|-- Paris Tourist office photo|
On several long stays in Paris and on many shorter trips, I've become aware of how much Paris looks outward at a wider world. I think this museum participates in this trend. I believe that the Parisians, or at least a percentage of them, have always been exceptionally aware of far-away places. Many French people, perhaps starting at the Crusades, went on long voyages and brought back travelers' tales or objects from dramatically different cultures. French explorers returned from foreign places and introduced new ideas, new foods, and new products.
|Famous Kosher falafel restaurant in Paris (from Wikipedia).|
This is my favorite falafel anywhere!
More recently, restaurants in Paris have featured foods from Vietnam and North Africa; Jewish food from Eastern Europe and Israel; German foods like sauerkraut, which they claim as Alsatian; and certain Spanish style food that they view as Basque -- lots of ethnic variety in spite of the stereotypes!
During much of the 20th century, Paris was the home of a number of international organizations, some affiliated with the UN such as UNESCO. Paris was chosen as the site of Institut du Monde Arabe, a museum and library founded in 1980 by 18 Arab countries. The organization Doctors without Borders originated in Paris in 1971. I'm not sure how much Paris dominates international affairs today as it did in the past, but this wider consciousness is part of the Paris character for sure.
Paris museums have reflected the repeated contact with the exotic and the foreign, sometimes as a result of French colonial adventures or conquests, sometimes the work of explorers and pioneering anthropologists. Represented in the new museum at Quai Branly are collections from a former colonial museum at Porte de Vincennes (Palais de la Porte Dorée), which had various names as attitudes towards colonialism evolved. The Musée de l'Homme at the Palais de Chaillot originally used items collected on various explorations and expeditions to illustrate French contact with tribal peoples on virtually every continent -- these collections too have gone to Quai Branly.
|Assyrian art at the Louvre (from our 2013 trip).|
The Musée Guimet offers Cambodian and other architectural and sculptural objects from Southeast Asia, Chinese vases, Japanese masks, and much more. It's much smaller and less famous than the other Parisian museums, but it would be a standout anywhere else.
|Cambodian art from the Guimet (2013).|
Paris in July, with the special suggestion to feature the character of Paris. Many of the participants in this blogging event have been writing about museums and art in Paris. Both native and expatriate artists in Paris definitely contributed to the special character of the city, especially in the early 20th century. I think the numerous Parisian museums presenting art and culture from many nationalities and ethnic groups have had a great significance in forming this character.
Just one example: a gallery show of African masks evidently inspired Picasso to repaint the faces of two of the women in "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" (1907). This painting played a major role in revolutionizing modern art!
|Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon now at MOMA, New York.|