The Genteel
April 17, 2021


A view of the museum's Impressionists gallery (Photograph by Sophie Boegly).

Paris' Musee d'Orsay is notorious for drawing throngs of tourists, but this time, it's not just the art inside that people want to see: the former train station turned art gallery has undergone a major facelift. The renovation cost eight million Euros, took two years and completely transformed a once familiar landmark, but there's no doubt that today, the Musee d'Orsay is one of the world's finest homes to great art, specifically Impressionist classics by Great Masters such as Van Gogh, Manet, Monet, and Renoir.

The long-awaited renovation has brought life to four new galleries in the Amont Pavilion, once the engine house of the old train station. The hugely popular Impressionist gallery has also been totally redesigned, as have more than half the rooms on the lower levels of the building. Most notably, the colours of the walls have been completely changed. Rather than the institutional shades of white and beige, rooms are now complementing the works that hang in them in shades of grey, mauve, green, indigo and even scarlet red. Only the huge main floor remains untouched by these dramatic alterations.

The radical modifications are down to the vision of the museum's Director, Guy Cogéval, who was inspired by the "romantic" shades of light found in Paris. The result is a warmer, almost homey feeling to the museum, and as one would expect, the use of colour, which is what the Impressionists are perhaps most famous for, is even more vivid in the new version of the Musee.

The renovations are not limited to the galleries, however. Brazilian brothers and design duo Fernando and Humberto Campana have produced the Art Nouveau-inspired cafe on the 5th floor; guards in the new galleries sit in designer chairs, and even visitors can repose on their own "Waterfall" benches, made by Japanese artist Tokujin Yoshioka.

Tokujin Yoshioka: Water Block at
the Musee d'Orsay
(Source: designboom).

The latest exhibition to be showcased by the refreshed space is somewhat appropriately English-themed - after all, the colours of the gallery walls are now more reminiscent of London's National Gallery than Paris' Louvre. Until January 15, 2012, visitors can enjoy "Beauty, Morals and Voluptuousness in the England of Oscar Wilde," an exhibition originally organised by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. It focuses on the extraordinary Victorian art movement that aimed to shift away from the materialism and restrictive morality of the time and delve into a more delightfully sensual experience of the world. Works by Whistler, Waterhouse and Rossetti are featured, as are portraits of the most notable dandy of the time and adopted son of Paris, Oscar Wilde.

To exhibit installations of this nature in the new Musee seems apt: whether strolling through the artworks, sipping a coffee or just resting tired feet, the renovations here ensure that spectators are indeed surrounded by beauty and voluptuousness, but also design and an aesthetic of intricate elegance that is specific to, and perhaps even defining of, Paris itself.



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