Colorful walls and designer chandeliers, dark oak parquet: this is not one of Philippe Starck’s latest restaurants but the newly refurbished Orsay Museum. Twenty-five years ago, architect Gae Aulenti made a bold statement with his stone decor and floors and vanilla-colored walls. The current zeitgeist points to a greater comfort zone. The museum is no longer a cathedral but a highbrow lounge.
Renovation work took two years, but now over half of the museum’s collection has been rehung in three entirely revamped spaces. The central nave is unchanged, but the lateral areas, along the Seine on one side, and the Rue de Lille on the other, have been entirely transformed, producing additional surface area and enhancing the viewer’s ability to connect with works on display.
Qrt lovers who used to jostle through the labyrinth of narrow rooms showcasing the Impressionist masters will now discover a gallery that extends over the entire fifth floor. Architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte has opened up the volumes, exposing the original metal framework and providing just the right combination of natural daylight and sofisticared artificial lighting, thanks to an adjustible lighting system.
Impressionist works now hang along some 100 meters, covering 2000 square meters of wall space. The visit opens with Manet’s “Déjeuner sur l’herbe”, which marked the onset of modern art, and ends with Monet’s waterlilies, which prefigured a new form of abstract art. In between, Sisley’s landscapes are juxtaposed with Pissarro’s and Degas’ dancers hang alongside Renoir’s “The Reader”. Tha warm tones of the gilded frales are enhanced and the Impressionist colors appear bolder and brighter.
Dominique Brard fashioned another revolutionary renovation by displaying Adolf Loos’s curved wooden chairs with a desk by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The museum’s sole Klimt, floral and sensual, hangs resplendent behind a table and armchair by Otto Wagner, not far from a sublime wooden vitrine inlaid with mother-of-pearl by Carl Witzmann.
Vuillard’s three pastoral panels for Prince Bibesco’s salon have been reunited; Vuillard is also featured in the new “Françoise Cachin gallery”, where all of the post-Impressionist masters are displayed on teal blue walls, from Gauguin to Van Gogh, from Moreau to Redon.
This isn’t a renovation; it is a true renaissance: the Orsay Museum’s renaissance. Enjoy your visit!