Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Paris
The Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac in Paris is a museum presenting the history and cultures of non-western civilizations from Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas.
The museum, situated on the Seine riverfront in Paris’ 7th arrondissement, was inaugurated in 2006 by French President Jacques Chirac.
Musée du Quai Branly, view of the large glass wall which separates the museum from the Seine riverside; photo Mariano Mantel.
As per its mission statement, the Musée du Quai Branly is
“a space for scientific and artistic dialog (which) aims to promote the Arts and Civilizations of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas, at the crossroads of multiple cultural, religious and historical influences“.
About 3,500 objects from the 3-million-piece collection of the museum are permanently on view, while others are displayed in temporary exhibitions on a rotational basis.
The permanent exhibition, which is both thematic and chronological, is divided into four main sections, dedicated to Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas.
On a floor area of 1,200 square meters (13,000 square feet), the African section showcases part of one of the world’s largest collections (amounting to 70,000 pieces, including jewels, ritual objects, masks, carpets, and pottery) of artifacts from Maghreb, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Madagascar.
The Asian collection covers an immense area, extending from Siberia to Central Asia, and from the Near East to Japan through India and China; the scientific objective is not to feature an all-comprehensive exhibition on such themes, which would probably be impossible, while to create an ensemble of coherent settings into which the most significant pieces from the collection are presented. Objects from Oceania are displayed by geographical location, with sections covering Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia, Australia, and Insulindia (which is a region of Southeast Asia). Finally, the American collection showcases over 900 artifacts in two main exhibitions, one covering the Americas from the 18th century to the present day, and the other focused on Pre- Colonial Americas, and Afro-American cultures.
Chupícuaro sculpture, Mexico, 7th-2nd century BC, terracotta; Guy Joussemet collection of antiquities © musée du Quai Branly, photo Hughes Dubois
Musée du Quai Branly, view of the main exhibition gallery. Photo Jean Pierre Dalbéra
Designed by Jean Nouvel, after winning an international architectural competition in 1999, as a “museum built around a collection”, the Quai Branly is renowned for its original architecture and innovative landscape design, developed by French gardener Gilles Clément, and by botanist Patrick Blanc for the vertical gardens. The architectural complex, slightly recessed from the street, comprises four buildings, connected by walkways and footbridges.
The visit starts from a fascinating path – located behind a large glass wall that separates the museum from the Seine riverside – running across a luxuriant garden.
Musée du Quai Branly, two views of the exhibition building (bâtiment Musée) “floating” over the garden. Photos: Tom Flemming (up), and © Inexhibit.
The “bâtiment Musée“, the building which contains most of the exhibition spaces, spans five levels as a sort of bridge floating over the garden. The main gallery is a fluid space enclosed by curved walls that support multimedia exhibits and description panels. From the main gallery, the visitors enter a sequence of side galleries contained in colored boxes protruding to the outside. The same building also accommodates an auditorium, workshops, a reading room, a special exhibition space, and a restaurant.
The “bâtiment Branly” is the building that borders Quay Branly street in the north-western part of the museum’s site; marked by the famous living facade (Mur Vegétal in French) designed by Patrick Blanc, it contains mostly administration and staff offices.
The “bâtiment Auvent” is sited between the Museum and the Branly building, behind its glass-and-steel facade, it accommodates a media library, a reading room, and a children’s workshop.
Located on the southern part of the site, the “bâtiment Université” is a building clad in glass and stone whose ground floor contains the museum’s book and gift shop, while restoration workshops and offices are located on its upper levels.
Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, bird’s eye view. Image courtesy of the museum.
Musée du Quai Branly, the exhibition building seen from the museum’s garden. Photo Redpolkadot
“Branly” building, detail of the vertical garden designed by Patrick Blanc. Photo © Inexhibit
Program of activities
The program of events and activities of the museum includes temporary exhibitions, lectures, concerts, workshops, special events, and guided tours for children.
The museum’s building also features an auditorium, a library, a restaurant, and a bookshop.
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