Is it possible to forget an entire continent? Maybe that’s why President Jacques Chirac conceived the Le Musee des Arts Premiers project, better known since its June opening as Musee du Quai Branly. Museums devoted to African, Oceanic, Asian or South American art and cultures aren’t anything new to Paris (a huge part of the collection was transferred primarily from two museums, the Musee de l’Homme at the Palais du Chaillot and the National Museum of African and Oceanic arts which used to be located at the main entrance to the Bois de Vincennes. But Chirac wanted to bring non-Western art into Paris’s living room with the Seine for its new framework.
Before the opening of Musee du Quai Branly, I may have been skeptical about the ‘need’ for a ‘new’ museum that would combine collections that already could be seen. That was until I visited a Paris website yesterday (won’t mention which one!)
The post (which was posted before the museum’s actual opening) focused on this new museum as the latest Jean Nouvel’s architectural wonder. Which is true enough. Nouvel deserves to be lauded for his challenge to “create a lieu marked by symbols of the forest, the river and an obsession with death and being forgotten.” So it’s ironic that both Africa and Chirac were apparently forgotten in the description the museum. Throughout the post, France’s former president, Francois Mitterand was mentioned several times. Chirac was not mentioned once.
And – although the number of items in the museum collection were mentioned – somehow Africa got dropped. (In fairness, I think this post must have appeared long before the museum’s opening, but it should be updated!)
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How do you lose a whole continent? If you do decide to visit the Musee du Quai Branly, rest assured. African – Sub-Saharan as well as Magreb art is well represented. You can also view Oceanic art, the Americas and Asia.