As arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Paris is not short on iconic monuments. Topping the list, of course, is the Eiffel Tower, closely followed by the Arc de Triomphe. However, in recent years, a relatively new building, the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, just a stone’s throw from the Eiffel Tower itself, has become a strong contender for inclusion in Paris’s list of top Instagrammable buildings. It also happens to be one of the city’s most fascinating new museums and the fourth most-visited in France, with between 1.3 and 1.5 million visitors a year.

The Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, is dedicated to the Art and Civilisations of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. The idea behind the museum, which opened in 2006, was to take a fresh, stimulating and modern look at these cultures, celebrating their diversity and originality.

The other key concept behind the museum was to establish a ‘dialogue between cultures’, creating openness between different countries from all parts of the world.

Within the permanent collection you’ll find some 343,000 artworks including photographs, statues, textiles, costumes, head-dresses and masks from the civilisations of the different regions. These span thousands of years from the Neolithic era and ancient antiquity through the 16th and 17th centuries to the master explorers and ethnographers of the 20th century.


Photo: Tim Franco

Many of the works are considered to be masterpieces of their respective cultures and there is also a collection of some 10,000 musical instruments, as well as over 700,000 photographs in the museum’s research centre.

The collections are exhibited in a highly contemporary, non-linear manner so as to juxtapose works from different eras and cultures in a thought-provoking and stimulating fashion. There are also guided visits, storytelling tours, workshops and audio guides which help give visitors an additional insight into the exhibits.

Widely renowned as both a cultural centre and a major resource for international research, the Museum is also family-friendly with a wide programme of activities for children of all ages from three upwards, including storytelling, interactive workshops and workbooks.

But the museum is not just about its permanent collections. Major temporary exhibitions are held each year on subjects of all eras, often demonstrating the influence of the works of earlier civilisations on contemporary pieces. More than a hundred exhibitions have been held over the last ten years and the museum is also home to both its own theatre and cinema with a lively programme of concerts, performances and film screenings, as well as talks by artists, scientists and leading cultural personalities.

Eye-catching architecture amidst an urban oasis

The building itself is as much of a draw to visitors as its contents. Spread over four parallel but separate buildings, the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac was designed by internationally renowned French architect Jean Nouvel.

The principal Museum building, which houses the main permanent collection, stands out amidst Paris’ historic buildings with an eye-catching, living-wall style façade on one side covered in huge swathes of foliage. The wall was created by botanist Patrick Blanc and includes 15,000 plants of 150 species.

All four buildings sit on stilts above an expansive garden designed by landscape architect Gilles Clément, and the rear façade is no less striking, featuring large, brightly-coloured rectangles of red, brown and yellow.

With nearly 170 trees and various plant species, the garden has become not only a cultural landmark but an urban oasis for the millions of visitors who enjoy the space every year.

The Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac has become one of Paris’ top attractions. Visitors come to spend the day at the museum, not only exploring its collections and exhibitions, but also enjoying concerts and performances in the lush urban oasis of the gardens.

Unlike many of the great world museums of previous centuries, the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac was purpose built for the 21st century, giving visitors a memorable, stimulating and vibrant experience of different world cultures and civilisations.

Musee du quai Branly. Le plateau des collections. Zone Océanie. Avril 2015.

Photo: Patrick Tourneboeuf

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