First Look at the Musee du quay Branly

Well, today was our first full day in Paris, and our first look at MQB: the administrative building into which the work of the eight Aboriginal artists has been incorporated is indeed impressive, and much of the work can be seen well from the street. Since this building is not part of the public space of the Museum, there has been some concern expressed about relegating the Aboriginal art to mere decoration, but more about that another time. It’s been a long and busy day, and a picture being worth a thousand words, I will just provide a brief sample of what we saw this morning at “the Australian Building.”

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This is an overview of the ceiling paintings,from top to bottom, by Tommy Watson (barely visible), Gulumbu Yunupingu, Ningura Napurrula, and John Mawurndjul.

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The Museum’s bookstore, featuring a large pole by Mawurndjul along with the Mardayin painting on the ceiling.
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We thought that we would avoid the security cordon by walking past the Museum in the morning, but it turns out that Chirac’s visit was scheduled for 9 a.m. Shortly after noon, the Australian contingent emerged from the main doorway of the Australian Building, and then went into the bookstore. Here’s they are exiting a few minutes later. Gulumbu is in the orange jacket just left of center, Chirac slightly to her right. The French police were excellent, I must say, keeping security tight but allowing those of us with an interest to participate somewhat vicariously.
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After all the celebrities were gone, Radio France had no one else to talk to, so they decided to ask me my opinion of the Museum. That’s me waving at Mawurndjul’s painting and trying to convince the reporter of the importance of presenting living cultures outside of the domain of Western art to the world. I’m not sure I succeeded, but it was nice to be asked.

There’s much much more to report, and many more pictures to share. But it’s well past midnight, and tomorrow we hope the actually gain admission to the Museum itself, and see more than the view from the sidewalk. I can see already it may take weeks to tell this story in full.

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