably Tintin in the Congo, have been accused of racism. None of this has dented his popularity, witness the 373 million dollars grossed by the 2011 film The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn show, so expect to have to use your elbows to get a good view of the works.

The poster for the Spectacular Second Empire at the Musée d’Orsay
The poster for the Spectacular Second Empire at the Musée d’Orsay DR

The Color Line, Musée du Quai Branly, 4 October 2016 – 15 January 2017. Speaking of racism … Paris’s non-European art museum pays tribute to African-American artists working in a time of segregation “during a century and a half-long struggle, to blurring this discriminatory ‘color line’." WEB Dubois, the Harlem Renaissance, Booker T Washington, Frederick Douglass and Billie Holiday all get a name check.

Picasso – Giacometti, Dialogue between two masters, Musée Picasso, 4 October 2016 – 5 February 2017. Not many people know this, the Picasso museum claims, but, despite a 20-year age gap and different personalities, the two artists had a “both friendly and formal” relationship, sharing a fascination with Eros and Thanatos (sex and death). The revamped museum has teamed up with the Giacometti foundation to prove its point.

The Spectacular Second Empire, 1852-1870, Musée d’Orsay, 27 September 2016 - 15 January 2017. Back to the 19th century at the Musée d’Orsay, which takes a look at France’s Second Empire, when Napoleon III ran a quasi-monarchical but thoroughly bourgeois regime. The epoch was mocked for its “decadence and superficiality” after it fell, the museum tells us, but maybe the conspicuous spending against a background of social unrest are in tune with our celebrity-dominated times, because the Orsay finds the “ostentation and numerous lavish celebrations” are “worth revisiting” ... Plus Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870). The Youth of Impressionism. 15 November 2016 - 5 March 2017, displays 60 paintings by the proto-impressionist and friend of Claude Monet who was killed in action during the Franco-Prussian war.

Cupid, Edme Bouchardon, 1744
Cupid, Edme Bouchardon, 1744 Daderot/Public domain

, Musée du Luxembourg, 14 September – 12 February 2017. Staying in the 19th century, Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) is honoured with his first major exhibition since 1982. Another friend of the impressionists, he gained fame in Britain for his still lifes thanks to American painter and Francophile, James McNeill Whistler. The show promises self-portraits, portraits of his sisters and other homey stuff.

Rembrandt in Confidence, Musée Jacquemart-André, 16 September 2016 – 23 January 2017. The Dutch master’s self-portraits, and pictures of his wife, his mistress and his son are among the great triumphs of Western art, although the paintings the Jacquemart-André actually owns - the Pilgrims at Emmaus (1629), the Portrait of Princess Amalia van Solms (1632), and the Portrait of Doctor Arnold Tholinx (1656) - don’t really fall into the domestic category. With the help of some 50 loaned works, the museum promises to relate them to different phases of Rembrandt’s career and says you will gain a “better understanding of his artistic practices as well as his biography”.

Bouchardon, an idea of beauty, the Louvre, 14 September – 5 December. In collaboration with the Los Angeles Getty, the Louvre presents the first major show of work by a neoclassical sculptor and draughtsman who was famous in his time - the 18th century. Less so today, though. Maybe the Louvre will change that.

Fiac, Grand Palais, Petit Palais, Champs Elysées, 20 October 2016 – 23 October 2016. Get bang up to date with Paris’s annual art fair, which spills out of the galleries onto the streets, where 186 art dealers show their wares in tents along the Champs Elysées and other nearby locations. Don’t forget your credit card!


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