Musee du quai Branly, bis

The Financial Review for April 27 has an article, “Paris Dreamtime,” on the Musee du Quai Branly. The article focuses on the rather paltry representation contemporary Aboriginal art will have on opening, putting aside of course the architecture of the administrative building. (There are actually four new buildings that comprise the new Musee.) On opening day, there will be 3500 objects on display, of which only 107 will be from Australia. Of these, 70 will be bark paintings, 15 acrylics (apparently Papunya boards) and the remainder–a mere 22 in number–shields, throwing sticks, boomerangs, and pukumani poles from the Tiwi islands. The article gives the total number of Australian objects in the Musee’s collections as 1693, slightly higher than the number I quoted in my post a few days ago.

More disappointingly, the Musee’s curator of Oceanic collections, Philippe Peletier, has said that there will be no temporary exhibitions given over to Australia in the next two years, at least. He claims, according to the Financial Review, that Australian art is sufficiently represented for the moment in the architecture of the museum, and that the exhibition program must focus on the other areas of the collection in the interests of fairness. I’m clearly not objective about this, but one might think that given the stupendous scale of the architectural design, the curators might want to serve their educational mission by presenting a context for the art that will be most publicly visible.

At least the Musee’s website is beginning to take shape now. On the home page there is a photograph today by Ianna Andreadis that shows the Australian building (as Parisians are calling it) at night, illuminated brightly enough to hold its own against the Eiffel Tower in the background. Better yet, follow the link for the “4 Avril La Conference de presse.” About midway down the page, in an orange box, there are links to a number of downloadable PDF documents.

Une architecture concue autour des collections” (An architecture conceived around the collections) offers a variety of images of the new buildings, including the mur vegetaleand, on page 8, a glimpse of the Lena Nyadbi facade and the ceilings by Ninugra Napurrula and Gulumbu Yunupingu.

The next link, “La richesse des collections offertes a tous les regards” (I’m going to take a stab and say that means “The richness of the collections for everyone to see”), offers a slim selection of interior views. But page 15 has a large photograph of the painting of John Mawurndjul’s work, in process. The human figures of the artisans who are reproducing the work gives a good sense of the enormous scale of the work. Stunning.

Back to the Financial Review for a moment, the article confirms a rumor that I’ve heard that the Australian Embassy, thanks to Ambassador Penelope Wensley, will be doing its best to provide Parisians and visitors with a spectacular introduction to contemporary Aboriginal art. Concurrent with the opening of the Museum, the Embassy will be mounting an exhibition from the collection of Gabrielle Pizzi. The Review notes the irony here that while the Musee seems doomed to reinforce the notion of Aboriginal art as ethnography, the Embassy’s exhibition recalls the refusal of the Cologne art fair to accept Pizzi’s exhibition many years ago, rejecting the work as “folk art.” As the review states, “Pizzi took them on, and won.”

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