Festival de l'histoire de l'art
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Le Festival


The 10th edition of the Festival de l’histoire de l’art will take place on June 4-6, 2021 on the grounds of the Château de Fontainebleau and adjacent sites.

Since 2011, the Festival is a unique three-day international event organized by the Institut national d’histoire de l’art and the Château de Fontainebleau under the patronage of the French Ministry of Culture. Bringing together artists, museum professionals and scholars from art history and other academic disciplines, the Festival attracts a broad and diverse audience with a common passion for the visual arts.

The public is invited (free of charge and without reservation) to attend more than 250 lectures, panels, debates, film screenings, and book presentations that cover a wide array of artistic practices and media, including photography, video, cinema, the decorative arts and architecture, from ancient times to the present.

The Festival invites 300 professionals from the art world (artists, professors, curators, art dealers, art publishers, students etc.) to present their expertise in a scholarly, yet passionate and accessible way. The event goes beyond art history’s traditional academic borders and offers participants a chance to converse and interact in a festive setting, soliciting discussion on a wide range of practices in the domains of art history, heritage studies, cultural history, film, etc.  It is also an occasion to compare research questions, methods and intellectual models.  

Festival visitors in the Cour d’honneur of the Chateau during the 2018 Festival session © Thibaut Chapotot

Every year, the Festival chooses a special theme and invites a guest country. This year, the theme selected by the scientific committee is Pleasure and the guest country is Japan. The program is composed of a large offer of lectures and round tables, non-stop film screenings, a professional book fair and book presentations by the authors, as well as international student sessions and workshops for school teachers.  Guided tours of the Château, concerts, theatre, and family activities are also offered.

Guest country: Japan

Every year, the Festival invites a guest country to showcase the history of its visual arts and art history practices in all their diversity. The conference program and workshops are also an occasion to meet with artists, learn about current projects, compare methods of research and teaching, discuss museum and heritage policies, etc.

In 2021, the Festival extends a special welcomes to Japan, the first country to be invited from Asia. Thanks to the exceptional support of the Ishibashi Foundation, some forty Japanese art historians and artists will be present in Fontainebleau. Part of the delegation will also participate in activities organized on June 9 to 11 at the Maison de la Culture du Japon in Paris. Close collaboration with experts in Japan will enable numerous events, including dialogues between Japanese and French scholars, that facilitate the approach of various subjects such as archeology, ancient arts, architecture, design, the links between writing and images, the art of paper, circulation, relations with Asia, the post-war years, protest movements, contemporary art, manga, etc.

The collaboration between French and Japanese specialists has also resulted in the exhibition Japanese Art Objects from the Collection of the Château de Fontainebleau , inaugurated as part of the Festival, which will present the outcomes of an unprecedented study that led to the rediscovery of Japanese art objects including lacquers, screens, and kakemonos, forgotten in the reserves of the Château de Fontainebleau after being offered as diplomatic gifts to the Emperor Napoleon III in 1862 and 1864.

Theme: Pleasure

Each year the Festival of Art History organizes programming along several axes, including one theme that is unique to each edition. Following Dreams in 2018 and The People in 2019, the unifying theme selected by the scientific committee for the 2021 Festival is Pleasure.

For its tenth edition in June 2021, the Festival will be devoted to Pleasure, a broad theme that has fascinated societies in all eras and fittingly celebrates this anniversary year. For three days, a wide range of events will investigate pleasure in its various forms: the pleasures of creating, seeing, touching and listening, the pleasure of collecting, physical and spiritual pleasures, even forbidden pleasures. Resonating with the focus of the educational team of the Château de Fontainebleau, these topics furthermore help illustrate the past of this former residence as as a royal place of pleasure.

The Festival also offers a range of other events:

Current Events Forum

What’s new in the Art world? The Forum de l’actualité presents the latest news in the art world, asking curators to talk about their new exhibitions or other noteworthy affairs. The Forum also opens the floor for a series of round tables on issues of particular relevance. This year, special attention will be paid to the debate around the restitution of art objects in western museum collections to their countries of origin.  


With more than 35 sessions, including film screenings, lectures and workshops, taking place in the Ermitage cinema in Fontainebleau, the Cinema section of the Festival offers in 2021 a varied program around Japan, the Festival’s invited country, a major cycle around the theme of pleasure in the cinema, as well as a brief cycle examining links between cinema and archeology.

Art Book Fair

The « Salon du livre et de la revue d’art » allows over 80 publishers and book dealers to exhibit their finest publications including art journals and scholarly writings. The public is invited to come and listen authors comment on their recent work. Thanks to the large offer of specialized books and authors’ talks, the fair has become the most important art books event in France.

Spring University

Supported by the National ministry of education, a two-day ‘teachers lab’ for high school teachers provides special training in art historical topics related to the Festival’s theme in the form of lecture sessions and workshops.

International Students Sessions

International Students Sessions give art history students from France and the invited country(ies) the chance to meet established professionals and share their research with the public. This initiative was started in 2012 and is financed in part by the Fondation Hippocrène.

Approximately 40 Master and PhD students in art, art history, cinema history and conservation studies are the Festival’s guests and are given privileged access to the event.  By offering young scholars a chance to talk about their work with senior artists and scholars, the Festival creates a precious moment of contact between generations.  It also connects the future international community of art historians.

The call for application will be soon available on this website.

Tours, shows and family activities

Special activities for children and teenagers (with their schools or families) introduce them to art through the organization of a series of workshops, age-appropriate films, and visits. Concerts and theatre performances add to this rich offer of activities. Group tours of the château, its unique collection and gardens, and other historic sites in the town of Fontainebleau are freely offered. Come and listen to the musicians of the Conservatoire de Paris or the actors of the Comédie Française. Students of the École du Louvre and the Sorbonne University welcome the public for individual visits. They are happy to share their knowledge on subjects as varied as the classical orders within in architecture or the secret meaning of the Galerie François Ier. and cater their explanations to their public.


Access to the Festival

The Festival de l’histoire de l’art takes place in the château and at various sites in the town of Fontainebleau, which can be reached in several ways:

Public transport from Paris

Take the train from Paris Gare de Lyon (transilien ligne R, Hall 1) in the direction of Montargis, Montereau or Laroche-Migennes, and exit at Fontainebleau-Avon station.

A special shuttle for the Festival will run from the front of the train station to the town center. It is also possible to reach the Festival with the city bus line 1 in the direction of Les Lilas to the stop “Château”.

Navigo pass holders can use their pass beyond the usual zone limits. Otherwise we recommend the 5-Zone Mobilis Pass (valid 1 day) or the 5-Zone Paris-Visites Pass (valid 2 or 3 days) which allow unlimited travel in the Paris Métro, Transilien, and buses during throughout the period of validity.

Transport schedules will be indicated on this website in the days before the Festival in order to facilitate your visit.


From Paris, take the A6 (via Porte d’Orléans or Porte d’Italie) and continue to the exit for Fontainebleau. Take the direction of Fontainebleau then follow the signs for the château. The city of Fontainebleau has 4,500 parking spaces, more than half of which are free.

Ride sharing

The Festival is an opportunity to attend many events as well as to meet and talk with impassioned tudents, amateurs and professionals. Why not start the conversation during a shared car trip?


Two groups of taxis are available for your transportation during the Festival. Reservations (especially for evenings and Sundays) are highly recommended:

01 64 24 81 22, tbataxis@gmail.com (up to 7 places per vehicle)

06 49 77 74 15, www.taxi-fontainebleau.com/Reservation (up to 7 places per vehicle)


Find available accommodations with this tool from the Fontainebleau Tourist Office: Réservez votre hôtel en direct avec Pilgo


The full program of events will be posted on the Festival website in the first week of May 2021. Paper copies program will be also be made available.

Save the date June 4-6, 2021. We are expecting you in Fontainebleau!