The wonders of Musee Guimet

musee guimet

 

Undoubtedly, Paris is a city with many outstanding world-class museums and art galleries, but sometimes the sheer volume of visitors at Louvre, Musee D’Orsay and Grand Palais is simply overwhelming and off-putting. Hence, I would rather spend my time lingering at some excellent but lesser known or less popular museums. And one of my favourites is Le musée national des arts asiatiques – Guimet/ Musee Guimet, which houses one of the largest collections of Asian art outside of Asia.

This museum was established by Emile Guimet in 1889, and it showcases 5000 years of Asian art with a vast array of sculptures, murals, decorative objects, ceramics, paintings, furniture, textiles, graphic prints and manuscripts etc. It is easy to spend a few hours here, and it rarely gets very crowded.

During my visit, I was very pleasantly surprised by French contemporary artist Prune Nourry‘s exhibition “HOLY, Carte Blanche to Prune Nourry”. Throughout the museum, installations of her past ten years’ work could be seen. I thought the most impressive was the giant Buddha statue that has been broken up, and strategically placed on different floor levels like old ruins. On the top floor was the head of the Buddha (where one could walk into it through the ears), a hand on the floor below, and the feet were placed on the ground floor, all of which were covered with red incense sticks. This intentionally fragmented installation reminds me of the blown up Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan. It is poetic and mesmerising.

Her Terracotta Daughters sculptures created in 2013, consisted of an army of 108 girls, the eight original ones of which will be shown in the museum, refers to the first emperor’s terracotta soldiers, and is a tribute to the millions of girls that will not be born because
of pre-birth selection.

 

 Prune Nourry  musee guimet Prune Nourry

 Prune Nourry

musee guimet Prune Nourrymusee guimet Prune Nourry

 Prune Nourry

prune nourry  prune nourry

“HOLY, Carte Blanche to Prune Nourry” exhibition

 

Japanese graphic artist Hokusai‘s sold-out exhibition at British Museum revealed that traditional Japanese woodblock printing still fascinates the Western audience in this day and age. Unfortunately, the exhibition was so packed that I found myself constantly being blocked by older women who did not want others to get close to the prints or paintings.

Luckily, the exhibition “Paysages japonais, de Hokusai à Hasui” enabled me to enjoy Hokusai‘s famous prints up close without crowds nor disruption. Aside from Hokusai, there were also prints by other famous ukiyo-e artists like Hiroshige, Utamaro, Kuniyoshi and Hasui. The exhibition also showcased some rare vintage photographs of Japan, which were extremely fascinating.

 

musee guimet  musee guimet

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The “Paysages japonais, de Hokusai à Hasui” exhibition

 

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The “113 Ors d’Asie” exhibition

 

Even though the British Museum has an excellent collection of ancient Buddhist art and sculptures, I think Musee Guimet’s collection is quite staggering too. I particularly love the ancient Buddhist sculptures from Afghanistan that were evidently influenced by the Greeks. The hair and the draping of the robes were more Western than Eastern, which demonstrated that ancient cultural exchanges did have an strong impact on the development of Buddhist art in Asia.

 

musee guimet

musee guimet  musee guimet

musee guimet

musee guimet  musee guimet

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musee guimet

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musee guimet

musee guimet  musee guimet

 

Not far from the museum is Hôtel Heidelbach, a well-hidden annexe that houses a Buddhist Pantheon gallery, a lovely Japanese garden and a tea house for tea ceremonies. Entry to this gallery and garden is free, and it should not be missed.

 

musee guimet Japanese garden

The Japanese garden and tea house at Hôtel Heidelbach

 

The power of flowers: Pierre-Joseph Redoute exhibition

musee de la vie romantique

musee de la vie romantique

 

There are many world-class art museums in Paris, but I tend to favour the lesser-known ones that are slightly off the beaten track. Located at the foot of Montmartre hill is Musée de la Vie romantique (The Museum of Romantic Life or Museum of the Romantics), a small and pretty hôtel particulier with a greenhouse, a garden, and a paved courtyard. Built in 1830, it was the base of Dutch/French Romantic painter Ary Scheffer, where he received Parisian socialites like Delacroix, Rossini, Sand, Chopin, Gounod, Tourgueniev, Dickens… Now the museum’s permanent collection displays the paintings of Scheffer and his contemporaries, as well as the memorabilia of George Sand including furniture, painting, objets d’art and jewellery.

For fans of botanical art, the current exhibition: ‘The power of flowers: Pierre-Joseph Redouté 1759-1840′ (until 29th October) is a must-see, because it offers a rare opportunity to view works by the Belgian botanist and painter Redouté, who was often called “the Raphael of flowers” and the greatest botanical illustrator of all time.

 

musee de la vie romantique

Pierre-Joseph Redouté  Pierre-Joseph Redouté

Pierre-Joseph Redouté  Pierre-Joseph Redouté

Botanical drawings by Pierre-Joseph Redouté

 

Redouté worked with the greatest botanists of his time, responding to their quest for classification and identification of the plants brought back from every continent. Not only was he an appointed painter to the sovereigns, he was also an engraver, a publisher and a teacher. His illustrated publications also inspired many manufacturers to produce wallpapers, textiles, porcelain, embroidery and other applied arts.

 

the power of flowers

the power of flowers  the power of flowers

 

With more than 250 paintings, watercolours, art objects and vellum on display, the exhibition showcases works by Redouté and other artists who had been influenced by him. While inside the house (and some at the garden), another exhibition, ‘A fleur d’atelier – Fine crafts tour’ organised by Ateliers d’Art de France displays contemporary crafts created by 26 artists based on the theme of flowers/plants.

 

christine coste  sarah radulescu

lise rathonie

ferri garces  ferri garces

Top left: Christine Coste’s L’assaut; Top right: Sarah Radulescu’s Floraison; 3rd row: Lise Rathonie’s Les Exuberantes; Bottom left: Ferri Garces’ Hibiscus; Bottom right: Ferri Garces’ Rose des Sables

 

Forty original art works can be seen throughout the house and at the garden, and a wide range of materials like silver, paper, cotton, porcelain, plaster, wool, and glass, etc. are employed in these works.

Both exhibitions are fascinating, and it demonstrates the ever-alluring appeal of flowers/plants, and how artists and craftsmen have continuously been inspired by nature over the centuries.

 

francoise tellier loumangne

angele riguidel  stephanie martin

corinne dorlencourt

Top: Francoise Tellier Loumangne’s Achillee; 2nd row left: Angele Riguidel’s Nature Morte; 2nd row right: Stephanie Martin’s Verture; Bottom: Corinne Dorlencourt’s Etamines

 

The exhibition is on at the Musée de la Vie romantique (16, rue Chaptal, 75009, Paris ) until 29th October.