Paris is a city of art bursting with art galleries and museums, filled with world class paintings, sculptures and history, surrounded by architecturally delightful buildings and cobbled streets. But getting to these requires a journey on the Paris Métro, and it is here, deep underground that you will find art displays that are easily missed when just travelling from A to B. From original art nouveau entrances to crossword puzzles on the wall, here’s a preview of what you will find hidden below the busy streets of the French capital.
Arts et Métiers
Completely unique, Arts et Métiers, (literally translated as Arts and Crafts) is a station on the Paris Métro system, named after the nearby Musée des Arts et Métiers. The station serves both Line 3 and Line 11, but it is Line 11 that is of interest to those who wish to see more than just another metro station.
In 1994, to mark the bicentenary of the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, the Line 11 platforms were re-designed by Belgium comics artist François Schuiten in a “Steampunk” style inspired by Jules Verne. Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th century industrial steam-powered machinery. A visit to the station will reveal how the design connects fantasy with reality. The station walls are lined with riveted sheets of copper complete with portholes which gives it a subterranean feel, almost like being inside a submarine.
Louvre-Rivoli & Palais Royal-Musee de Louvre
In the heart of Paris, the Louvre with its iconic glass pyramid entrance is arguably one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Close by are two metro stations: Louvre-Rivoli (Line 1) and Palais Royal-Musee de Louvre (Line 1 and 7). The Louvre-Rivoli station is lined with replica art works to echo the pieces within the museum itself whereas Palais Royal-Musee de Louvre has a multi-coloured glass bauble entrance at Place Collete. Both should certainly be on your Paris Métro art tour.
Above the ground, just around the corner from Pont Neuf metro station is the Monnaie de Paris (Paris Mint). Created in 864, it is the oldest continuously operating minting institution and unsurprisingly, many ancient coins are housed in the collections maintained there. Below the ground, Pont Neuf metro station has been designed with a theme mimicking the Paris Mint above ground. The station has large replica French coins, spanning the curved roof and walls, as well as display cabinets dotted along the platform.
Linking lines 1, 8 and 12, Concorde is one of the major interchange stations within the city, and if you’ve made it down to the platforms of Line 12, you’ll discover a giant underground crossword puzzle spanning the entire station. The artist behind the décor was Francoise Schein who covered the tunnel with black lettered white tiles all spelling out the 1789 Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen. To be honest, I couldn’t spot any of the words whilst I was there but it sure was a great way to pass the time waiting for the next metro.