Visit Paris’ Alternative Galleries and Museums
From Oriental Art to Fashion History, There’s More to Explore in Paris Than You Think
If you want to avoid the crowds on your next trip to Paris, then explore some of the lesser known, yet equally stunning, alternative galleries Paris is home to. Whilst the Louvre, Pompidou Centre and Musée d'Orsay draw millions of tourists each year, it is the galleries like Musée Guimet with its Asian treasures, the Museum of Modern Art and Palais Galliera’s historical fashion collection that will guarantee tourists enjoy an exceptional cultural experience, without hordes of sightseers.
The Musée Guimet: A Celebration of the East
The Musée Guimet houses one of the largest collections of Asian art outside of Asia. Found at 6, place d'Iéna in the 16th arrondissement the museum is in the westernmost district of Paris not far from Hotel de Vigny and the large public park, Bois de Boulogne. Its proximity to this open, green space, as well as the stunning artworks within, means a tranquil day of peace is possible to find in the City of Light.
Initially established in Lyon in 1879 by Émile Étienne Guimet, the collection gathered by the dedicated traveller eventually moved to Paris in 1889. This was an excellent venue to exhibit the many findings Guimet had made on his tour of Asia, three years previously and has remained there ever since. During his explorations of the East, commissioned to study the religions of the continent, Guimet collected fascinating pieces largely unseen by anyone in France before.
Many artefacts brought back from the Far East by Guimet still belong to the art collection today. Visitors can explore the collection of exquisite Chinese and Japanese porcelain and other hand-made objects. Not only does the permanent collection include religious items of the East in the Panthéon Bouddhique wing, but also those of Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome from when their empires stretched into Asia. As well as Guimet’s find, the museum houses artefacts from South East Asia that were collected by French authorities during the colonial period.
An array of exhibitions are shown throughout the year at Musée Guimet, including painting, photography and installations by Asian artists. This is not an excursion to be missed, especially for those with an interest in the Orient and who want to escape the hustle and bustle of central Paris for a few hours.
City of Paris’ Museum of Modern Art: A Contemporary Art Hit
If contemporary art is what really excites you, head to the Palais de Tokyo where a whole wing of the palace is used as the City of Paris’ Museum of Modern Art. Whilst the Pompidou Centre is the more commonly-visited modern art gallery in Paris – and houses an excellent collection – the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris is a little further out of the centre of Paris and proudly displays works by some of the most famous modern artists in the world.
Like the Musée Guimet, this museum is found in the 16th arrondissement, and the river-side venue has been a modern art gallery since 1937. Housing more than 10,000 artworks, the museum specialises in the 20th century art movements such as Modernism, Cubism, Expressionism and Fauvism. The works of Picasso, Matisse, Giacometti and Andy Warhol, amongst hundreds of other 20th century artists, are on display and include paintings, sculptures and furniture.
Some of the more well-known artists, such as Warhol, have had whole exhibitions dedicated to their work. Sometimes exhibitions are based solely around one particular artist, and sometimes around a theme or idea. Past exhibitions have included the Unedited History of Iran, Conversations and Decorum. No matter when you visit, not only can you enjoy the permanent collection without the crowds often present at the more renowned galleries, but you are likely to find a fascinating current exhibition too.
Explore Paris’ Love Affair with Fashion at Musée Galliera
For those who have come to Paris in search of fashion, no visit is complete unless you have seen the Musée Galliera. Give yourself (and your credit card) a rest from the shops and instead head for the City of Paris Fashion Museum to learn where the long-lived Parisian fascination with fashion began.
Also in the 16th arrondissement, near to the other museums and Hotel de Vigny, the Musée Galliera is one of the most stunning, historic buildings in Western Paris. Built in 1879 by the Duchesse de Galliera, to house her personal art collection, nowadays it is surrounded by beautiful gardens and since 1977 has been dedicated to clothing through the ages.
Inside are authentic costumes dating from the 18th century, right up to present day. Eye-catching crinolines and corsetry as well as the opulent, silk dresses of the time can be seen and offer a fascinating talking point for visitors as they imagine themselves wearing such garments! Clothes owned by Marie- Antoinette, Louis XVII and Empress Josephine are displayed, offering a captivating glimpse into the 18th century court in France, when everything was about how you dressed.
Moving forward in time, clothes belonging to style icons such as Audrey Hepburn (her famous ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ dress is here) are preserved in the gallery. All the clothes are clearly explained on plaques, taking into account the contemporary political and social changes that moulded the way people dressed. Pieces by some of the world’s most iconic French designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain are also housed here – for enthusiasts of vintage couture this element will definitely deliver on drama and heritage.
For those who like to explore museums and galleries slightly off the beaten track, there are plenty of options in Paris. So next time you visit, don’t just head for the tourist traps – have an adventure closer to Hotel de Vigny and explore one of these charming museums instead.