Museums of Paris
Paris features the best selection of museums and galleries in France, with over a hundred in the city itself and the same number again in the surrounding area. But it’s the quality and the diversity that counts, not the quantity. Here’s we run-down of the city’s must-see museums …
The nine million visitors who flock to the Louvre every year make it the world’s busiest museum, and, with over 210 000 m² of gallery space, it’s also the largest.
The Louvre is housed in a former royal palace in the first arrondissement, situated between the right bank of the Seine and the rue de Rivoli. For over twelve centuries, it’s enjoyed a reputation for preserving historic artworks.
Its broad-based collection covers a large sweep of history, reaching from ancient times to 1848 in eight thematic departments: Egyptian Antiquities, Near Eastern Antiquities, Roman Antiquities, Islamic Art, Sculpture, Decorative Arts and Paintings, Prints and Drawings. Over 35 000 items are on show at any one time.
The Louvre’s varied collection includes sculptures, paintings, drawings, ceramics, archaeological finds and more, and features some of the world’s most famous pieces, such as the Code of Hammurabi, the Venus de Milo and—of course—da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
The national artistic and cultural centre named after Georges Pompidou is a unique cultural institution in the third arrondissement’s Beaubourg neighbourhood, situated between the Halles and the Marais.
A personal project of former French president Georges Pompidou, the museum was designed to be a new kind of cultural space, entirely devoted to modern and contemporary art, with the visual arts, design, literature, cinema and music all side by side.
First opened in 1977, the Pompidou Centre now attracts over seven million visitors a year, making it the third most popular attraction in France, after the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.
After the Museum of Modern Art in New York, it boasts the second largest collection of modern and contemporary art in the world and regularly organises important temporary exhibitions. The complex also includes a cinema and the largest open-access library in Europe.
The Musée Grévin threw open its doors to the public on 5 June 1982 and was an immediate success. Visitors to the city’s ninth arrondissement can call in to see waxworks of important figures, and they’ll also get a chance to visit the Grévin Theatre and an optical illusion show in the Hall of Mirrors. The Dome Room and Column room both feature incredible baroque details dating back to 1882.
The collection features no less than 300 famous figures, ranging from French president Nicolas Sarkozy to Mahatma Gandhi, with room for cultural figures like Michael Jackson and Alfred Hitchcock. Several scenes from history have been recreated, including man’s first visit to the moon, the fall of the Berlin wall or the execution of Joan of Arc.
New figures are regularly added to the display. Barack Obama arrive in June 2009, and French designer Philippe Starck joined him the following year.
The Musée d’Orsay is on the left bank of the Seine in the seventh arrondissement, and occupies a former station first opened in 1898. It features paintings and sculpture from the period 1848—1914, and also covers decorative arts, photography and architecture from the same period.
The permanent collection includes masterpieces like Manet’s Olympia, Dégas’ Little Dancer of Fourteen Years or Courbet’s The Painter’s Studio.
Temporary exhibitions examine the work by a particular artist or from a specific movement or period, while an auditorium plays host to concerts, conferences and performances designed for younger visitors.
Musée du Quai Branly
The Musée du Quai Branly opened its doors on 20 June 2006, the result of an ambitious move by former president Jacques Chiarc and architect Jean Nouvel. The complex includes five buildings covering a total surface of 40 600 m².
Since opening, the museum has brought together objects from the ethnology collections of the former National Museum of Art from Africa and Oceania and the Museum of Mankind. Around 3 500 objects are displayed in the permanent collection, a large, open space with ‘zones’ featuring objects from four continents: Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas.
Alongside the permanent collection, the museum organises ten temporary exhibitions per year on more specific themes. These are displayed either in the main gallery or in the Garden gallery.
The Picasso Museum on the rue Thorigny in the heart of the Marais is dedicated to the artist’s life and work. It was opened in 1985 in a former private residence built between 1656 and 1659 by Jean Boullier de Boruges.
It features the world’s largest collection of Picassos and has works from every stage in the artist’s career. It currently contains 251 paintings, 160 sculptures, 16 collages, 29 decoupages, 107 ceramic works, 1 500 drawings and 58 sketchbooks, alongside all of Picasso’s engravings.