A year ago, I told you about four museums you might not know in Paris, I would love today to talk to you about three other museums I did not mention back then. As you may know, we have 173 museums or so in Paris though unfortunately the Pinacothèque closed two weeks ago. So it gives me plenty of content for future articles. Today I will tell you about the Picasso museum which re-opened recently, the Musée Grévin (our Madame Tussaud) and the less famous Musée en Herbe which is really worth knowing with its ambition to be a museum for every generation.
The Musée en Herbe is a real cultural success and one which I would like to share with you. Founded in 1975, it offers fun tours primarily focused on art. Its educational approach, which was designed for children, is based on humour, observation, imagination and identification and aims to help them explore works of art. Through the years it went to various exhibitions such as Tintin’s imaginary museum, Niki’s Band, I love Martine, Keith Haring’s hieroglyphs or Dali’s surrealism. Until the end of August, you can appreciate an exhibition focusing on Philippe Geluck’s famous comic: le Chat (the Cat). Last year, the Musée en Herbe celebrated its 40th anniversary. From the outset, its slightly crazy objective was to appeal to an audience from 3 to 103 years old. We’re prepared to bet that it’s right on target with this new exhibition.
The Musée Grévin was inaugurated on 5 June 1882 and is a veritable Parisian tourist institution. Everyone has heard about the famous wax works, which are replicas of well-known figures. The museum takes its name from the caricaturist, sculptor and designer of theatre costumes, Alfred Grévin, who created the first figures.
130 years and 2,500 waxworks later, the museum has become one of Paris’ essential historical venues.
Visitors discover the replicas of actors, singers, politicians, historical figures, painters and sportsmen and women as they go through various themed rooms. You will therefore find the great Ray Charles in the “Les clichés du XXème siècle” (“images of the 20th century“ room) and Victor Hugo in the room dedicated to the history of France.
The most recent personality to have become a part of the museum is Lambert Wilson whose waxwork was revealed in May. He has joined the 250 other figures. Others are still to come such as Pénélope Cruz or the judoka Teddy Riner, the five-time World Champion.
The museum in the Hôtel Sâlé, one of the loveliest townhouses from the Baroque period, is dedicated to the life and work of the famous painter as well as other artists who had connections with him. Located in the heart of the Marais, it has the richest collection of the artist’s work in the world, covering all his periods. The museum’s website states: “The Musée Picasso Paris collection comprises over 5,000 works and tens of thousands of archived pieces. For its quality and scope as well as the range of art forms it encompasses, this collection is the only one in the world to present both Picasso’s complete painted, sculpted, engraved and illustrated works and a precise record—through sketches, studies, drafts, notebooks, etchings in various stages, photographs, illustrated books, films and documents—of the artist’s creative process.” The Musée Picasso Paris collection was mostly created from two donations made to the state by Pablo Picasso’s heirs in 1979 and, later, Jacqueline Picasso’s heirs in 1990. It has been expanded over the years through additional outstanding acquisitions. It was Picasso’s wish that the state should exhibit his works. The initial collection numbered only a hundred or so works but other outstanding collections of his works were subsequently bequeathed to the museum.
Pablo Picasso’s personal archives became part of the national collections in 1992 thanks to a donation of nearly 200,000 pieces. Once the project to create the museum became known, friends and family of the artist made important bequests or donations.
When he died, the artist left around 40,000 works in his various properties. His personal collection, which he had built up throughout his life, included works by his friends (Braque, Matisse, Miro, Derain, etc.) and masters he admired (Cézanne, Le Douanier Rousseau, Degas, Le Nain, etc.), and was given to the state in 1978 to be exhibited at the Louvre. When the Musée Picasso was created, it naturally became part of the collection at the Hôtel Salé.
The museum is currently exhibiting 4,600 works from its collection including 4,422 by Picasso (and that’s without counting the 17,000 photographs):
• 297 paintings, 254 by Picasso and 43 from his private collection
• 1,852 drawings, including 1,773 by the artist
• 223 sculptures
• 1,794 engravings
• And much more besides…
The decision to establish the museum in the Hôtel Salé was taken very quickly – in 1974, so just a year after the artist’s death. The townhouse was restored and refurbished between 1979 and 1985 by the architect Roland Simonet in order to make it suitable for conserving and exhibiting the artworks. This presented a particular challenge. Certain parts of the building were listed (including the central staircase and the Jupiter room) and the refurbishing work had to take this into account.
Today it is a magnificent setting for the museum, which fits in perfectly to its surroundings. Twenty-five years on and the museum has just been closed for a few months for renovation work. The closure was also used to change the museum’s layout and visitor experience. This phase of restoration and extension work began in 2009 and is more far-reaching and ambitious in scope than the original work.
And it has turned out to be a risk well worth taking. The Musée Picasso is definitely a must see for all Picasso fans and admirers of his genius as well as people who’d like to find out more about him and tourists visiting the capital.
Didier Moinel Delalande is a Director at Hotel Mathurin.