France has an enviable history of nurturing some of the world’s great artists – so these galleries, bookshops and record shops could be hiding the next big thing.
Set among country fields an hour from Paris, this vast gallery will reward those who make the journey. “You see art in a different context,” says co-founder Lorenzo Fiaschi. “You get to take it in while you hear the chirping of the birds.” Fiaschi founded Galleria Continua in San Gimignano, his Tuscan hometown, in 1990 with friends Mario Cristiani and Maurizio Rigillo; the trio have also opened spaces in Beijing and Havana. This renovated factory has hosted shows by Anish Kapoor, Daniel Buren and Michaelangelo Pistoletto, among others.
Yvon Lambert opened his first gallery in Paris in the 1960s and has remained a staple figure in the art world ever since. In 2014 he closed his gallery to focus on his bookshop, which he took to a new space in the Haut Marais in 2017. The sleek Yvon Lambert Libraire-Editeur specialises in art books, exhibition catalogues and independent magazines. Here you’ll also find rare and out-of-print books by Cy Twombly and Sol LeWitt, art by David Shrigley and polaroids by Nobuyoshi Araki. The shop doubles as an events space for book launches and Paris’s art crowd often gathers here for talks by the likes of Beiruti poet-cum-artist Etel Adnan and Memphis Group founder Nathalie du Pasquier.
Founded in 2000 by Pierre-Olivier Leclercq, who was joined by Jean-Philippe Guyon in 2012, Sofa Records stocks an extensive variety of new and used LPs from around the world. Before opening the shop in Lyon’s city centre, Leclercq sold vinyls at fairs or directly to friends. The selection comprises nearly 10,000 titles, ranging from soul and tropical beats to pop and, naturally, French music. The aim, however, remains to celebrate lesser-known artists and styles. “We love spiritual and positive music from everywhere,” says Leclercq.
Hab Galerie is housed in a hangar on the western tip of the Île de Nantes that was originally built to store bananas and pineapples shipped from Africa. In 2007 the city’s port was revamped in preparation for the first edition of the biennial culture festival Estuaire Nantes-Saint-Nazaire; by 2011 this expansive gallery had become a permanent host to exhibitions with a rotating roster of artists, including Céleste Boursier-Mougenot and Josephine Meckseper. Behind Hab’s huge windowed entrance is a small bookshop with select titles on art history, architecture and design.
21 Quai des Antilles
The Côte d’Azur might be known for cerulean seas and hazy sunshine but it is also home to one of Europe’s largest contemporary-art collections. Dealer and founder Aimé Maeght and his wife Marguerite exhibited 20th-century greats, such as Joan Miró, Alberto Giacometti and Marc Chagall, who were also friends. Maeght’s idea of a village where artists could meet and work came to fruition in 1964 with the help of Catalonian architect Josep Lluís Sert. The collection, which now comprises 10,000 artworks, has grown thanks to donations from art lovers.
The range of music on the shelves at Cougouyou is notably eclectic. “I’m very open and find that there’s interesting stuff in any genre, from classical to heavy metal,” says owner Markus Detmer. Much of the selection is secondhand – and Detmer works with specialised distributors to find the best rare gems. Cougouyou is also home to an in-house label dedicated to releasing music by artists from the surrounding area, regardless of style. Recent offerings include experimental electronica by Pascal Comelade, psychedelic pop from The Liminanas and post-punk by The Vampyrs.
This bookshop is named after the “open, free and ready” outlook shared by owners Alexandre and Marie Thumerelle, siblings whose working relationship began by staging early Daft Punk concerts. For 23 years they have hosted events and shops in myriad locations around the world. Ofr currently has three locations in Paris and an outpost in Copenhagen. Its website reads, “No more time for this website and no more time for phone.” Visit the shop, which opens daily, instead.
20 Rue Dupetit-Thouars
Hidden among the maquis of a wild islet off France’s southern coast, the Fondation Carmignac was built by French investment giant Edouard Carmignac to house his collection of art and photojournalism. The farmhouse-turned-villa with blue shutters is deceptive: as you step inside, the space opens up into a subterranean gallery containing pieces by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Back outside, Parisian landscape architect Louis Benech has rehabilitated the olive groves and planted jacarandas and mimosas in the 15-hectare sculpture garden.
Xavier Douroux and Franck Gautherot founded Le Consortium in 1977, when France had virtually no contemporary-art museums other than the Centre Pompidou. Over the past four decades the pair have honed a distinct artistic perspective that Gautherot defines as “smart, cautious and inventive”. Almost half of their exhibits feature female artists and the curatorial team often highlight less-celebrated names. “We brought back Yayoi Kusama, Phillip King, Mati Klarwein and Hans Hartung,” says Gautherot. In 2011, Le Consortium reopened with a newly renovated building designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. Clean lines and generous proportions make it a calm, contemplative space.
Established in 2003, this bookshop is named after a 1964 work by French writer Pierre Bettencourt – and references a masquerade ball held by “Mad” King Charles VI in 1393. It is the passion project of its founder Francis Chaput-Dezerville, who built much of the shop’s wooden shelving himself. An archway made of books marks the entrance; stepping under it feels like making your way into a secret literary den. Chaput-Dezerville champions independent publishing: every title is selected to the team’s, new releases are not automatically stocked and many books come from close partnerships with small publishing houses.
17 Rue Neuve
“Records and electronic music are my passions; seeing how well the combination worked in other places gave me the idea to open a specialised shop in my home city,” says Colin Ruksyio. He opened Extend & Play in Marseille in 2015 to showcase a selection of music shaped by his own favourites in everything from jazz to hip-hop. The shop offers new releases, reissues and secondhand LPs – and has also become a natural meeting point for Marseille’s DJ scene.