While museums great and small all over the world peddle their signature images on everything from umbrellas to mouse pads, a few favorite Paris museum shops carefully cultivate the unique themes of their own collections. These shops alone are worth a trip, whether or not you visit the museum at the same time.
107Rivoli- Les Arts Decoratifs
For the thoroughness of its concept and the quality of its merchandise, 107Rivoli ranks among the top museum shops on any list. Every item on sale has been chosen for craftsmanship and relevance to contemporary design and decoration. Taking the museum’s major departments as its blueprint, the boutique is divided into sections for books, jewelry, fashion accessories, paper products, toys, tableware and objects inspired by the past but with up-to-date design in mind. Some of the contemporary pieces on offer are limited editions by artists working with the world-renowned manufacturers represented in the museum, including Sèvres, Nymphenburg, Baccarat and Bernardaud. Other themes—metal, paper, glass—are represented by an ever-changing selection of international artists, designers and jewelry makers whose wares would be at home in any art gallery or upscale boutique. There’s also an excellent selection of hard-to-find books on art and design, along with cutting-edge handbags and scarves. For sheer variety, it’s a great one-stop shop for all your gift-buying needs and self-indulgent treats.
107 rue de Rivoli, 1st, 01.42.60.64.94. website
Chalcographie – Musée du Louvre
Tucked away on the upstairs floor of the impressive Louvre museum store, La Chalcographie du Louvre is a rare find. The modest room offers some 13,000 prints from the Louvre’s collection, bound in hundreds of hefty leather books that can be perused at your leisure (if you can lift them). That’s wondrous in itself, but it gets better—any one of these prints can be yours. Each plate is housed in the museum archives and, at your request, can be sent to the Louvre’s own print shop and given a run by master printers on museum-quality paper for a relatively minor investment. The most popular images are already in stock, easy to view and can walk right out with you. So even if you’re not in the mood to go sleuthing for the unusual, there are hundreds at your fingertips. Bestsellers include detailed maps of pre- and post-Haussmannian Paris; any one of more than 900 engravings of Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt (1798–1801); and hundreds of prints from the historic galleries and gardens of Versailles, one of France’s most important illustrated collections of French decorative art. There are also splendid botanical prints, examples of period costumes in sumptuous color (complete with metallic inks), scenic landscapes and selected modern and contemporary artists. And all this barely scratches the surface. If you have a special interest in the graven image or just want an extraordinary gift or souvenir of Paris, make haste to this astonishing place.
Librairie-Boutiques of the Musée du Louvre, Carrousel du Louvre, 1st, 01.40.20.59.35. website
La Maison Baccarat
Housed in a splendid mansion that was once home to Marie-Laure de Noailles, the legendary Parisian art patron and tastemaker, this most opulent of museums might be simply an excuse to showcase the exquisite collection of Baccarat crystal available in high-end shops the world over. Designed with wit, elegance and eye-popping extravagance by France’s international design star-about-town Philippe Starck, the museum is, first of all, stupendously beautiful. The second-floor restaurant vies for most gorgeous in Paris (and even the restrooms are pretty great). The museum per se, a small permanent exhibit upstairs—including pieces commissioned by monarchs, popes and presidents—is well worth the €7 entrance fee. But for no fee at all you can wander through the galleries full of contemporary crystal by top-name designers—and then take whatever you choose home with you. Stemware, vases, objects and candelabras, jewelry, chandeliers, even furniture; it’s all for sale and it’s all breathtaking.
11 pl des Etats-Unis, 16th, 01.40.22.11.22. website
Black Block – Palais de Tokyo
Hopelessly in thrall to anything and everything with a use-by date, Black Block—which is what graffiti artist André calls the boutique he conceived and “curates” for the contemporary art showcase in the Palais de Tokyo—is a one-stop arsenal for the urban hipster. The Art Deco building, opened in 1937 and originally intended as a French national museum of modern art, is now a divided enterprise—the east wing houses the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris, and the west wing, which belongs to the state, was turned into a “site for contemporary creation” in 2002.
The boutique, we are told, was modeled on a gas station in Stockholm (I scratched my head too); the display cases are the kind of refrigerators from which you’d pull a cold bottle of Pepsi at a highway gas station. The original merchandise, all by contemporary artists and designers, is as edgy and subversive as the museum’s exhibits—everything from ultra-hip tee shirts, jewelry, bags and watches to CDs, limited-edition artworks and exuberantly colored sex toys. Following the art center’s lead, Black Block also invites various personalities from the international art scene to create their own little happenings. The good news for insomniac shopaholics: it’s open till midnight.
13 ave Président Wilson, 16th, 01.47.23.37.04. website
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Originally published in the February 2011 issue of France Today
For more of the best French boutiques and shopping, see here.
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