On Friday during my second week of placement I travelled to Paris for the weekend. I chose to go to Paris because I had a friend there who I could meet up with, and I wanted to see a number of the museums and galleries there. I had such a wonderful time exploring the city, seeing the famous tourist sites, getting lost amongst the winding streets and eating delicious food!
On Friday afternoon I had arranged to meet Pierre-Yves Gagnier, who is the Assistant Director of Collections at the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle à Paris (The Paris Natural History Museum). I had met Pierre-Yves a few years ago at the ICOM-CC Conference in Melbourne, and I emailed him to enquire if he was available to show me around the collections. It was so incredible to be able to see the store areas and preparation labs. I am very thankful to Pierre-Yves for taking the time to show me around and for sharing his knowledge and expertise about collection management and conservation issues that affect large natural history collections.
The Muséum national d’histoire naturelle à Paris is located within the Jardin des Plantes. It is a beautifully manicured garden, that is surrounded by historic buildings. Each of the buildings contains a different natural history collection. There is a museum for geology, an herbarium and botanic gallery, a zoo, palaeontology and comparative anatomy and the gallery of evolution. As I only had limited time, I had to choose which of these collections I most wanted to see. I spent the afternoon wandering through the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution (Grand Gallery of Evolution), which displays more than 7000 preserved animal specimens in a brilliantly renovated display within the historic building. I also visited the Galerie de paléontologie et d’anatomie comparee (Gallery of Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy), which displays nearly 1000 skeletons of animals in a way that makes it easy to compare the similarities and differences between the species. Upstairs of the museum is an incredible display of fossil vertebrates and invertebrates. I feel so fortunate to have been able to visit these museums in person, as once again I had only ever seen pictures and read about their collections.
In the evening I met with a friend of mine from Melbourne (she is originally from Paris and has just moved back) and we went out to a restaurant in the 9th Arrondissement, l’Atalier Rodier. The food was incredible!
On the Saturday I visited the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée de l’Orangerie and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Whilst the museums were all very busy and some very crowded, as you can see in my images, that did not spoil my visits. I enjoy watching how other people engage with and interact with the artwork, so it was equally as fun to ‘people watch’ as to visit the galleries.
I loved the Musée d’Orsay, which is housed within an old railway station. It makes for an incredible setting to view the amazing collection of paintings, sculptures and objects. For me, the highlights of the collection were the displays of Art Nouveau furniture and objects and the collections of modern stylized animal sculptures by François Pompon. I have a replica of his famous Polar Bear sculpture at home, so it was truly wondrous to see the original object so much larger!
The highlight of my visit to the Musée de l’Orangerie was the two oval shaped galleries that contain Clade Monet’s paintings, the Water Lilies. The paintings are installed according to a plan outlined by the artist himself.
You can virtually visit the gallery too through this link on Google Maps:
I really enjoyed the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. I went to see two temporary exhibitions there. One of sculptural spatial installations by Carl Andre and the other a retrospective of paintings by Bernard Buffet. I was not able to take photos in the gallery space, but the links to the exhibitions are here:
In the evening I wandered along the banks of the Seine River and took in some of the famous tourist sites of Paris.
On Sunday I took to metro up to Montmartre and wandered through the small streets. I visited the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur and enjoyed the view over Paris. I then visited the Pompidou Centre, where I saw three incredible exhibitions. There was a retrospective of paintings, sculptures and drawings by Cy Twombly; an exhibition of contemporary Art in the USSR from 1950-2000, called Kollektsia!; and an exhibition of contemporary from the Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner Collection. I loved walking through the permanent collections of the Pompidou Centre and seeing so many famous works of art. The building is also a work of art in itself – a true icon of 20th Century architecture.
I flew back to Birmingham on Sunday evening – once again excited about another week of working with the collections at the University of Birmingham.