The Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris is one of the fourteen museums that belong to the city of Paris. It takes up the entire eastern wing of the Palais de Tokyo and has a permanent collection of “over 15,000 works illustrating the major currents of twentieth and twenty-first century art”.
In addition, temporary exhibitions of modern and contemporary art are held regularly on the upper floors. Admission to the permanent collection is free, but there is a charge for the temporary exhibitions. When I was there, nearly all the visitors paid their eight euros or whatever it was and went upstairs, so I was nearly alone in the permanent collection.
My lead photo in this post shows a room with no visitors, dominated by a huge square artwork of about five by five meters. At first I thought it was a painting intended to glorify the French colonial empire, like the ones in the Palais de la Porte Dorée at the other end of Paris. But a closer look revealed that it was not a painting at all, but rather a bas-relief made of metal, with parts lacquered or accentuated with gold leaf, entitled Les Sports by Jean Dunand (1877-1942) and showing five young white men with golden blond hair (not natives of some French colony, as I had mistakenly assumed) practicing the sports of shot-putting and javelin-throwing, while two more young white men with javelins look on.
This was one of five or six huge metal bas-reliefs made by Jean Dunand to decorate the first-class smoking room (fumoir) of the new French ocean liner Normandie, which made its maiden voyage in 1935 and for the next four years was one of the world’s two largest and fastest steamships (the other being the British Queen Mary), until the outbreak of the Second World War put an abrupt end to trans-Atlantic passenger travel.
We 21st century folks tend to think of a fumoir as a dingy little room where the last remaining diehard smokers and go to have a few furtive puffs before rejoining the rest of us in our smoke-free environments. But in the Normandie, typically for the 1930s, the first-class fumoir was a huge lounge with hundreds of sofas and easy chairs — the second largest room in the ship, after the still-larger first-class dining room. (Look at just about any 1930s film and count the non-smokers, if any.)
So Jean Dunand’s huge bas-reliefs were not at all out of proportion to the size of the room.
The French artist Robert Delaunay (1885-1941) included the Eiffel Tower in numerous paintings over several decades. At the Paris Museum of Modern Art, someone had the idea of displaying one of these paintings (from 1926) next to a window with a view of the real tower, just across the river.
My interest in Henri Matisse (1869-1954) received a boost when I read that at age 78 he traveled up to Paris and helped Dina Vierny open her new art gallery in 1947.
Maurice de Vlaminck was a French painter (with a Flemish father, hence the name) who was one of the founders of the Fauve movement, along with André Derain and Henri Matisse.
Considering that this museum has a permanent collection of 15,000 artworks, the display rooms look remarkably empty, or at least uncluttered, with lots of white space around the few items on display.
The big painting in this room is “Eve” by Maud Gerard (1915 -2013), and the sculpture is “Vénus” by Boris Lovet-Lorski (1894-1973).
My photos and text in this post are from 2023.
See more posts on museums in Paris.