Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Museums for a Museum Addict- A guide to Paris

The Louvre at night time
I love a good museum. My mother raised me taking me to great museums and really cheesy ones. I have appreciation for the super quirky and weird and the beautiful and well organized. The only thing I hate in a museum is badly planned, poorly designed and misinformed. The Hong Kong Museum Art despite being in a beautifully designed building is a perfect example of a badly misinformed museum. I have seen not one but two paintings hanging upside down in my visits there. I informed the curators that they were upside down. The staff now knows me and asks my opinions on the exhibits when I visit. If I am well informed in any subject other than theatre: it is art. (And everyone knows, pop culture.)

On my trip to Paris I went to many museums. Sometimes up to 3 a day. One because it's super cold in Paris at christmas and nothing warms the soul like a friendly Degas ballerina or a warm Monet. Also, because Paris is a renowned Art hub with some of the best known museums in the world. How can you go to Paris and not go to the museums?

Here's a breakdown of the best, the worst (although the worst is even better than the best of HK) and the quirky.

Musee Orsay
A museum for the impressionist and post impressionist periods of France, this museum only hosts paintings and sculptures from French artists. Here you can find some of the most famous works from Degas, Van Gogh, Monet, Manet and Pisarro. Here you can also see special exhibits dedicated to Paris. The special exhibit there I saw was a history of Opera Design in Paris from the Impressionist and Art Noveau periods. They had original scenic design models of some beautiful National Opera Productions and had a large display of toy paper theatres. Paper Theatres were a common toy of children. They were to scale, opera and theatre buildings with scenery and actors with costumes that could be switched out similar to paper dolls. Everything was one an actual working wing and groove system. In the museum they have a life size wing and groove system that can move and you can operate by hand. As a designer I found this exhibit fascinating! I spent a long time talking to the museum guide at this station because he knew a lot about French Opera design and as a theatre artist, I enjoy speaking about art. Museum workers are not only there to protect the art from nasty flashbulbs they are also there to answer questions, so speak up!
At the Orsay are Van Gogh's two last paintings and his one eared self portrait. On the top floor you'll see Monet's water lilly series and the bottom floor holds the Degas ballerina series next to the Manet. I prefer Degas to Monet but I think that's just a personal preference. The statue garden is also very nice at the Orsay but you cannot take ANY photos at the Orsay, flash or not, so please keep the cameras away and just enjoy the art!
The Orsay with Paris in the background

Musee Rodin
Down the street from the Orsay is the Musee Rodin dedicated to the work and life of August Rodin. I wanted to go to this museum because Rodin is my favorite sculpture and my favorite work of his lives at this museum. However, due to the ice and snow on this day the gardens were closed and I was forced to stand about 100 feet away from it and take a photo of it. I really wanted to say the hell with it and go touch it. Even with the closed gates you can see almost all of Rodin's sketches, and his most famous works such as The Kiss. His work is even more impressive in real life and the fact that the museum is held in his old house makes the museum seem much more intimate.
Musee Rodin

Musee de Decoratif and la Mode.
Another Museum that allows no photos inside what so ever but completely worth it! Across from the Louvre and slightly the left this is A MUST SEE for all girls and fashionista boys. La Mode means fashion and this museum holds the fashion museum, the advertising museum, and the design museum for France. The Fashion museum is truly impressive with beautiful clothes from over 20 couture designers and a history of french fashion including the corset, the bustle and the powdered wigs made famous by Marie Antoinette. There is a hall of "bijoux" which is a hall of jewelry and diamonds from all over the world. I have never seen so many pretty things in one place before!
The special exhibit was on the history of the tennis shoe from athletic necessity in the early 1900's to the hip hop fashion staple it is now. Very interesting.
The children's toy section is amazing and really shows you the beauty and quirkiness of children's toy design in france.
The design museum which is dedicated to the furniture and accessories of the home was really not as good as the one in Belgium but had some very good pieces in it. They had one section dedicated to animal features in design. I fell in love with a desk in the shape of rhino!

Musee de Erotique
In the heart of Montmarte, down the street from the Moulin Rouge is the Musee Erotique. This museum is well... weird. And expensive. And 9E to get in at an adult price, I lied and said I was 22 and paid 6E. It seems like some creepy guys collection of random crap rather than a museum. There was a whole floor of just porn magazines. Why? Because this freak had been holding onto them for 20 years I think and wanted to charge someone 6E to see them. The history floor on the red light district of Paris and the history of prostitution in France was really well designed and thought out but not worth 6E. Beautiful antique photos in that section. And there was this art piece on one floor where you could take a polaroid camera and take a photo of your crotch, write down your country of origin on the photo and pin it on the wall with the other crotches from your nationality. I guess it's an artistic study of grooming habits based on national origin. But I think it's a little creepy to take a photo of your crotch in a museum for everyone to see. I would not recommend this museum. If you're going to do a sex museum the one in New York is much better and I was told the one in Amsterdam is better also as they are more of an art museum rather than a garage sale arranged into a museum.
Random Freaky "Art" at the Musee Erotique in Montmarte

Pompidou Centre
Paris' modern art Mecca, the Pompidou is walking distance from the Musee Picasso and Notre Dame. You can also see the Bastille from there. (Or what's left of it...) With your museum pass you can only see the permanent collection which is on the 3rd, 4th and 5th floors. Really, it's enough. If I had done the Modrian exhibit on the 7th and 6th floors I think my eyes would have gone out of my head. If I see one more Picasso I think I might puke. There were a gazillion of them here at the pompidou. So some get your fix here!
The Pompidou not only breaks the art down by Era and style it also has special exhibits. The special exhbits on my visit were op art and women's art. So, I saw a lot of vaginas and a lot of weird squiggly lines that changed colors as I moved. I think that's why I had a headache when I left the Pompidou. Vagina overload!
The futurist and Found Object art sections are really well designed and have a nice collection. You also can get a beautiful shot of the Paris skyline from the Pompidou!
The Pompidou Centre
Paris, from the top floor of the Pompidou
These are the highlights of the Paris Museum experience, with the exception of the Louvre which I feel is a must see experience. I talked about her earlier and so I don't feel the need to talk about her again. Yes, I feel the Louvre is female like a boat or a car. Are there any museums in Paris you loved and I did not talk about? I went to others but these were my highlights! I would love to hear about yours!

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