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Quai Branly Museum
Jacques Chirac

The Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac is a Parisian museum located on the banks of the Seine,
near the Eiffel Tower and the Trocadéro.
It is dedicated to the art and civilizations of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas, and is considered one of the most important ethnographic museums in the world.

His history...

The idea of creating such a museum dates back to the 1990s, at the instigation of former French President Jacques Chirac, who then wanted the creation of a museum dedicated to the arts and cultures of non-Western countries. The museum was inaugurated in 2006, under the name "Musée du quai Branly", and was renamed in 2016 in honor of Jacques Chirac.

Jacques Chirac was a man of many passions, but one of them particularly distinguished him: primitive arts. How could this powerful man, from a bourgeois Parisian family, have developed such a passion for distant and often unknown cultures?


To understand this obsession, we must go back to Jacques Chirac’s youth. A brilliant student, he was destined for a career in administration and chose to study history at the École Libre des Sciences Politiques. It was there that he discovered ethnology, the science which studies the cultures and customs of people around the world. Passionate about this discipline, he began to travel whenever he could, traveling through Africa and Asia, discovering new horizons, different lifestyles, new colors and flavors.


It was during these travels that Jacques Chirac fell under the spell of primitive arts. In the African or Asian villages that he visited, he was struck by the beauty and diversity of the handicraft objects that were made there: masks, statuettes, ornaments, musical instruments... Each of these objects carried a story. ,of humanism, with a meaning, a symbolism specific to the culture which saw it born. Jacques Chirac then began to collect these works of art, to study them, to understand their secrets and mysteries.


But for him, the passion for primitive arts was not reduced to a simple collection. He saw it as a way to promote cultural diversity, to introduce the general public to the riches and specificities of non-European cultures. For this, he created the Musée du Quai Branly, which today boasts one of the largest collections of primitive arts in the world. Jacques Chirac thus succeeded in combining his passion for the arts with his commitment to promoting cultural diversity.


Jacques Chirac shared this passion for primitive arts with a few close friends, collectors and dealers who shared his sensitivity for these rare and precious objects. But for him, it was above all the fruit of an insatiable curiosity, of a desire for discovery which had carried him throughout his life. Through the primitive arts, Jacques Chirac was able to find a link with other cultures, a way of transcending borders and barriers to better understand humanity in all its diversity. By discovering this museum, we were taken on an absolutely intoxicating journey through civilizations!


Although it is an impressive museum, there is one important point to make: the controversy surrounding the provenance of some of the artifacts on display.

Indeed, the Quai Branly museum has been criticized for its acquisition of objects from colonized countries, often taken without the consent of local populations. Some have accused the museum of cultural looting and called for the objects to be returned to the original communities.


Additionally, there has also been criticism regarding the presentation of the objects at the museum. Some visitors criticized the museum for not providing enough contextual information about the exhibits, which would make it difficult for visitors to understand their cultural and historical significance.

This issue is complex and controversial, as it raises questions of ownership, responsibility and cultural identity. This museum, far from being the only one concerned (the Louvre as well) has worked to answer these questions appropriately, but the question of the restitution of works of art remains a subject of debate in the world of art and of the culture.

It should also be noted that the Musée du Quai Branly has put in place measures to try to address these problems, in particular by working with the original communities to find solutions and by providing more contextual information on the objects on display.

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Current exhibitions

Le Louvre à travers le temps

The architecture of the Quai Branly Museum - Jacques Chirac

The architecture of the museum is the work of French architect Jean Nouvel, who created a modern and daring buildingin the heart of the 7th arrondissement of Paris, integrating elements of nature such as green walls and hanging gardens. The museum covers more than 40,000 square meters and superbly brings together more than 450,000 objects, ranging from sculptures, masks and textiles to musical instruments, weapons and navigation tools.

It is made up of several distinct elements:


    The nave: this is the main element of the museum, a vast gallery 200 meters long and 40 meters wide which highlights the permanent exhibitions. It is covered with a glass roof which lets in natural light and offers a breathtaking view of the Eiffel Tower and the banks of the Seine.


    Exhibition spaces: the Musée du Quai Branly has more than 300,000 objects in its collections, of which around 3,500 are permanently presented. They are distributed in thematic rooms which explore the cultures and traditions of different regions of the world, without excluding theanthropological approach. The exhibition spaces are arranged in floors, with bridges and walkways that connect the different galleries.


    The gardens: the Quai Branly museum is also famous for its gardens, designed by the landscaper Gilles Clément. They occupy an area of 18,000 m² and are made up of four different gardens, each representing a region of the world: Africa, Asia, America and Oceania. The gardens are designed as spaces for contemplation and meditation, offering a green break in the heart of the city.


    Reserves: the Musée du Quai Branly also has a large storage space where objects from the collection which are not exhibited to the public are kept. The reserves are located underground and are equipped with the latest conservation technologies.


The architecture of the Musée du Quai Branly is marked by a contemporary and innovative style, characterized by clean lines, modern materials and harmonious integration into the urban landscape. The building has received numerous awards and distinctions for its architecture and ecological design, which favors natural light, rainwater harvesting and geothermal energy.

The museum's collection is an invitation to travel and discover cultures from around the world. The permanent exhibitions are divided into four main geographical zones: Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. The pieces on display come from a wide variety of countries, ranging from Mali to China, Mexico and New Zealand.


The museum also offers a specialist library, as well as a theater and kindergarten, offering many activities for visitors of all ages and aquality outing with your children.


The Musée du Quai Branly - Jacques Chirac is a meeting place between cultures, a place where visitors can discover the richness and diversity of world cultures. It is a tribute to the beauty of art, the richness of culture and the diversity of the world. It is a place of dialogue and sharing between people, a museum that invites reflection and open-mindedness.


Among these many treasures, certain works are particularly remarkable and deserve to be mentioned:


    The statue of the Hindu goddess Durga Mahishasuramardini, from the 9th century, from India.

    The ivory mask of Queen Mother Idia, from the 16th century, from Benin.

    The Tiki of Rapa Nui, a wooden statue from Easter Island, dating from the 18th century.

    The Easter Island statues, known as Moai, which represent deified ancestors and date from the 14th to 18th centuries.

    The treasure from the tomb of Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of China, including thousands of terracotta figurines, dating from the 3rd century BC.

    The collection of African masks from Ivory Coast, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali.

    Andean textiles and costumes, including colorful wool ponchos, hats and dresses.


These works and many others, presented in the museum's galleries, demonstrate the richness and diversity of world cultures and the importance of their preservation for future generations.

Our favorite Paris Chimeres: African masks

In the galleries of the Musée du Quai Branly, African masks are exhibited like mystical sentinels, guardians of ancestral secrets, silent witnesses to a complex and tumultuous history. These masks, from Ivory Coast, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali, are works of art in their own right, masterpieces of African craftsmanship, created with virtuosity and incredible finesse.


Ivory Coast masks, with their refined shapes and smooth surfaces, demonstrate great technical mastery. They are often decorated with abstract geometric patterns, emphasizing the beauty of pure form and the perfection of symmetry. These masks reflect the serenity and balance of Ivorian culture, a culture marked by music, dance and rhythm.


The masks of Gabon, for their part, are more expressive and dynamic. Their shapes are often angular and stylized, with protruding eyes and mouths evoking power and strength. These masks are ceremonial objects, used to communicate with spirits and invoke the power of nature. They bear witness to the complexity of Gabonese culture, a culture rich in rites and traditions.

A very important piece from the Quai Branly museum is a Fang mask from Gabon. The Fang are an ethnic group present in several countries of Central Africa, and this mask is one of the most famous of their artistic production. It is particularly known for having inspired the painters Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, who used it as a source of inspiration for their artistic movement, Cubism.

The Fang mask is a large piece, approximately 50 centimeters high, carved from wood. It represents a stylized face with geometric features and a toothed mouth. The eyes are almond-shaped and the eyebrows are arched. It is decorated with relief motifs which represent ritual scarifications. The mask is often associated with the ngil ceremony, a Fang tradition in which members of the secret society wear similar masks to perform dances and rituals.

The Fang mask from Gabon is therefore a major work of African art, testifying to the richness and complexity of African cultures and their influence on modern Western art.


Masks from the Democratic Republic of Congo, on the other hand, are often more decorative and elaborate. They are decorated with pearls, shells and feathers, and often represent animal or mythical figures. These masks bear witness to the richness of Congolese culture, a culture that values ornamentation and beauty.


Mali's masks, more sober and minimalist, are often associated with Dogon culture. They are carved from wood, with clean shapes and simple lines. These masks bear witness to the wisdom and spirituality of Malian culture, a culture which places great importance on ancestors and protective spirits.

An interesting anecdote is that the museum was built on a site that has a long history. In Roman times it was an important river port, and in the Middle Ages it was a place of passage for pilgrims on their way to Compostela. Later, the site became the Quai Branly, where ships brought exotic goods from French colonies. Today, it is a meeting place for cultures from all over the world.

This wooden statue of a Malagan ancestor, originally from New Ireland, an island located in the Pacific Ocean, northeast of Papua New Guinea. The Malagan are an ethnic group that lives on this island, and they are known for their sculptures and ceremonial masks which have great cultural and religious significance.

The statue of the Malagan ancestor is carved from fig wood, and it measures approximately 1 meter high. It represents a Malagan ancestor, an important character in the religion and mythology of this ethnic group. The statue is decorated with intricate designs, depicting scenes from everyday life, as well as religious and mythological symbols. The designs are carved into the wood and painted with natural pigments, giving the statue a colorful and vibrant appearance.

The statue of the Malagan ancestor is therefore a remarkable example of Oceanian art, testifying to the richness and complexity of the cultures of this region of the world.


The Hoa Hakananai'a Moai Statue of Easter Island is a monumental basalt sculpture representing a male ancestor. 2.42 meters high, it is characterized by a stylized silhouette, with arms alongside the body and a head tilted forward. The surface of the statue is decorated with engraved symbols, such as tattoos, chevrons and crosses, which demonstrate the complexity of Easter Island culture. This sculpture is considered one of the most beautiful on the island, and testifies to the exceptional artistic tradition of the Rapa Nui.


Hokusai's The Great Wave of Kanagawa Mural is a famous Japanese print that depicts a gigantic wave crashing onto the coast, with Mount Fuji in the background. Created in 1830, this print is considered one of the most iconic works of Japanese art, and has influenced many Western artists. It shows the importance of nature in Japanese art, as well as the fascination with powerful elements of nature, such as waves, which can symbolize the strength and fragility of life. The composition is also remarkable, with skillful use of perspective and contrast between colors, which gives the print a dynamic and impressive appearance.


Some works in light

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Adress of quai Branly museum

37 Quai Jacques Chirac, 75007 Paris

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