Post-colonial and postmodern, the Musée du Quai Branly has been mired in controversy since President Chirac clipped its red ribbon in 2006. Quai Branly’s conception was a tricky one: how does a country revere its colonial treasures without celebrating it colonial past? Chirac and friends decided on a hybrid museum, one that attempts to merge art and ethnography.
From Jean Nouvel’s sienna-toned cubes piercing the postured exterior to the anti-gravitational plant wall by Patrick Blanc, the museum strikes an unusual profile amidst its left-bank Haussmann environs. Entering through a Jurassic garden, the visitor commences on a winding tour through Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas.
The gallery installation can be disorienting, swiftly shifting between tribes and continents with hidden text panels and interactive stations. That said, the 3,500 objects (out of a total 30,000) on permanent display are incredible. With a little perseverance, you might actually learn about them.