Paris, the City of Light, has long been a magnet for the cultural avant-garde. In the case of Web3 innovators, the same holds true. Summer, fall, spring, even winter, the Parisian crypto art scene sizzles.
Here are a few NFT-friendly spots to add to your French séjour.
L’Avant Galerie Vossen: Founded by visionary gallerist Caroline Vossen in 2018, this small but mighty Marais enclave has hosted far-reaching exhibitions featuring local pioneering artists the likes of Albertine Meunier (who helps run the gallery and is a co-founder of NFT Factory), Vera Molnar, Kalen Iwamoto, Robbie Barrat, and aurèce vettier.
L’Avant Galerie and NFT Factory presented Pepe Fest from October 5-7, a show dedicated to the lore of Pepe, Web3’s ultimate meme-as-currency. The exhibit was a group effort organized by Rare Pepes, Fake Rares, and devoted and dexterous curator Eleonora Brizi, who together curated a wide cast of grinning green characters created by well-known Pepe artists from all over the world, including Nikolina Petolas, Woman, Gus Grillasca, Zed, and RARE SCRILLA.
Up next: L’Avant Galerie was invited to participate in the inaugural edition of Paris Photo’s digital sector, where it will exhibit iconoclastic artists u2p050, among others.
58 rue Chapon
Thursday through Saturday
NFT Factory: If L’Avant Galerie Vossen is Paris’ steady underground heartbeat, then NFT Factory is its tentacular pulse. Situated in front of the Centre Pompidou (which is included in this guide as its own deserving stop), NFT Factory maintains the feel of a welcoming clubhouse while continuously presenting substantial exhibitions. On display from October 18 through 28 was Kevin Abosch’s solo show 1337, in which 50 screens throbbed “with motifs by the aesthetic zeitgeist of hacking culture, leaning into gamification while underscoring the urgency of understanding an increasingly weaponized media landscape” (again, the proficient hand of Eleonora Brizi).
Its group of founding members boasts powerhouses like Fanny Lakoubay, Thuy-Thien Vo, Benoit Couty, and Jean-Michel Pailhon, who together have done much to generate top-level interest in digital art, whilst having a lot of fun. Case in point: when the Centre Pompidou announced their acquisition of several NFTs, including a CryptoPunk and works by Jill Magid, Sarah Meyohas and Jonas Lund, among others, NFT Factory hosted an event where the CryptoPunk founders stood in front of a video showing ROBNESS (whose work was also acquired) burning a Punk.
A notable milestone in French NFT history is 2021’s Cryptoart Revolution exhibition, organized by Vo, Couty and Meunier, and in many ways a harbinger of NFT Factory. This exhibition drew the attention of both the French Ministry of Digital Affairs and of Culture, the latter of which went on to organize NFT training sessions.
Coming soon: a solo exhibition by Italian artist Mattia Cuttini, which, in the words of Couty, “will show Cuttini’s genius to the world.”
137 rue San-Martin
Wednesday through Saturday
Galerie Charlot: Another Marais digital art beacon, Galerie Charlot was founded in 2010 by the prophetic Valérie Hasson-Benillouche. This gallery features artists as significant as they are diverse: Lauren Moffatt, Kika Nicolela and Manfred Mohr, among others. Their most recent exhibition was titled Digit-All, and its curatorial statement reveals the gallery’s forward-thinking approach: “The term digital, «digit» referring to the finger or numbers depending on the language, defines this notion of counting, of algorithmic writing, but also of the immaterial dimension of the object. And yet, through this process of numbers or the use of digital networks, artists create a material, light in the form of a video, a photograph, a sculpture or a drawing.”
Hasson-Benillouche along with Kim Departe, who works at the gallery, also co-founded Marais DigitARt, an AR exhibition and walking tour that covered considerable square footage in the Marais section of Paris, where a majority of the NFT-friendly galleries listed in this article are found. From September 13-29, attendees were invited to visit a different site daily, both in- and outdoors, to view site-specific AR installations by artists such as Hermine Bourdin, Diane Drubay, and Tamiko Thiel. Expect this successful community effort to become a much-anticipated annual event.
Next on the gallery’s agenda: a solo exhibition by Raphael Guez.
47 rue Charlot
IHAM Gallery: Not far from NFT Factory is another must-stop in the Parisian crypto art map: IHAM. Directed by gifted curator Grida and founded back in May 2021, this spot lays claim to being the first NFT-only gallery in Europe, putting on high-energy group and solo shows since then.
From April 25-May 7, 2022, the gallery held Punkism, the first exhibition of CryptoPunks, during which holders of Punks were invited to give selected artists the right to reinterpret these digital characters, recreating them according to their styles. The exhibition featured 30 CryptoPunk holders and 160 artists, with over 400 people attending the opening.
The gallery has also curated solo shows by genre-defying artists such as Foodmasku and YUYU. Grida muses that the gallery is “not just a space; it's where people seek out artwork, transform themselves, and re-enter the world.”
Up next: IHAM will present artist Mr.Misang’s first solo exhibition at the Korean Cultural Center, with which the gallery has close ties. Indeed, IHAM Gallery is part of a cultural foundation in Korea that also operates a museum of fine arts and crafts. Expect this opening to be peppered with comprehensive conversations and thoughtful community engagement, as is the norm with all exhibitions Grida curates.
46 Bd Henri IV
Galerie Data: This relatively recent arrival to the French crypto art scene has already made quite a splash, presenting top digital artists like Connie Bakshi, Anna Carreras, Melissa Wiederrecht, and DistCollective. Though the gallery has a marked curatorial focus on generative art, founder Gabrielle Debeuret presents an expansive definition of the genre, including works that are as inspired by biology, sound, and poetics as they are by mathematics. In the gallery’s words: “[Our] programming offers themes specifically linked to generative creation with artists from the Web3 world, alternating with artists from the contemporary scene, exploiting technologies to create artworks between the tangible and the digital.”
In 2022 the gallery held a solo show by Marcel Schwittlick titled Autograph, via which the artist “redefined the principle [of the signature] by delegating the action of the hand to the automation of tools and implementation of systems.” A truly evocative evolution of inscription.
Coming up: Galerie Data will participate in the Biennale de l'Image Tangible, which presents photographic practices seeking to expand the classical definition of the medium.
26 boulevard Jules Ferry
Priska Pasquer Gallery: Since launching her gallery in 2000 in Cologne, Germany, Priska Pasquer has focused on exhibiting works that critically examine the construction of the self in the digital age. The Parisian satellite opened in early 2023 and has since hosted several impeccably produced, ambitious exhibitions.
“The first museums are starting to include digital art via NFTs in their collection and after the hype and the fall of collectibles in recent years now digital art, [rooted in] art history, is rising,” the affable Pasquer reflects. “Paris is the meeting point for every form of art right now, and I am very interested in the connection between all mediums...I am interested in bridging worlds, not in creating new silos.”
Pasquer practices what she preaches and has three exhibitions slated for 2024. Try to visit them when she’s in town, as she gives wonderful curatorial tours.
6 rue des Coutures Saint-Gervais
Musée d’Orsay: After two years of research and planning, the Musée d'Orsay officially took their first Web3 steps this past October when they announced their partnership with Keru Projects, with support from the Tezos XTZ Foundation, to offer visitors digital souvenirs. The first one honors the breathtaking Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise: The Final Months exhibition, open through February 4, 2024. This announcement marked a culmination of the museum’s participation in a twelve-week mentorship program hosted by We Are Museums, a community which seeks to educate cultural institutions on the promises and perils of Web3.
“As a public institution, we need to ensure that we will not be perceived as opportunistic or speculative, and that the stories we tell are consistent and grounded in our collections and in the way we want to address a wider audience,” Constance de Marliave, the Musée d’Orsay’s development and international projects manager notes, adding “There is indeed a lot of ‘Web3’ acculturation to be done.”
With plans to collaborate more intimately with digital artists on the occasion of a momentous 2024 exhibition commemorating the 150th anniversary of Impressionism, the Musée d’Orsay is helping to lead the way. Valérie Whitacre, Head of Art at TriliTech — the Tezos London hub that helped onboard the museum to Web3—confirms: “This is only the beginning.”
Esplanade Valéry Giscard d’Estaing
Centre Pompidou: The Musée d’Orsay joins the ranks of another iconic institution making massive waves in the Parisian digital art scene: the Centre Pompidou. Until January 24, 2024, visitors to the museum can view the historic exhibition NFT: Poétiques de l'immatériel du certificat à la blockchain.
The NFT-backed works in this exhibition form part of the Pompidou’s permanent collection, recently purchased via a widely celebrated acquisition. These works are in dialogue with the museum’s existing collection of art pieces from the 20th century, illustrating the evolution of artistic modes of distribution.
Hugo du Plessix, who assisted the New Media department of the Pompidou on the NFT selection, indicates that "the selected artworks reflect the myriad ways artists are experimenting with the technical specificities of the blockchain, both confronting and incorporating the cultural history of the medium."
Open every day except Tuesdays
If you can’t make it to Paris but would like to keep an eye on the thriving French crypto art scene, check out NFT Morning, a podcast hosted by John Karp and Rem Peretz, with the help of Simon Sohar. Every Monday through Friday at 9am CET, you can drink your café au lait to the tune of their non-stop roster of notable guests, anchored by rotating commentary on meaty topics such as legal affairs (hosted by Ingrid-Mery Haziot), digital photography (hosted by L’anamour), generative art (hosted by Camille Roux), and updates on the vibrant and laudable GxrlsRevolution movement (hosted by ART GIRLS and Jessy Jeanne).
NFT Morning launched on March 7, 2021 to discuss Beeple’s then-upcoming Christie’s auction. That first episode is worth a listen, with Karp and Peretz speculating on how much Beeple’s work would fetch. The show is recorded live via Twitter Spaces and also streams on their site, which houses their over 560 past episodes. Karp certainly keeps busy, in addition to making sure the show runs smoothly, he founded the Non Fungible Conference, an annual gathering of Web3’s thought leaders and top artists in Lisbon.
Speaking of conferences, if you have a wintry February visit to Paris planned, be sure to catch NFT Paris. This annual conference draws massive crowds, with lines often forming around the block, and boasts a compelling lineup of speakers, such as The Sandbox’s Sébastien Borget, Women Rise’s Maliha Abidi, and nftnow’s Matt Medved and Alejandro Navia. Future editions will surely not disappoint.
Of note, 2023 marks the launch of ParisPhoto’s Digital Sector, with curation by much-admired digital art advocate Nina Roehrs. Office Impart, LaCollection and London’s Verse Works join a “selection of nine contemporary art galleries and curated platforms at the forefront of new technologies” that will bring a star-studded troupe of artists, including Rosa Menkman, Aleksandra Art, Sofia Crespo with Anna Ridler, and Matt DesLauriers. The fair will be held at the Grand Palais Éphémère from November 9-12, 2023.
Web3-focused side events are common during large traditional art fairs, such as Paris+, so if you happen to be in the city then, make sure to run a search for exhibitions you won’t want to miss. During this year’s past Paris+, for example, Funghi Gallery, a curator for Marais DigitARt, led a panel discussion on augmented reality with top artists and curators at The Sandbox, which drew a curious crowd of over one hundred people.
Meanwhile, Kate Vass Galerie, together with French collector Didi, curated Node to Node, a ten-day pop-up exhibition, with dynamic artist talks, workshops, and panels led by some of the most respected voices in the Web3 space, including Ivona Tau, Iskra Velitchkova, Marcelo Soria Rodríguez, and ciphrd, the founder of generative art platform fx(hash).
As Joséphine Louis, Funghi Gallery’s founder, responded when interviewed: “Paris is alive. Paris is sound and light. Paris is digital art.”
Disclaimer: I’ve exhibited at L’Avant Galerie Vossen, NFT Factory, Office Impart and Verse Works and have spoken about poetry on the blockchain on NFT Morning. theVERSEverse, the digital poetry gallery I co-founded, is a Tezos Foundation grantee.