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france 24 Culture

Paris anthropology museum renamed to honour former president Chirac

© Francois Mori, AFP | Archival picture shows then French president Jacques Chirac during the inauguration of the Branly Museum on June 20, 2006.

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-06-20

The Quai Branly anthropology museum in Paris is celebrating its 10-year anniversary with an exhibition focused on former French president Jacques Chirac, and with a name change to honour the man who pushed for its creation.

Officially renamed the Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac Museum, the building is home to one of the world’s largest collections of indigenous art from Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Americas.

From June 21 to October 9, 2016, the museum is also hosting a temporary exhibit on the former French president’s passion for foreign and ancient cultures – and for Japanese culture in particular.

Curated by former culture minister Jean-Jacques Aillagon, the exhibition titled “Jacques Chirac or The Dialogue between Cultures”, has assembled more than 200 objects (paintings, photographs, documents, sculptures) that provide insight into Chirac’s political career and personal interests.

The former head of state would not attend the exhibition’s opening on Monday evening, his daughter Claude Chirac told France 2 television over the weekend, but she insisted the ageing politician would pay a visit in the future.

“There are few exhibitions at the (Quai) Branly that Chirac has missed,” museum president Stéphane Martin told reporters on Sunday. “...I think he’ll like to see this one too.”

Born into controversy

The museum opened its doors to the public in 2006, but not without its share of controversy.

From his first days in the Elysée presidential palace in 1995, Chirac began plans for a huge museum that would be dedicated to non-European arts and culture.

The building designed by French architect Jean Nouvel was hit by construction delays and cost overruns, but the real drama came from elsewhere.

To fill its huge and winding permanent exhibit halls, the Quai Branly massively requisitioned works from existing public institutions. In 1998, around 300,000 objects were taken from Musée de l'Homme (Museum of Mankind), while another 25,000 were seized from the Musée national des Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie (National Museum of Arts of Africa and Oceania).

The move weighed heavily on researchers from those centres, who denounced the “brutality of the operation”. Petitions and strikes ensued. The French ethnologist Bernard Dupaigne even published a book, “The Scandal of Indigenous Arts”, to decry the situation.

Throughout the past decade, the controversy has nevertheless given way to acceptance, and even popular success.

The most optimistic estimates at the time of its opening suggested the museum would welcome around 800,000 visitors each year. However, in 2015 more than of 1.3 million people walked through the Quai Branly's doors.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2016-06-20

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