Half a century ago the Parisian neighborhood spread across parts of the 3rd and 4th arrondissement was part of the garment district. Originally a congested area with blackened limestone facades, the transition of the Marais is a classic art scene story; as the factories moved out, artist and galleries moved in. Although most artists have long since relocate to the outer rim of Paris, the gallery district of the Marais has ripened into an internationally renowned cultural hub, and before the confinement was predicted to be the next center of the international art scene.
Today the Haut Marais district is home to blue chip galleries and internally renowned movers and shakers, including Thaddaus Ropac, named an Officer of the l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres by French President Jacques Chirac in 2005. Ropac uses his Marais space stretching across three floors to show well-known names such as Gilbert & George and Joseph Beuys. New York’s Marian Goodman, an early migrant to the area, set up shop in the historic science academy — Hotel Montmor — in 1991. She exhibits artist including Jeff Wall, Gerhard Richter and France’s own Annette Messager. Now the Marais is also home to David Zwirner, who ranks consecutively in the top five ArtReview’s most influential personalities in the arts. He has chosen the 8,600 square foot space originally home of the legendary French gallerist Yvon Lambert to exhibit his full cast of art stars including Jeff Koons, Donald Judd and Yayoi Kusama.
Unlike its New York and London counterparts, Paris’s main contemporary art home — the Marais — has maintained space for its smaller and midsize galleries. Part of this neighborhood’s charm are these locations, often tucked away into a courtyard or a narrow street where you have buzz yourself in. As galleries are now starting to re-open I have come up with a list of my top five galleries for the more adventures art lover. It’s clear that we don’t know what the future hold for local and small businesses, local galleries included, but these are the ones I most hope will push through, if not continue to thrive. Whether you wish to visit online or the actual bricks and mortar locations, these are the galleries I feel consistently put on excellent exhibitions that push the limits of the contemporary art conversation. And I hope they’re able to continue to do so!
Paris Art Walks Top Five Galleries in the Marais
13 rue Chapon 3rd arrondissement
Open Tuesday-Saturday 11am – 7pm
This mother and daughter team have place themselves as important members of the Parisian arts community. They represent an extensive group of artists with 26 members, including Gaëlle Chotard, Javier Pérez and Linda Sanchez. After relocating to 13 rue Chapon, Claudine Papillon was soon joined by her daughter Marion Papillon in 2007. Besides her role in Papillon gallery, Marion was recently elected president of the French Comité Professionnel des Galeries d’Art (CPGA) and is also the spearhead of Paris Gallery Weekend hosted every May. Exceptionally, this year Paris Gallery Weekend will open July 2nd-5th. The rich programming unites 59 modern and contemporary art galleries who open their doors simultaneously to the public, and includes performances, talks, openings and brunches. The Papillons definitely have a sense of humor, with a program focused on the poetic side of object making. It isn’t unusual to visit an exhibition at the gallery and be moved by the work of their artists or walk away with a smile. When stopping by this location (hidden in a courtyard which also houses Galerie Isabelle Gounod) make sure to visit the upstairs space usually dedicated to a collective presentation.
This month: Papillon has extended the “Azar Azur” exhibition by the young artist Charles Le Hyaric until June 20th. This multimedia exhibition explores the limits of expression through a selection of mediums including painting, drawing and sculpture.
Galerie Anne-Sarah Bénichou
45 rue Chapon 3rd arrondissement
Open Tuesday to Saturday 11am-7pm
Located just down the street from Papillion, this young gallery opened in 2016 and is run by an ambitious 30-year-old Parisienne. Anne-Sarah Bénichou followed her eyes and trusted her instincts when she put together a roster including French, international, young and seasoned artists. Every exhibition has its own flair and no-holds-barred style. From Massinissa Selmani’s political renditions of printed matter through elegantly created graphite on paper to Florin Stefan’s oil paintings of romanticized domestic scenes, it’s a dynamic space full of surprises. It’s not unusual to visit Bénichou’s gallery and see an installation completely unlike the previous exhibitions.
This month: Galerie Anne-Sarah Bénichou has opened a new post-confinement exhibition “…et des échelles pour les oiseaux” by Chourouk Hriech, which will run until July 18th. Chourouk Hriech introduced color for the first time in his works, and transformed the gallery into a living city and bird habitat.
2 rue Beaubourg, 4th arrondissement
Open by appointment until June 20th
Located directly across from the Centre Pompidou, in 2009 the curator and art historian Jérôme Poggi opened his gallery under his own name. The thought-provoking programming of Jérôme Poggi’s gallery pushes the art discourse with a roster of artists not afraid to make a statement. Babi Badalov exploration of language, often hand written or painted on fabric, explores the isolating nature of language, and is often sourced from his own experiences. Kapwani Kiwanga’s research-driven multimedia works examines marginalized and forgotten histories in an attempt to reverse systems of power. Besides the gallery at 2 rue Beaubourg, Jérôme Poggi created the not-for-profit organization SOCIETIES to “bring together the abilities of all members of any communities who wish to interact in the art scene and make art together. SOCIETIES is looking for new actors, rather than new audiences, and encouraging them to take part in today’s art economy.”
This month: Jérôme Poggi has extended the group exhibition “La Peur au Ventre” and will be opening a new exhibition June 20th titled « L’arc-en-ciel de la gravité » (The Rainbow’s Gravity) based on Thomas Pynchon’s book of the same name.
61 Rue de Bretagne, 3rd arrondissement
Open Tuesday to Saturday 11am-7pm
Mor Charpentier is a partnership between an unlikely duo, Alex Mor and Philippe Charpentier, who have a clear vision for their gallery located at Arts et Metiers. This team doesn’t back down from exhibiting difficult works that challenge their viewer. Rooted behind the mission of this gallery is a political initiative focused on social-economical and historical topics that speak from a regional dialogue. Abu Hamdan, whose works expand outside of the art world, is a great example of the power a strong platform can give to political art. Focused on sound, this artist documents political issues and was invited to speak as an expert for the UK asylum tribunal where he presented his video “The Freedom of Speech” as evidence. Mexican artist Teresa Margolles’ photographs, videos and installations often tell the stories of the disappeared or forgotten, including her famous photo essay “Pistas de baile” that documented the ruins of nightclubs where transgender sex workers earned a living. Mor Charpentier’s artists draw you into the conversation on the subjects they are exploring. It’s the hope of this gallery that even if you don’t like the artworks, at least you gain a new insight or learn something new.
This month: Saâdane Afif and Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s exhibition “Sound Eclipse” has been extended to June 27th. These two artists propose a paradigm shift that sound becomes something you see instead of hear, a poetic comment on the increasing surveillance in our society.
Galerie Laure Roynette
20 rue de Thorigny 3rd arrondissement
New opening hours Tuesday-Saturday 2pm to 7pm
A mark of a great gallerists is someone who isn’t afraid of taking risks, and Laure Roynette is a great example of this. She opened her space in 2011 dedicated to the new guard, often giving young artists their first exhibition. Representing 15 emerging and newly-established artists, purposely more female than male, this gallerist is also dedicated to nourishing their careers beyond her walls. Speaking for the proportionally under-represented is Clémence Veilhan’s well-illustrated photo series “Je n’ai jamais été une petite fille” (I was never a little girl). Playing a game, the artist asked a group of women to pose in the same dress, selected as the only remaining souvenir from her childhood. Winner of the 2014 Montrouge Salon, Louis Pressager has also exhibited at the Maison des Artist and Palais de Tokyo. Her playful drawing and installations speak from a personal perspective about the universal experience of isolation and hardship caused by person beliefs, mental health or marginalization, in an attempt to overcome stigma. Galerie Laure Roynette, located just a stone’s throw from the mega-spaces of Perrotin and Thaddaus Ropac, is alway worth a stop.
This month: You’ll find a photo exhibition titled “Se Nommer soi même” by Léonard Bourgois Beaulieu until June 20th. This series of portraits was created through experimentations in the dark room. It was important for Léonard Bourgois Beaulieu to create a “living” image of his subjects who all have an identity in perpetual motion.
Naomi Cook is the founder of Paris Art Walks and Montreal Art Walks, which connect guests with art insiders excited to share their passion for the arts. She studied art and philosophy at Concordia University, Montreal, and has over 10 years of experience working in the arts with artist and galleries as an artist and curator. She started out managing an artist-run center and loves making the experience of interacting with art accessible and easy.
Naomi uses drawing, ink, engraving, photography, sound, embroidery and video to give shape or poetry to diverse data sets. She’s represented in Canada by Christie Contemporary and has been a member of Clark since 2014, La Central since 2010 and Studio XX since 2017.