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Throughout the halls of the Palace of Versailles during the summer, the atmosphere of the most glamorous and aristocratic baroque mingles with the hustle and bustle of thousands of tourists who, in their sandals and shorts, defy the elegance of such a place. But it is not the only 21st century feature that floods Versailles in the summer months. Every year, now in its twelfth year, contemporary art enters the palace or flows through its magnificent gardens.

Versailles and today’s artists

It was in 2008 that Versailles first opened up to contemporary art. Since then the motley palace décor has seen the organic forms of Jeff Koons or the vivid colours of Takashi Murakami on display. Not to mention the sculptures of Joana Vasconcelos, the glitter and reflections of Anish Kapoor or the liquid art of Olafur Eliasson.

Current photography exhibition by Martin Parr at the Pavilion Frais

These and other avant-garde creators have been inspired by the palace, its gardens, its history or its legends to reinterpret it and give us their view of this exceptional monument. A reinterpretation that always brings life and relevance to the historical heritage, something we have already told you about in Magazine Horse, for example when we dedicated an article to Favre’s beetles in the Royal Palace of Brussels.


In 2019 there are 5 artists who have sought out the most secret aspects of Versailles and in doing so have revisited these spaces. The chosen artists are Dove Allouche, Nan Goldin, Martin Parr, Eric Poitevin and Viviane Sassen. Each one of them with a different style and a unique point of view.

Abstract Photos by Dove Allouche

From Viviane Sassen who wanted to bring the presence of youth into the stately salons to Dove Allouche who was attracted by the plaster decoration to generate his own abstract images.

On the other hand, the American Nan Goldin was inspired by the Versailles fountains. But not only the fountains or the sculptural groups that crown them, almost always headed by women. The underground supply system of the fountains has also been a source of inspiration for her photographs, and the exhibition montage is based on this.

Editing by Nan Goldin

On the other hand, Eric Poitevin has sought two references for his images. A plant as evocative as the angelica, present in the gardens. And above all, he has tried to capture the sun, a star closely linked to Versailles and its most illustrious owner, Louis XIV, the Sun King.

Angelica’s flowers have fascinated photographer Eric Poitevin

And finally, perhaps the photographer Martin Parr is the one who gives us a closer view and one in which we as tourists can feel perfectly integrated. A prestigious British artist who has created images that serve to open the Pavilion Frais, which forms part of the Petit Trianon area, to the public for the first time.

Much more than summer

Such a display of contemporary art at Versailles has been surprising visitors for some time now. In fact the exhibition opened on 14 May. And so far the reviews are more than favourable from visitors. Maybe you will be one of them in the coming months. Paris is always a desirable destination, and once in the French capital it is advisable to set aside a day to visit the great baroque palace.

Viviane Sassen in the halls of the Grand Trianon

There is still time to be surprised by the Visible-Invisible exhibition, which will not close until 20 October. If you don’t know Versailles, you should make a note of it. And those of you who already know it, will agree with us that it never hurts to revisit it. Even more so if you have the chance to see new interventions such as this photographic exhibition, as eclectic as it is attractive.

Also music, dance, shows…

In fact, the summer exhibitions of contemporary art at Versailles are yet another proof that this palace has not become stagnant in history to live exclusively on tourism. The truth is that its cultural activity is frenetic, and summer visitors can enjoy an extensive calendar of events.

The fountains of Versailles and their water and light shows are always attractive and refreshing

Vibrant light and music shows are programmed day and night in its gardens. Just as the palace rooms seem to return to their origins to host balls and chamber music concerts. And even opera and dance festivals. Not to mention the delirious fêtes galantes. Anyone can take part in them. The most pompous costumes, impossible wigs and talcum powder-white faces will be worn, just like in a period film. But the setting is the Palace of Versailles, a World Heritage Site that is much more alive than you might think.