Sunday, 12 September 2010

Musée du Quai Branly

Last Sunday was free museum day and my friends and I decided that it was a good opportunity to visit the Musée du Quai Branly, which is just along the Left Bank going up the river from the Eiffel Tower. We got a little bit distracted on the way by the fact that, despite the interdiction signs all around it, the Trocadero fountains were full of people paddling and even swimming and we took the opportunity to dip our feet in before continuing over the river to the museum.

The building is easily recognisable because its walls have plants growing out of them all the way up. You go in the entrance and walk along a winding path through the garden to the door of the building itself. In fact, winding is a good way to describe most of the building. The exhibits are on the first floor and you go up a meandering walkway on which words from many different languages are projected to make the shapes of a flowing river on the floor. The actual surface of the exhibition area is not all that big but they fit a lot of stuff in without making it feel crowded through innovative use of the space.

The objects themselves come from all the continents of the world apart from Antarctica and Europe and are the kind of thing you would expect to see in a museum of ethnography or anthropology - artefacts like tribal masks, totem poles and articles of clothing. They are presented, however, very much as works of art, with the explanations kept to a minimum. I really liked this, because I hate going to museums where you spend all your time reading the information and none of it actually looking at the exhibits.

My favourite section was definitely Oceania because the artwork was sort of primitive looking but very expressive at the same time. I wished I had lump of clay or some wood to carve so that I could make something similar myself. There is a special exhibition on at the moment about the River Congo but we didn't go to that, partly because the queue was enormous and partly because we felt we'd already seen enough. That's the great thing about free Sunday - you haven't paid a fortune to get in so you can look at exactly what you want and leave without feeling guilty!

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