Musée du Quai Branly, Paris - the must go to museum for tribal art lovers

We were so excited about our visit to the Quai Branly Museum and we were full of anticipation regarding their Indigenous art collections capturing arts and cultures all across various civilisations from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas.


The museum designed by Jean Novel, world famous architect, is situated at the riverbank of Seine, in the shadow of the Eifel Tower, which was visible in the background from most of the museum’s garden and resting area. We admired the architect-designed green wall occupying part of the building façade, which due to our summer visit, was in perfect condition, green and healthy (unlike in winter when it is subject to frost damage).


The story of the museum starts with former French president Jacques Chirac, who happened to be a passionate fan of non-European cultures. In 1990 he met up with Jacques Kerchache on a beach in the Indian Ocean. Kerchache was famous for his aspiration to place African art to the Lourvre (and succeeded by the way as ten years later ‘the unthinkable happened’ and ‘pagan fetishes have taken up residence under the same roof as the Mona Lisa’). Their fantasy about a museum dedicated entirely to tribal art got conceptualized in 2006, resulting in this 300 million dollar cultural complex for the joy of many. Back then, there was no shortage of controversies and issues arose regarding the display of artefacts from colonization era (and the sensitivity thereof), repatriation, balance of aesthetic appreciation and ethnographic savvies. I am however of the view that France was lucky to have a president, whose ambitions and priorities included (non-European) art and cultural preservation.


We did enjoy the museum and its exhibitions, and found that the items selected well represented the aesthetic qualities of tribal art, whilst the accompanying information displayed at each item was sufficiently informative, although the English translation was somewhat lagging back and was not as detailed as the French texts. One full day was certainly not enough to explore all the sections, so plan ahead and enjoy.


Date: August 2013

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