The art exhibitions in France that you have to visit

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In many ways, art and high culture form the backbone of French society, and there is always a breathtaking wealth of it on show for the visitor, at public as well as private art galleries around the country. Here we present some art exhibitions you just have to visit, from retrospectives to showcases of emerging artists’ works.

When you think of great art and France, you might naturally gravitate towards the famous Louvre on the Seine in Paris. In this extraordinarily beautiful building, that dates back to 1792 and also incorporates modern elements such as striking glass pyramids in its main courtyard, a number of new exhibitions are running that are definitely worth seeing.

© Alyaka

© Alyaka

For lovers of contemporary art, Claude Lévêque is in residence at the Louvre as a guest artist with an exhibition grandly entitled Sous le plus grand chapiteau du monde (the greatest show on earth), which i.s mainly concerned with light and its effects. The artist relies on his favoured medium of neon to create a dazzling show of light and sound; two “primordial elements” of the senses, according to Lévêque. The exhibition runs until January 2015 and will be extended in the latter half of next year in the Louvre’s underground moat.

For a more classical experience, take a trip to the incredible Centre Georges Pompidou, where among the permanent collection of treasured artworks are paintings by such notables as Matisse and Picasso and many others, as well as temporary exhibitions featuring established and emerging artists. The Pompidou is a place to lose yourself for hours in enchanting displays of art, and the centre also stages performance art and cinema.

Try not to miss the captivating Musée Marmottan Monet, also in Paris. It houses the dreamy impressionist works of Claude Monet, as well as several others including one entitled Monet’s Friends, which showcases paintings by Renoir, Pissarro and Sisley.. The museum is currently highlighting Monet’s Impression, Sunrise painting, in an exhibit running until January.

Much of France’s art exhibitions are centred in the capital, of course, and another place you must visit while there is the converted railway station that is now the airy Musée d’Orsay. Enjoy wonderful impressionist, realist and symbolist works, and revel in the institution’s art nouveau exhibitions. A word of warning, however: the museum is hosting an exhibition about the Marquis de Sade until the end of January, whose violent nature it says “may shock some visitors”.

Outside of Paris, and Marseille is well known as a city of culture, often staging some of the best art exhibitions in France. At the city’s Museum of Fine Arts, you can take in an entire range of incredible art, from 17th century collections to temporary exhibitions featuring contemporary artists. Other must-see exhibitions include the paintings of Marcel Duchamp, at the Pompidou Centre until January; a retrospective on painter and sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle, at the Grand Palais in Paris until February; and from November to the end of next April, the works of American pop artist Jeff Koons will be on display at the Pompidou Centre.