Paris is full of art and antiquities – Greek, Roman, Renaissance, Modernist, painting, sculpture – after a while it can all become a bit overwhelming. The Musee du Quai Branly offers an alternative.
For starters, MQB as it’s known is a relative newcomer to the museum-scene of Paris. It opened in 2006 in a newly designed building by award-winning architect Jean Nouvel, alongside the River Seine and close to the Eiffel Tower. Its other point of difference is that its focus is on indigenous cultures, their arts, cultures and civilizations: Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas, bringing together several collections under one roof and with an emphasis on education and cultural understanding. The museum has around 300,000 items and at any one time displays around 3500 of them in changing displays and themed exhibitions. With rotating exhibitions and temporary installments there is always something interesting.
Most exhibits focus on unique perspectives of history and give indigenous people back their names and stories, their individuality and dignity. Throughout the rest of the museum there are themed walks, multimedia presentations, reading rooms and performances; an emphasis is on learning and understanding about other cultures and western culture’s historical fascination with difference.
A major feature of the museum is its garden, a quiet oasis in the center of Paris. But the real aesthetic feature of the building is the vertical garden: a garden growing on a wall. Sure, there are drainage problems but who cares when it looks that good?