An improbable blue-feathered Mardi Gras costume, traditional songs of children or teenagers recorded, 1895 photos of Chilean farmers hooked up to a gramophone: the Quai Branly Museum enters non-Western cultures through every pore possible.
The exhibition "Twenty years", presenting the acquisitions of the Museum since the creation of the public establishment in 1998, shows "behind the scenes" of a selection of 77.000 works and documents, underlines Yves le Fur, director of the collections of the museum and Commissioner General.
The statues of the "primitive arts", for which the Museum is famous, are not the only ones on display. The history of the peoples is also told by the fabrics, headdresses, calabashes, drawings and photos of explorers and natives, recordings, travel stories and archives revealing the colonial and post-colonial glances ... Until the contemporary art and photography reinterpreting these realities.
A small work recently acquired astonishes particularly: "Christ the good pastor and two scenes of the life of Saint John the Baptise in a landscape", realized with feathers of 14 species of birds by Aztec artists of the 16th century in Mexico, illuminates with a very luminous green blue when we look at it from underneath.
The "White Bison", New Orleans' Mardi Gras Queen's Costume, is one of the most unusual works with its hundreds of blue feathers.
The ornaments, the ornaments, the headdresses are in the spotlight. "The beauty of the fabrics that are exposed shows how they have been markers of wealth, status," said Yves Le Fur AFP.
The library of Claude Levy Strauss is reconstituted in trompe-l'oeil. At each corner of the course, curators explain on video their choice of works. A fascinating work of ethnology.
Frequented since its opening to the public in 2006 by nearly 15 million visitors, the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac specializes in the arts of Africa, Oceania, Asia and the Americas, while the MUCEM in Marseille took the European aspect.
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"I did not really want this exhibition to be a celebration of twenty years, rather to show that it is a work, a process that is never finished, that is dynamic." The cultural dialogue, twenty years ago, 'we are working on it,' explains Yves Le Fur.
The essence of the museum, the commissioners argue, is heart-stroke brought back by passionate curator-explorers. But also a complex job to make acquisitions in international rules, which often involves difficult investigations on the provenances. Sixty works are indeed donations.
"We often have pretty stories but we have to check that they are true, we do not buy works in doubt," said Emmanuel Kasarhérou, assistant director of collections.
"It was a matter of sorting out the multiplicity" and also to leave some voluntary omissions, he says: thus the colonial period has experienced a "hell" of thirty years and "we rediscover now things very interesting ".
The exhibition is educational: "Some believe that the history of humanity is between Praxiteles and Jeff Koons and between the two there is nothing", fun Stéphane Martin, president of the museum.
Asked about the delicate subject of renditions to Africa, Yves Le Fur advocates the dynamic circulation of works between museums: "We must develop with Africa the same thing that exists with China, Singapore and Korea". "There should be exhibitions of Titian in Africa ... Why do not we project that?"
- "Twenty years", Musée du Quai Branly, from September 24 to January 26 -
© 2019 AFP