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Paris Events Calendar

What’s On in Paris – May 2021

Louvre exterior

The French government has announced the gradual reopening of cultural institutions and relaxing of travel and curfew restrictions beginning May 19th. In the meantime, check out The Best of Virtual Paris for online events.

French Holidays in May

(government offices and many shops closed)

  • May 1st: Fête du Travail (Labor Day, one of the biggest holidays of the year)
  • May 8th: Fête de la Victoire de 1945 (V-Day WWII)
  • May 13th: Ascension (Catholic holiday)
  • May 24th: Lundi de Pentecôte (Catholic holiday)
  • May 30th: Fête des Mères (Mother’s Day, not an official holiday)

Open-Air Expositions

  • Parisiennes (the fence of the Hôtel de Ville, 4th), through May 10th: Nikos Aliagas presents 35 unpublished black and white photos on 24 panels along the Rue de Rivoli, photographing Parisian women “in the theatrical setting that Paris offers” and a tribute to the city’s heroines.
  • Le Chat Déambule (The Cat Strolls) in the Jardin des Champs- Élysées (8th) through June 4th: it’s hard to miss the 20 giant verdigris bronze statues of the cartoon cat made famous by the Belgian artist Philippe Geluck, each one measuring almost 2 meters tall and weighing in at almost a metric ton! The signs are translated into English, too. See the video below:
  • The Art of Science (in the Jardin des Plantes, 5th) through June 14th : At the border between science, art and craftsmanship, the photographs illustrate the great diversity of the trades carried out and cover all the activities and sites of the Natural History Museum. 
  • The Unknown Garden of the Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale (Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale René-Dumont, 12th) through June 30th: In the Bois de Vincennes, remains of the pavilions dedicated to the French colonies built for the 1907 colonial exhibition are hidden within the Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale. Photographer Nathalie Tirot superimposes her photographs of these historical vestiges with postcards of the time.
  • Genocides of the 20th Century (at the Shoah Memorial, 4th), through August 28th: A remarkable if disturbing exhibition documenting genocides of the destruction of the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire, of the Jews of Europe, and of the Tutsi of Rwanda through a rich selection of photographs, archives and exceptional testimonies. 
  • Fragiles Colosses (at the Jardin des Plantes, 5th) through August 30th: Five monumental works by animal sculptor Michel Bassompierre, one of the most important artists in the field of animal sculpture today. Look for the bears and gorillas throughout the gardens.

Most Tuesdays and Wednesdays
The American Library in Paris is hosting free “Evenings with an Author” event on Zoom every Tuesday and Wednesday night at 7:30pm Paris time (CET). RSVP required to get the Zoom link. See the full schedule here.

May 7-9
This weekend at the Bergerie Nationale de Rambouillet is the 22nd Pari Fermier market: “110 farmers and winegrowers from all over France await you on Friday 7, Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 May from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Foie gras, wines, fruits & vegetables, cheeses, meats, and fish, come and taste authentic farm products sold directly by our producers! Located in a magnificent setting in the heart of the Rambouillet forest, the MARCHE PARI FERMIER is the ideal place for a walk with family or friends. Burgers, sandwiches, cakes, you will find everything you need to eat; the dishes are only available for take-away!” It’s €6 to enter, but you can download and print a free pass on their website, too.

May 12
La Fabrique de la Solidarité and the association Une Couverture Pour l’Hiver (UCPH) are organizing guided tours of the photo exhibition “From gaze to encounter” about the homeless at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm (click on the time to sign up for one of the slots). You will discover portraits of people living in the street, met during the weekly food and assistance distributions made by volunteers of the association. UCPH volunteers will share with you some tips for reaching out to homeless people in your own community in a respectful manner. The photo exposition is at the La Fabrique de la Solidarité, 8 rue de la Banque, 2nd. Registration required to enter.

May 13-23
This month the Atelier d’Artistes de Belleville (AAB) welcomes 21 new artists to their collective of almost 250 artists in the Belleville district of Paris. You can see representations of their works online or in person at the AAB Gallery (1, rue Francis Picabia, 20th).

May 15-16
The Cité Fertîle in the north Parisian suburb of Pantin is hosting an enormous open-air vintage market called The Gros Marché. There will be 30 stands selling vintage clothing, home objects, accessories, records, bicycles, and upcycled home decor. Open noon-7pm (curfew!), free entry, access via metro Hoche or Quatre Chemins, or RER Gare de Pantin.

May 19-23rd
The 15th annual Fête de la Nature is a five-day festival celebrating nature with a full program of 5000 free events in parks, gardens, nature preserves and forests all over the country, with 36 events in Paris alone.

Starting May 19th
Cultural institutions such as museums, cinemas and theatres are now allowed to reopen (with social distancing and masks required). Not all will be immediately open, or may have reduced opening hours or require advanced reservations online (and some aren’t accepting reservations until May 17th), so check each venue’s website for the latest information. For some ideas of what to check out first, see some of the expositions listed below, or the Latest Paris Museum and Monument Updates.

May 19th
Monet’s gardens in Giverny will be open to the public starting today. Tickets available online in advance on the official museum website and FNAC.

May 19th
The Maison Victor Hugo at the Place des Vosges will be reopening today after a year of renovation works. Entrance is free for the permanent collection, reservations are required online regardless (starting May 17th). The first exposition, “Victor Hugo: Dessins” will open June 10th.

May 19th
The Opéra de Paris is reopening today, including performances at both Palais Garnier and Opéra Bastille (reserve your places online asap, they fill up fast), as well as sightseeing visits of the Palais Garnier (same website, different place to reserve tickets).

May 19th
The Centre Pompidou reopen today with the exhibition “Women in Abstraction”: “The exhibition sets out to write the history of the contributions of women artists to abstraction, with one hundred and six artists and more than five hundred works dating from the 1860s to the 1980s.” Online reservations required. Closed Tuesdays. Entrance €14. Through August 23rd.

May 19th-July 4th
David Bowie fans won’t want to miss Bowie Odyssée, a special exhibition of memorabilia (mostly from a superfan collection), presented at the historic Parisian nightclub, Le Palace (8, rue du Faubourg Montmartre, 9th). Open daily, from noon-9pm (10am -7pm weekends). Tickets €14, reservations necessary.

May 19th-July 18th
The Palais Galliera “Musée de la Mode” reopens today with an extension of the exposition “Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto” through July 18th. Advance reservations required (ticketing opens May 17th), entrance €14. Closed Mondays.

May 19th-July 18th
The haute joaillerie Maison Chaumet is marking the bicentennial of Napoléon’s death with an exposition of jewelry celebrating the romance between the Emporer and his first wife, Joséphine. “Founded in 1780, the history of Maison Chaumet is closely linked to that of the imperial couple, of which it quickly became the official supplier. Empress Joséphine, who was one of the Maison’s first major clients, continues to inspire Chaumet’s creations today. In the heart of the sumptuous mansion at 12 place Vendôme, recently renovated, the exhibition looks back on the history of the legendary couple through more than 150 pieces of jewelry, paintings and other works of art. Historical pieces from Maison Chaumet will be specially unveiled for the occasion, such as the tiara worn by Joséphine during her first official appearance.” Free entry, but reservations required.

May 19th-July 19th
The Musée de l’Orangerie reopens with the Magritte/Renoir exposition, “Surrealism in Full Sunlight”: “The first exhibition to show a still largely unknown chapter of Magritte’s work in its entirety, it compares Magritte’s works with those of Auguste Renoir, who inspired him.” Advance ticket purchase is required to visit the museum and the exposition.

May 19th-July 18th
There’s a very naughty exhibition commemorating the 250th anniversary of the death of the 18th-century artist, François Boucher, at the Musée Cognac-Jay (in the Marais, 8 rue Elzevir, 3rd), “L’Empire des Sens”: “The XVIIIth century marks the advent of the pleasure of the senses. More than at any other time, Love occupies a dominant place in the arts. Philosophers, men of the theater, novelists and artists, all invest in the theme of amorous passions and carnal desires. “Painter of the Graces”, François Boucher is also the author of secret compositions, with a striking erotic charge. His works celebrate the naked body of the woman who abandons herself, hypnotizes the eyes and awakens the senses.” Entry €8, reservations required. Closed Mondays.

May 22nd
Reopening of the Palais de Tokyo from 10am-8pm with the “carte blanche” exposition by award-winning German artist Anne Imhof “Natures Mortes”: “Anne Imhof takes hold of the entirety of the Palais de Tokyo to create an all-embracing, polyphonic work. Here, she fuses space and bodies, music and painting, and her own works with those of accomplices, especially the artist and musical composer Eliza Douglas, and thirty invited guest artists.” Exposition through October 24th. Closed Tuesdays. Tickets €12 (online, in advance). No word yet on when the restaurants in the Palais de Tokyo will reopen, but the book shop should be open as usual 10am-7pm (closed Tuesday).

May 22nd
Grand opening of the new Pinault Collection in the Bourse de Commerce (Les Halles). You’ll need to book one of the time slots online (tickets €10-€14), and they’re filling up fast (the Portes Ouvertes weekend is already full). Closed Tuesdays. Free the first Saturday of the month. The restaurant Halles aux Grains will be opening June 10th.

May 27-29th
The three-day ChangeNOW 2021 summit is the “world’s largest event for the planet”, with 500 speakers from all over the world including political leaders, young climate action leaders, social entrepreneurs, and NGOs working to save the planet. The event will also feature the world premiere of Sir David Attenborough’s new documentary “Breaking Boundaries: The Road to a Cleaner, Healthier and More Peaceful World”, shown here (before its release on Netflix in June). The event takes place at the Palais de Congrès (16th) with entrance starting at €90, but you can also get an online pass for free to watch all of the events and presentations from your computer. Note that if you’re in Paris, they also need English-speaking volunteers!

May 28th-31st
The 32nd annual Portes Ouvertes des Ateliers d’Artistes de Belleville takes place with over 130 artists in 84 studios for this popular four-day event where you can meet the artists and purchase their works direct. Free entry, 2-8pm. Get the map (and purchase minatures) at the AAB Gallery (1, rue Francis Picabia, 20th) or just look for the posters and balloons all over the neighborhood. Here’s a video from 2018’s Portes Ouverts:

Through May 28th 
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the 1871 Commune de Paris, a bloody civil war that tore Paris apart. Despite the pandemic, there are still plenty of events taking place in commemoration. The very loooong list of events is online here (all in French, of course). There’s also an app to find all of the heroes of the Commune in Père Lachaise Cemetery, where the final battle with the Versaillaises troops took place between the tombstones. There’s an excellent online exposition here, but for some info in English, you can read about the spark that set off the insurrection here.

May 29th
Today is the official reopening of the Musée Carnavalet (History of Paris Museum) after four long years of renovations. Entrance will be free as usual, but reservations online in advance are required. Closed Mondays.

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