A vibrant throwback to 80s fashion at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and other must-see museum exhibitions in Paris

October in Paris marks a shift in focus from fashion to art. This is when the city’s major institutions unveil their flagship exhibitions, while independent galleries often present their rising stars. Usually, October is also when dealers, collectors and adjacent art people arrive at Fiac, one of the world’s leading contemporary art fairs, which this year has been replaced by Paris+ by Art Basel. – a move that, beyond the specifics, looks like a reshuffling of designers and fashion houses.

For all the fairs, installations and parties that will ensure the next few days are as jam-packed as any fashion week, there are several new museum exhibits exploring style, society and visual culture. There is a vibrant throwback to 80s fashion, design and graphic art at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. There is escape and luster in Yves Saint Laurent Museum, which features the creator’s obsession with gold. There’s a timeless beauty mixed with existentialism at the Louvre, which has mounted an extensive survey of the genre of still life and how objects communicate. There are Alice Neel’s portraits of ordinary people – and the social commentary they embody – at the Center Pompidou. And in the Musée de l’Orangerie there are the scintillating prints of Mickalene Thomas de Giverny which complete the juxtaposition of Claude Monet and Joan Mitchell at the Louis Vuitton Foundation.

At least two of these shows were originally scheduled for 2020, but prolonged Covid shutdowns and uncertainty of reopenings have made it difficult to coordinate slots and loans. Now just like this season Paris Fashion Weekk felt like a real return to the energy of the Before Times, the scale of the exhibitions – and the crowds that attend them – is palpable.

“Paris is living such a great moment. It’s very refreshing to be in the context of others again through art,” Thomas observed during a spontaneous conversation on the street after I recognized her at the pharmacy and introduced myself. . We talked about his latest series (more below) and how there’s endless things to take in this week.

In many ways, museum exhibitions are the anti-art fair experience: they last longer; nothing can be bought; and when done well, they bring forth a perspective that gives the works included greater depth. With this non-exhaustive selection, familiar ideas and themes resurface, either through greater distance and reflection, or because the evolution of our lifestyles encourages a revised and more relevant reading. These are worthy detours from the art fair circuit – and for anyone visiting Paris in the coming months.

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