Musée du quai Branly

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Musée du quai Branly
Mayan Container from Guatemala, AD 600-800, Musée du quai Branly

The Musée du quai Branly (French pronunciation: ​[myze dy ke bʁanli]) (MQB), known in English as the Quai Branly Museum, is a museum in Paris, France that features indigenous art, cultures and civilizations from Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas. The museum is located at 37, quai Branly - portail Debilly, 75007 Paris, France, situated close to the Eiffel Tower. The nearest métro and RER stations are Alma – Marceau and Pont de l'Alma, respectively. MQB is named after its location on the quai Branly, which in turn is named after the physicist Édouard Branly.

In an unusual arrangement, the museum is jointly administered by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication and the Ministry of Higher Education and Research. It received 1.3 million visitors in 2013. [1]


Following the tradition of French presidents building museums as monuments to their time in office, followed by Presidents Georges Pompidou (the Beaubourg); Valery Giscard d'Estaing (the Musee d'Orsay) and Francois Mitterrand (the Grand Louvre), the project for a new museum celebrating the arts of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania was brought to completion by President Jacques Chirac. A proposal for such a museum had been made by the ethnologist and art collector Jacques Kerchache in the newspaper Liberation in 1990; he then brought the idea to the attention of Chirac, then Mayor of Paris, and became his advisor. A commission was established to study the feasibility of building the museum in 1995. When the study was concluded, land was reserved near the Eiffel Tower for the future museum.

When it was created, the museum a donation from the French state of about three hundred thousand objects, coming from three existing museums, which were lacking the exhibit space or resources for such a large collection::

  • the Ethnographic museum in the Trocadero Palace, created in 1878;
  • the National Museum of the Arts of Africa and Oceania, which had been created for the Colonial Exposition of 1931, then remade in 1961 by Andre Malraux, the Minister of Culture under President Charles DeGaulle, into a museum of the cultures of the overseas possessions of France;
  • the Museum of Man, created for the Paris Exposition of 1937.

In addition to these collections, gathered by French explorers and ethnologists from around the world, the new Museum directors acquired an additional ten thousand objects. [2]

The site selected for the new museum, covering an area of 25,000 square meters, was on the edge of the Quai Branly and the Seine, one hundred metres from the Eiffel Tower, across the river from the Palace of Chaillot, and close to the Hotel des Invalides and the Pont Alexandre III. The site was previously occupied by a collection of buildings belonging to the Ministry of Reconstruction and Urbanism. It had earlier been chosen for the Centre International de Conferences, an abandoned Grand Projet of François Mitterrand.[3] Quai Branly opened on June 23, 2006. [4]

The Buildings[edit]

The museum and gardens seen from the first level of the Eiffel Tower
The "green wall", or wall of vegetation.

The four buildings of the MQB complex were designed by architect Jean Nouvel, and cost 233 million euros to construct.

  • The Bridge-Museum (Pont-Musee) is inspired by the Eiffel Tower, located a hundred meters from the museum. It is a metal bridge weighing 3,200 tons, and supported by 500,000 bolts. The space under the bridge contains multimedia points and technical cells.
  • Visitors enter the main building through a small entrance, and then follow a winding ramp up a gentle slope to the main gallery, two hundred meters long. The main gallery is dark inside, with a small amount of sunlight entering from outside, and with direct lighting only on the exhibited objects from the permanent collection. Thirty different galleries are placed on the north side, which are visible on the outside of the structure as boxes of different colors. Three mezzanines look down on the main gallery; the center mezzanine is the multimedia center, and the other two mezzanines are used for temporary exhibits. The west mezzanine has a new exhibition every eighteen months, while the exhibition on the east mezzanine changes each year. The garden side of the building contains an auditorium, classrooms, lecture hall and restaurant. The museum's frontage facing onto quai Branly features very tall glass paneling which allows its interior gardens to be remarkably quiet only meters from the busy street in front of them.
  • The University building (Batiment Universite), along rue de l'Universite, contains the library and offices.
  • The Branly building, five stories high and facing the Seine, houses the administration of the Museum. The wall of vegetation is located on the north side of this building.
  • The Auvent building houses the reserve collections of the museum.

The Gardens[edit]

a winding path in the north garden of the Quai Branly museum

In the original project for the museum, 7,500 square meters of the 25,000 square meter site were set aside for gardens. The winning architect, Jean Nouvel, increased the size of the gardens to 17,500 square meters. The gardens were designed by landscape architect Gilles Clement, They were designed to be the exact opposite of a traditional French formal garden; there was no fence, no lawn, no gates, no monumental stairway; instead, Clement composed a tapestry of small gardens, with streams, hills, pools, and groves, using the native French plants and imported plants accustomed to the Paris climate. While the geometry of the new building was largely horizontal, the gardens were vertical, with tall trees and grasses. Instead of straight paths and a long axis to the entrance, the paths wound through the gardens, with no apparent destination. The gardens contain 169 trees and 72,000 plants. [5]

A notable feature of the Museum garden is the green wall, or wall of vegetation, created by botanist Patrick Blanc. The living wall of greenery covers 800 square meters of the facades of the museum, and 150 square meters of the interior walls. It includes 15,000 plants from 150 different varieties, coming from Japan, China, the Americas and Central Europe. [6]

At installation the green wall was quite healthy and vibrant; however, in winter, the direct exposure of the plants to north winds blowing over the open expanse of the Seine river caused regular frost damage even though the support system for the plants' roots, irrigation and drainage has proved to be perfectly adequate on the less exposed east facade of the building and in other places in Paris where it is used.[7]


View of its African exhibits

MQB contains the collections of the now-closed Musée national des Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie and the ethnographic department of the Musée de l'Homme. The museum contains 267,000 objects in its permanent collection, of which 3,500 items from the collection are on display. A part of it is now exhibit at the Pavillon des Sessions of the musée du Louvre, where the master pieces are such as "l'homme de fer".

The museum has also an important library with 3 main departments:

  • book collection with 2 reading rooms—a research reading room at the top floor and a popular reading room at the ground floor
  • picture collection with photographs and drawings
  • archive collection

The library has collections from important ethnologists such as Georges Condominas, Françoise Girard, Nesterenko, or art trader such as Jacques Kerchache.

Australian Aboriginal artists[edit]

Australian indigenous artists represented in the 2006 Australian Indigenous Art Commission at the Museum include Paddy Bedford (Kija), John Mawurndjul (Kunwinjku), Ningura Napurrula (Pintupi), Lena Nyadbi (Kija), Michael Riley (Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi), Judy Watson (Waanji), Tommy Watson (Pitjantjatjara) and Gulumbu Yunupingu (Gumatj). There are many Aboriginal artists represented in the collection, including Mawurndjul.


The MQB was involved in a controversy over the return of Maori tattooed heads, known as mokomokai, held in France. The controversy arose after a museum in Normandy decided to return a tattooed head to New Zealand. Since 2003, the Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand's national museum, has embarked on a program of requesting the return of Maori remains held in institutions around the world.[8] While the MQB was initially reluctant to return the mokomokai to New Zealand, a change in French law in 2010 allowed for discussions which resulted in repatriation.[8] The mokomokai were formally returned to New Zealand on 23 January 2012 and they now housed at Te Papa and are not on display.[8]

MQB has also received criticism for a perceived reliance in its exhibitions on visual appeal and theatrics, as opposed to explanation and context. [9]

Australian Art Market Report Issue 23 Autumn 2007 Pages 32–34: "Twelve months after the opening of Musée du quai Branly in Paris, journalist Jeremy Eccles takes a look at what effect, if any, the museum" (where contemporary Aboriginal art forms an integral part of the architectural structure) " has had on .... Aboriginal art"

In this article, he quotes Bernice Murphy - co-founder of the Sydney MCA and now National Director of Museums Australia and Chair of the Ethics Committee of the International Council of Museums. She told a Sydney symposium on 'Australian Arts in an International Context' that she found the whole of Quai Branly to be a "regressive museology" and the presentation of Aboriginal art "in a vegetal environment" to be "an exotic mise en scène" in the worst taste. "It can't be decontextualised into a glorious otherness".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Le Parisien, 2 February 2014
  2. ^ Moireau, Fabrice, Les jardins du musee du quai Branly, p. 2-5
  3. ^ Engel, Pierre. "Quai Branly Museum". Retrieved 21 May 2011.  An international competition was held to select an architect; it was won by French architect Jean Nouvel, whose other major works included the Institute of the Arab World in Paris, the renovation of the Lyon Opera, and the Palace of Culture and Congresses in Lucerne.
  4. ^ Paris Primitive: Jacques Chirac's Museum on the Quai Branly, Sally Price (2007)
  5. ^ Moireau, Fabrice, Les jardins du musee du quai Branly, pp. 5-8
  6. ^ Moireau, Fabrice, Les jardins du musee du quai Branly, pp. 5-8
  7. ^ The design
  8. ^ a b c
  9. ^ [1]


  • Sally Price, Paris Primitive: Jacques Chirac's Museum on the Quai Branly, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2007.
  • Moireau, Fabrice, Les jardins du musee du quai Branly (2009), Gallimard, Paris (ISBN:978-2-74-242374-3)
  • Odile Grandet, "The médiathèque at the musée du quai Branly in Paris : virtual, but more than that". Art Libraries Journal, 2007, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 35–39. ISSN 0307-4722.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 48°51′39″N 2°17′51″E / 48.86083°N 2.29750°E / 48.86083; 2.29750