Quai Branly Museum, Bajana
About Quai Branly Museum
Following the tradition of French presidents building museums as monuments to their time in office, as exemplified by Presidents Georges Pompidou (Centre Georges Pompidou); Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (Musée d'Orsay) and François Mitterrand (Grand Louvre), the project for a new museum celebrating the arts of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania was brought to completion by President Jacques Chirac. Still the first half of the 20th century, a number of French intellectuals and scientists, including André Malraux, André Breton, and Claude Lévi-Strauss, had called for a single and important museum in Paris dedicated to the arts and cultures of the indigenous people of the colonized territories, which was considered primitive peoples without own culture to the science of that time and the non-European art was considered exotic art, drawing upon the large collections gathered by French explorers, missionaries, scientists and ethnologists. A proposal for such a museum had been made by the ethnologist and art collector Jacques Kerchache in a 1990 manifesto in the newspaper Libération, called "The masterpieces of the entire world are born free and equal." The manifesto was signed by three hundred artists, writers, philosophers, anthropologists and art historians. Kerchache brought the idea to the attention of Jacques Chirac, then Mayor of Paris, and became his advisor. Chirac was elected president of France in 1995, and in the following year announced the creation of a new museum combining the collections of two different museums: the 25,000 objects of the Musée national des Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie (The MAAO or National Museum of the Arts of Africa and Oceania), which had originally been created for the Colonial Exposition of 1931, and then remade in 1961 by André Malraux, the Minister of Culture under President Charles DeGaulle, into a museum dedicated to the cultures of the overseas possessions of France. the collections of the laboratory of ethnology of Musée de l'Homme ("Museum of Man"), which was created for the Paris Exposition of 1937 and contained 250,000 objects.The two museums and collections were very different in their purposes and approaches; the MAAO was first and foremost an art collection, run by art historians and conservators, while the Museum of Man was run by ethnologists and anthropologists, and was most interested in the social-cultural context and uses of the objects. As a result of this division, the new museum was put under two different ministries; the Ministry of Education, which oversaw the ethnological teaching and research; and the Ministry of Culture and Communication, which oversaw the art.In addition to these existing collections, gathered by French explorers and ethnologists from around the world, the directors of the new museum acquired ten thousand objects.The first venture of the new museum was the opening of a new gallery within the Louvre Museum, in the Pavillon des Sessions, dedicated to what were called the arts premiers, the "first arts". The new section met immediate resistance; traditionalists felt that this kind of art did not belong in the Louvre, while many ethnologists felt that it risked splitting the collections into two parts, with the best objects going to the Louvre. The issue was resolved by a decree by President Chirac and the government of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin on 29 July 1998, to construct an entirely new museum at 29-55 quai Branly on the banks of the Seine not far from the Eiffel Tower in the 7th arrondissement of Paris. In December 1998, the museum was officially established, and Stéphane Martin was named its president.The site selected for the new museum, covering an area of 25,000 square meters, was occupied by a collection of buildings belonging to the Ministry of Reconstruction and Urbanism. President François Mitterrand had originally intended it for one of his grand projects, an international conference center, but that project had been abandoned because of intense opposition from the residents of the neighborhood. At the beginning of 1999 a jury was formed and an international competition was held to select an architect. The competition was won by French architect Jean Nouvel, whose other major works included the Institute of the Arab World (1970), and Fondation Cartier (1991-94) in Paris, the renovation of the Lyon Opera (1986–93), the Palais de Justice in Nantes, and the Parc Poble Nou in Barcelona (2001). In his design for the new museum, Nouvel took into account the criticisms of the neighbors who had blocked the Mitterrand project. The new museum was designed to be as out of sight as possible; the main building is designed to appear lower than the buildings around it, and is largely screened from view by its gardens. The shape of the main building follows the curve of the Seine, and the three administrative buildings are constructed to harmonize with the Haussmann-period buildings next to them.In an attempt to create "an original venue that would do justice to the infinite diversity of cultures", the museum is designed in a way that that is supposed to feel open and inclusive. Nouvel designed the interior of the museum in such a way as to liberate artifacts from their Western architectural references by not including barriers and railings in the gallery spaces. There are no physical or spatial barriers separating the four main geographical areas, so visitors can go on a simulated "journey" by traveling from one continent to the other. Labels are almost hidden, and plaques with historical context are brief and generalized, in a way that seems to emphasize the aesthetic qualities of the displays rather than their cultural history.Construction of the new museum began at the beginning of 2001, and was completed in 2005. The Musée du quai Branly was inaugurated on 20 June 2006 and opened to the public on 23 June.