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Museum Envy: Musee du Luxembourg, Stand Proud!

Green with envy?
Last week for Arcimboldo – closes January 13th, 2008- Hurry! Don’t Miss it!
Parislogue readers know that I’ve highly praised some of the recent shows at the Musee du Luxembourg – most recently the Arcimboldo exhibit, featuring the whimsical portraits of 16th century Hapsbourg court artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo.
The Musee du Luxembourg has no permanent collection. These are temporary shows, extravaganzas normally focused on one artist – recently Titian and Lalique. This blossoming into an ‘attraction’ might come as a surprise to a museum that for some people represents the epitome of government-stamped conventionalism. (Its 19th-century state-purchased art was transferred to the Musee d’Orsay and featured the darlings of the day such as Bouguereau). Apparently, in spite of the number of people lining up for show openings (many of them, Parisians), the museum has received some flak from the ‘experts’. Here is the museum description posted on Paris Notes:
“of its treasures, the space has now become a gallery for lavishly organized, but poorly conceived temporary blockbuster exhibitions organized by the Senate and the Ministry of Culture. Dramatic lighting, flashy accoutrements and some spectacular loans (thanks, in all likelihood, to the diplomatic heft exerted by the Culture Ministry) attempt to make up for confused installations and lack of curatorial rigor. Recent shows have included (mis)treatments of Titian, Botticelli and Raphael. Despite the cheap theatrics, shows at the Luxembourg are thronged with eager visitors, who wait hours in lines snaking around the building.” See Paris Notes: for the complete museum description.)
I was quite surprised by this remark because both the Arcimboldo show and the Titian show, as well as the Modigliani show I attended several years earlier were stupendous(in my opinion). What I like about the Musee du Luxembourg is the intimacy of the show. And yes, you do have to crawl over and under people to see everything – It has a spontaneous feel – almost as if a friend has called you up to say, come over and take a look – quickly before it’s all gone. In a larger museum such as the Louvre, there’s always the risk of getting sidetracked. And there’s the excitement of being part of a group who have all come for the same reason – to see and revel in the works of one great artist. You don’t necessarily have to go to the Luxembourg Museum to see temporary exhibits. The recently renovated Grand Palais is also a temporary exhibit museum. I sensed the same sort of enthusiasm at the last Courbet exhibit at the Grand Palais Museum.
The difference between going to the Grand Palais, the Louvre, or the Musee d’Orsay and the Musee du Luxembourg as a question of spontaneity. For example, when I saw the Modigliani show, a friend and I were walking back (a long walk) from the Right Bank at dusk. In fact, I thinking we had been walking all day. We decided on the spur of the moment to see the temporary showing. At dusk there was practically no line so we just bought a ticket at walked in. I’ve seen many temporary exhibits at Paris’s museums, but this is one that will stay in my memories for a long time. Perhaps from a museum curator’s point of view, the way of exhibiting these paintings could have been better – but the fact remains that someone had the idea of pulling all the paintings together in one setting and making it easily accessible to the pedestrian (and that’s using pedestrian in the literal and subjective context). And is that such a bad thing? (The responsibilities of being a good museum curator is the topic for a future post).
The Musee du Luxembourg isn’t trying to be the Louvre. Yet I wonder if there’s some Right Bank envy for anything that succeeds on the Left Bank. The opening of the Musee du Quai Branly, for example, was a painful sight for the Right Bank’s Musee de l’Homme curator. Many of the artifacts now located in the Quai Branly Museum had been requisitioned from his museum to complement the sun and substance of the Oceanic Museum ‘s collection. (The Oceanic Museum had languoured for many years at the entrance to the Bois de Versailles. Between the Musee du Quai Branly, Musee d’Orsay and the Luxembourg Museum, the Left Bank is finally getting an opportunity to sponsor its ‘blockbuster’ shows. Go to the Musee du Luxembourg and judge for yourself. it can be cramped and claustrophic compared to the Right Bank’s grandeur. – but everyone comes out smiling. While you’re there be sure to stop for a bite at the Museum cafe which is open only during the temporary shows. We stopped in on a Sunday for lunch during the Arcimboldo show.
Musee du Luxembourg
19 rue de Vaugirard
75006 Paris
Tel : 01 42 34 25 95
Metro :
Line 4 : Saint Sulpice and Odéon stations
Line 12 : Rennes station
RER B : Luxembourg station, “Jardin du Luxembourg” exit
Bus :lines 58, 84, 89, “Musée du Luxembourg” or “Sénat” stops
Velib’ :26 rue Guynemer ; 74 rue de Vaugirard ; 34 rue Condé
Parking garages :
Place Saint-Sulpice and Marché Saint-Germain
Bus/coach parking :rue Auguste Comte
For persons with reduced mobility
Reserved parking for persons with reduced mobility is located across from the Museum at 21 rue Guynemer
Monday, Friday, Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 7 p.m.
• Open everyday at 9 a.m. during school vacations