Located on the left bank of the Seine, near the Eiffel Tower is the Musée du quai Branly, translated to English as Quai Branly Museum. Following a French tradition of Presidents dedicating museums as monuments to their time in office, the Musée du quai Branly was opened in 2006 by President Jacques Chirac.
The Quai Branly Museum is dedicated to exhibitions, research and educational programs dealing with indigenous arts from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. The French Ministry of Culture and Communication and the Ministry of Higher Education and Research jointly administer the newest of the Paris museums that attracts over 1 million visitors per year.
The 320,000 square feet of the museum complex includes 4 buildings, gardens and one of the largest roof terraces in Paris that includes a mediatheque. Under the administration of President Francois Mitterrand, the prime real estate that is now occupied by the museum was originally earmarked for a project of the Ministry of Reconstruction and Urbanism. After intense opposition the project was abandoned, and the site was selected for the Musée du quai Branly.
Considering the environmental and ascetic opposition to the Mitterrand plan, the winning architect for Musée du quai Branly, Jean Nouvel designed the museum to be as out of sight as possible with massive integrated gardens and trees that would eventually grow tall enough to hide support columns.
The main building with the roof top terrace also includes the galleries. Its construction resembles a bridge hovering 10 meters above the gardens. It is supported by two large east-west concrete silos and 26 steel columns. Counting on the growth of the trees to complete the look, the building appears to be suspended in air by the tree tops.
The Branly building contains the administrative offices with a unique green wall facing the Seine. The green wall is comprised of living, growing vegetation from throughout the continents. The Auvent Building houses work spaces as well as the Jacques Kerchache Lecture Hall. It also contains the archives of over 700,000 photographs and sound recordings. The fourth building of the Quai Branly Museum is the rue de l'Université which houses workshops and the museum library. The key highlight of this space is the ceilings and façade. Eight contemporary Australian aborigines, 4 men and 4 women were commissioned to decorate the façade and ceilings with original art.
The museum inherited the collections of the now closed Musée national des Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie as well as absorbing the ethnographic department of the Musée de l'Homme. Its massive collection includes over 300,000 works, 700,000 photos, in excess of a quarter million documents, 10,000 instruments along with over 25,000 pieces of historic textiles including clothing.
The museum is only able to exhibit a small portion of their immense collection at any given time in both permanent and temporary exhibits. The Musée du quai Branly also maintains a small exhibition space at the Pavillon des Sessions of the Louvre Museum.
Along with special exhibits, presentations, lecture series, and research facilities, the Quai Branly Museum features an African Collection, Asian Collection, Americas Collection, and an Oceania Collection. Educators, researchers and curators are always on the premises pursuing study.
The intricate gardens of the museum are a living example of landscaping design featuring a French Formal Garden. It is protected from street sounds by a high double wall of plate glass. The winding paths of the design add to a relaxing visit to this collection of over 150 trees and 72,000 plants.
Visitors are welcomed to the Quai Branly Museum and gardens Tuesday through Sunday beginning at 11:00 AM. It is closed most Mondays except during certain school breaks. The galleries are set up in a series of ramps which begins with a moving stream entailed “The River” a unique entranceway to the history of the indigenous peoples, arts and cultures that are explored throughout the Musée du quai Branly. Guided or self-tours are available daily, a calendar of special events, presentations and exhibits is always available.
Whether spending the day at the Musée du quai Branly or just about the Eiffel Tower, Café Jaques is in the museum gardens. Entrance to this French Café set inside the museum garden is open to all, it can be accessed from the museum or from the street. Café Jaques features seating for 80 with a full-service menu from serving breakfast and dinner every day, it also features a lunch menu on Mondays. Café Jaques offers a changing menu with accent on freshly cooked home-made cuisine presented with a French Café flair.
Story by Daniel Dachille
Voice Over by Jim Reynolds