Paris Im­pres­sion­ist Mu­seum - still a hit

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

It is one of the great­est and most vis­ited art mu­se­ums in the world, and the only one in an old rail­way sta­tion. Thirty years af­ter the Musee d'Or­say opened its doors for the first time, it has be­come as much a Paris land­mark as its big sis­ter the Lou­vre just across the River Seine. But the very suc­cess of the mu­seum best known for its un­ri­valled col­lec­tion of Im­pres­sion­ist paint­ings is now caus­ing it prob­lems. An av­er­age of 3.5 mil­lion vis­i­tors a year pour through its spec­tac­u­lar vaulted nave, mak­ing it the "most dense mu­seum in the world", ac­cord­ing to its di­rec­tor of col­lec­tions Xavier Rey.

There is sim­ply not enough space, he said. Although the Musee d'Or­say is one of the top 10 most vis­ited gal­leries in the world, it is sev­eral times smaller than its ri­vals. "It will prob­a­bly be dif­fi­cult to wel­come any more vis­i­tors," said Guy Co­geval, who heads the mu­seum and its smaller off­shoot the Orangerie, which houses Claude Monet's wa­ter lily mu­rals. Co­geval, who is step­ping down in March, said the "one of the great­est chal­lenges my suc­ces­sor faces is how to deal with this". That lack of space will be sev­erly tested this week­end when it opens its doors for free to cel­e­brate its 30th birth­day.

Mas­sive do­na­tion

But the real prob­lem isn't so much the pub­lic as find­ing a place to show its stag­ger­ing col­lec­tion of late 19th-cen­tury and early-20th cen­tury mas­ter­pieces which runs from Courbet's no­to­ri­ous "The Ori­gin of the World" to Manet's re­clin­ing nude "Olympia" and Van Gogh's sear­ing self-por­traits. While the mu­seum is packed with some of De­gas, Cezanne, Gau­guin and Toulouse-Lautrec's best work, only around 4,400 pieces can be shown at any one time. That leaves some 164,000 paint­ings and sculp­tures in its stores, which is set to grow even fur­ther with the mas­sive do­na­tion by a Texan cou­ple of their 350-mil­lion euro ($372-mil­lion) art col­lec­tion to the French cap­i­tal.

Busi­ness­man Spencer Hays and his wife Mar­lene last month signed off on the first in­stal­ment of 187 works for the Musee d'Or­say in­clud­ing pieces by De­gas and Modigliani worth around 173 mil­lion eu­ros. Their gift, the big­gest from a for­eign bene­fac­tor to France since World War II, also in­cludes im­por­tant work by Bon­nard, Vuil­lard and Re­don. Some 140 works by Bon­nard and Vuil­lard were also given to the mu­seum in Jan­uary by the French col­lec­tor Jean Pierre Mar­cie-Riviere. Faced with such pres­sure, the mu­seum has bought a neigh­bor­ing 18th-cen­tury man­sion on the banks of the Seine to house its li­brary and re­search cen­tre on the post-Im­pres­sion­ists.

Ar­chi­tec­tural gem

The idea of a fine art mu­seum in a rail­way sta­tion was rev­o­lu­tion­ary when the mu­seum opened in De­cem­ber 1986. Not that the Art Deco ter­mi­nus was your av­er­age trans­port hub. Built like the Eif­fel Tower and the Grand Palais for the Univer­sal Ex­hi­bi­tion in Paris in 1900, it had the same ar­chi­tec­tural ex­u­ber­ance. Hav­ing sur­vived de­mo­li­tion plans in the 1970s, it was con­verted into a mu­seum for mostly French art dat­ing from the revo­lu­tions of 1848 to the out­break of World War I as one of the late French pres­i­dent Fran­cois Mit­ter­rand's "grands pro­jets" to re­new the French cap­i­tal.

A run­away suc­cess from the start, with its ar­chi­tec­tural el­e­gance and head-turn­ing col­lec­tion equally praised, Rey said that "one can no longer imag­ine the mu­seum any­where but in this sta­tion". With an­other show fea­tur­ing Van Gogh to open in March, it's big­gest hit re­mains the ex­hi­bi­tion ques­tion­ing if the Dutch artist was re­ally mad-"Van Gogh-Ar­taud, the Sui­cide of So­ci­ety"-which brought in more than 654,000 peo­ple in 2014.

Some of its big­gest suc­cesses have even sur­prised its cu­ra­tors, with al­most half a mil­lion peo­ple flock­ing to see an ex­hi­bi­tion this year on Rousseau, who was de­rided as a "Sun­day painter" by his con­tem­po­raries. A 2013 show on the male nude in art, "Mas­culin, Mas­culin", which Co­geval cu­rated, was "to my great sur­prise a very big pop­u­lar suc­cess with 430,000 vis­i­tors," he said. The sur­prises don't end there. The so­called aca­demic painters from the mid-19th cen­tury, who had long fallen out of fash­ion like Wil­liam Bouguereau and Charles Gleyre, are now hav­ing an un­ex­pected resur­gence in pop­u­lar­ity, said Rey.—

PARIS: Photo shows the Or­say mu­seum and the Eif­fel tower in Paris. One of the most densely pop­u­lated mu­se­ums in the world, lo­cated in an old sta­tion and ded­i­cated to a short and tur­bu­lent artis­tic pe­riod: Or­say cel­e­brates its 30th an­niver­sary this week­end. — AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.