France's top art exhibitions in 2021

MuCEM, Louvre Lens, Centre Pompidou-Metz, Carrières de Lumières… If you've missed getting lost in museums in recent months, next year's selection of cultural treats looks set to make up for it. From ancient Egypt and Rome to contemporary painting, the pop movement and the Deauville photo festival, there's something on offer for everyone in France in 2021. The exhibitions promise sunshine and colour, light and poetry - exactly what we need in these challenging times.

The top exhibitions to catch in Paris

This year in the capital, we celebrate Napoleon's bicentenary, the reopening of the Carnavalet Museum, Rodin, Picasso, the gentleness of Botticelli and the extravagance of Dali. Exceptional retrospectives rub shoulders with unmissable masterpieces. There's a focus on painting and photography, alongside street art from Banksy and an exhibition at the Museum of Natural History.

'Boire avec les Dieux' ('Drinking with the Gods'), Cité du Vin, Bordeaux

Until 29 August 2021

Some 50 ancient works (including some exceptional loans from the Louvre Museum and the National Archaeological Museum of Athens), as well as three monumental creations specially designed by street artists, can be savoured at the Cité du Vin with this summer exhibition. Along a path punctuated by audio-visual tech, 'Drinking with the Gods (External link) ' seeks to reveal the close links established by Greco-Roman civilisation between wine, the gods and men. Discover the many faces of Dionysus, the main god of wine, and the wealth of rituals associated with him.

Dates are subject to change due to the pandemic. Please check the museum website.

'She-Bam Pow POP Wizz! The Amazons of Pop', MAMAC, Nice

Until 29 August 2021

To mark the 30th anniversary of the museum, this exhibition honours the Amazons of the pop movement - paper or real - who shook up the second half of the 20th century. More broadly, it highlights a dialogue between Nouveau Realism and pop art through the work of the Franco-American Niki de Saint Phalle, and underlines the contribution from European and North American women to this artistic movement.

'She-Bam Pow POP Wizz! The Amazons of Pop' at the MAMAC, Nice (External link)

Dates are subject to change due to the pandemic. Please check the museum website.

'Sur le Fil: L'art tissu des collections de Daniel Cordier et des Abattoirs', Toulouse Abattoirs

Until summer 2021

Pleated, stretched, woven, embroidered, painted, cut... At the Abattoirs de Toulouse, we're interested in fabric from every angle! A large part of the works on display (External link) are taken from the collection of Daniel Cordier, who donated 550 works to the Musée National d'Art Moderne-Centre Pompidou, which were then deposited at the Abattoirs. These works, of international provenance, are presented alongside those of contemporary artists.

Dates are subject to change due to the pandemic. Please check the museum website.

'Côté Jardin: from Monet to Bonnard', Musée des Impressionnismes, Giverny

Until 1 November 2021

Although the theme of the garden has already been dealt with in numerous exhibitions, the Musée des Impressionnismes (External link) in Giverny offers a new angle in a unique display, full of emotion. The exhibition endeavours to reveal the sensitivity of the Impressionist and Nabis painters to the gardens they represent. It also compares the approaches of Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet, and of Édouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard. A peaceful artistic visit, especially when extended by a stroll in the beautiful museum garden.

Dates are subject to change due to the pandemic. Please check the museum website.

'Giorgio Griffa: Wonders of the Unknown', LaM Lille

Until 28 November 2021

With nearly 100 works, paintings and drawings, most of which have never or rarely been exhibited, the LaM (External link) is inviting visitors to (re)discover a major figure of the Italian art scene, still little shown in France. Canvas, touch and colour is the fundamental triptych of Giorgio Griffa, an artist now in his eighties who was close to Arte Povera in his early days. He lets his hand go on large free canvases laid on the floor, using simple gestures to invent, repeat and reiterate subtle variations of signs and colours: a poetic pictorial language.

Dates are subject to change due to the pandemic. Please check the museum website.

'Cézanne: The Master of Provence', Carrières de Lumières, Les Baux-de-Provence

Until 2 January 2022

It's like being there! At the foot of Mount Sainte Victoire near Aix-en-Provence, among the card players, in front of a plate full of apples... At the Carrières de Lumières, 'Cézanne: The Master of Provence (External link) ' offers a sumptuous immersive journey to the heart of some of the major works by the Aix artist, following the theme of Provencal nature. Digital and sensory, the experience can be extended with 'Kandinsky: An Odyssey of the Abstract', showing at the same time.

Dates are subject to change due to the pandemic. Please check the museum website.

'La Terre en Héritage, du Néolithique à Nous', Musée des Confluences, Lyon

Until 30 January 2022

This is a hot topic right now - and the beautiful Musée des Confluences (External link) intends to teach us more. By unfolding time to identify the key moments in history when environmental changes of unprecedented magnitude began, the 'Earth as a Heritage' exhibition takes us back to the Neolithic period. It's up to us to understand the beginnings of our exploitation of nature and how our relationship with living beings was changed. Educational and fascinating.

Dates are subject to change due to the pandemic. Please check the museum website.

'Gustav Klimt: Gold and Colours', Bassins de Lumières, Bordeaux

From the venue's reopening on 19 May 2021

The shimmering colours of the canvases of the greatest master of Viennese symbolic painting have found a home at the Bassins de Lumières (External link) in Bordeaux, a place full of reflections that further sublimates their singular beauty. Through the magic of around 100 video projectors and thousands of digitised images, Gustav Klimt's paintings, including the famous 'Kiss', are set against the monumental architecture of the submarine base. Enchanting shimmers, unexpected perspectives and an evocative soundtrack bring the portraits and landscapes of the Golden period to life.

Dates are subject to change due to the pandemic. Please check the museum website.

'Jeff Koons', MuCEM, Marseille

Until 18 October 2021

Colour, humour and provocation... Jeff Koons' reputation is well established. The artist who likes to divert everyday objects to question the idea of a work of art will present some of his most famous works from the Pinault Collection at the MuCEM (External link) . Sculptures, such as 'Balloon Dog' and 'Lobster', and paintings such as 'Backyard' and 'Dutch Couple', will be displayed on the large seaside stage of the MuCEM. Alongside a selection of objects from the museum's Pop Art collections, the encounter promises to be explosive, symbolic and poetic.

Dates are subject to change due to the pandemic. Please check the museum website.

'The Roman Emperor: a Mortal among the Gods', Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes

Until 19 September 2021

In collaboration with the Louvre, the Musée de la Romanité is taking you back 2,000 years to the time of the imperial cult established in the 1st century BC. In ancient Rome, the emperor was the link between men and the gods. With a tour of 150 works, go behind the scenes and learn about the rites of this cult, which gave the emperor the status of mortal among the gods.

'The Roman Emperor: a mortal among the gods' at the Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes (External link)

Dates are subject to change due to the pandemic. Please check the museum website.

'The Imaginary Sea', Villa Carmignac, Île de Porquerolles

Until 17 October 2021

For its fourth season, Villa Carmignac (External link) is going into aquatic mode. The magnificent volumes of this magical place off the coast of Hyères are transformed into an underwater natural history museum that questions the interactions between our civilisation and the underwater world. 'La Mer Imaginaire', which can be visited barefoot, draws its inspiration from the architecture of the place - the submerged spaces under the villa and its water ceiling - as well as from the works in the collection: Bruce Nauman's fountain of a hundred fish, Miquel Barceló's underwater fresco or Jeff Koons' lobster perched on a chair. It's a pleasure to dive in!

Dates are subject to change due to the pandemic. Please check the museum website.

'Philippe de Gobert: Du Merveilleux en Architecture au Conte Photographique', MuMa, Le Havre

Until 7 November 2021

The architecture and the particular atmosphere of the city of Le Havre, partly rebuilt by the architect Auguste Perret after the Second World War, inspired Belgian photographer Philippe de Gobert. Using models of the buildings erected in the centre of the city and at the entrance to the port, he presents a sort of photographic tale at the André Malraux Museum of Modern Art (External link) , retracing the history of the beautiful renaissance of Le Havre with great freedom and poetry.

Dates are subject to change due to the pandemic. Please check the museum website.

'Opposite Arcimboldo', Centre Pompidou-Metz

Until 22 November 2021

The Italian master of 'bizarre inventions', adored in his time, long discredited by art historians and then celebrated by the Surrealists, is taking up residence in the great Nave of the Centre Pompidou-Metz (External link) . This will appeal to anyone who enjoys the whimsical, resolutely modern works that merge man with the plant and animal kingdoms, exploring illusion and anamorphosis. Despite his detractors, Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526-1593) is a true popular icon. The exhibition, conceived as a stroll through an 'Arcimboldan' collage, paints a portrait of him through the works and eyes of other artists such as Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso and Annette Messager.

Dates are subject to change due to the pandemic. Please check the museum website.

'Cosmogonies, Zinsou', Mo.Co., Montpellier

10 October 2021

For the first time, Mo.Co. Hôtel des Collections (External link) is welcoming works from the Fondation Zinsou collection in Cotonou, Benin. 'Cosmogonies' presents almost 110 works (sculptures, photographs, paintings and installations) by 37 African artists of different generations. The main theme of this exhibition are paintings by Cyprien Tokoudagba (1939-2012), in which figures and symbols, reality and the supernatural, everyday life and legends draw fascinating cosmogonies, mixing magic and realism.

Dates are subject to change due to the pandemic. Please check the museum website.

'The Giacometti: A Family of Creators', Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul-de-Vence (Côte d'Azur)

3 July to 14 November 2021

Even if they're thin, one Giacometti can still hide another! On the Côte d'Azur in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, the Maeght Foundation (External link) is putting on this unique exhibition focused on Alberto Giacometti, best known for his emblematic sculptures. The show will explore the work of his father Giovanni and his cousin Augusto, both painters, but also of his two brothers, Diego, the younger, a sculptor and designer, and Bruno, the younger, an architect. An original panorama of a top-class artistic dynasty.

Dates are subject to change due to the pandemic. Please check the museum website.

'Les Louvre de Pablo Picasso', Louvre-Lens, Lens

13 October 2021 to 31 January 2022

As the Louvre is a fundamental place for understanding the work of Pablo Picasso and since the museum occupied a special place in the painter's imagination, this exhibition (External link) promises to be a real gem. The Louvre-Lens looks at the dialogue that Picasso's work has established with the Paris Louvre's collections, and at the links that, since the 1930s, the world's largest museum has been keen to forge with the artist and his work.

Dates are subject to change due to the pandemic. Please check the museum website.

'À La Mode: The Art of Appearing in the 18th Century', Musée d'Arts, Nantes

10 December 2021 to 13 March 2022

Fashion was born in the 18th century at the same time as new trades and a specialised press. The French style, worn by both the aristocracy and the urban upper middle class, became established in all the courts and cities of Europe. For the first time, the confrontation of pictorial works with 18th-century costumes will allow us to explore a new staging of the body, between social demands and the whims of taste. For this eventful exhibition, in partnership with the Palais Galliera, the Fashion Museum of the City of Paris, the Musée d'Arts de Nantes (External link) will present nearly 200 18th-century objects from the greatest textile and fine arts museums in France and Europe.

Dates are subject to change due to the pandemic. Please check the museum website.