Although I have been living in Paris since I was born I had never visited the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature before last wednesday. Probably because of its name which can cause confusion and let one think that it is a museum dedicated to the art of hunting which will interest only the hunters and the ones who are fond of arms and trophies. In fact this is absolutely not the case!
The purpose of the museum is to show the relashionship between man and animal and to enable us to understand animals in their environment. Here is a short quiz to learn more about this place:
Who inaugutared the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature? André Malraux, as Minister of Culture. When? In 1967.
Where? In the Hotel de Guénégaud, a magnificent mansion from 17th century built by the famous architect François Mansart and located in the Marais area.
Last renovation? Between 2005 and 2007, with the extension to the next mansion, the Hotel de Mongelas (18th century). The museum used to be an outdated and rather dusty place… It has been beautifully renovated and modernized and the exhibition design since its reopening is simply amazing. I love the mix of classic and modern, the banisters and the lights; in a word, the atmosphere.
The permanent collections show a mix of various works of art, some ancient, other contemporary: paintings, drawings, tapestries, furniture, arms, ceramics, hunting trophies, photographs, videos, sculptures,… In its new design the museum remains faithful to the wish of its founders: be ‘a house for art lovers’. One wanders through stuffed animals and works of art in beautiful rooms, all different, whose floor, ceiling and furniture are true delights by themselves.
The Polar Bear welcomes the visitor on the first floor…
On the opposite side of the corridor: the Trophies’ room. Do not miss the ceiling and do not be afraid by the shouting wild boar…
One of my favourite rooms is the Cabinet of Diana which is designed as a jewellery box. The six owl heads at the ceiling (‘La nuit de Diane’, a creation by Ian Fabre) are really impressive!
The Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature also welcomes regularly (three to four times a year) temporary exhibitions, which are always integrated into the permanent collections in order to shed new light on them.
The one taking place until 11 February 2018 is really worth the visit for those who can understand French as there is much to read… only in French! It is a retrospective of Sophie Calle’s creations, a famous contemporary French artist.
I did not know the wideness of her work before my visit. I heard about Sophie Calle fifteen years ago during the first edition of ‘Nuit Blanche’, in October 2002. On this occasion the artist offered a performance consisting in spending five minutes with her in her bed installed on top of the Eiffel Tower just to tell her a story so that she does not fall asleep. The performance was called: ‘Room with a view’ and based on the principle : ‘no story to tell, no visit’… It had a great success!
The seven rooms downstairs at the entrance of the museum are fully dedicated to Sophie Calle’s exhibition and show very interesting works relative to animals but also to death, some of them inspired by the recent death of the artist’s father. Sophie Calle is fond of animals: she had a cat she loved, named Souris; and she lives among stuffed animals, each of them representing one of her loved ones, whether dead or still alive: father, mother, best friends…
The exhibition goes on with artworks distributed through the permanent collections with a lot of judiciousness. In all her creations Sophie Calle stages her own life and her intimacy and one never knows in her writings where the limit between autobiography and fiction is given her inventiveness and her tendency to exaggeration. For instance she stages her numerous love affairs, mainly unhappy, and often tells the pursuit of love as a tracking. Many other works are relative to the tragic times of her childhood, more or less serious, more or less fictionalized. What is real, what is imaginary, what is exaggerated? No matters!
On the top floor of the museum the last two rooms are fully dedicated to Sophie Calle’s creations relative to the pursuit of love as a manhunt. Do not miss them, especially the first one which shows in a very original way a sociological study of the evolution of men and women’s relationships over the decades through the reading of personal ads published in the ‘Chasseur Français’, a very popular French magazine among the hunters. From ‘Pas pauvre’ in 1895 to ‘Pas loin’ in 2010 through ‘Travailleuse’, ‘Jolie’, ‘Intelligente si possible’, ‘Bon parti’,… Not to be missed!
And before ending I would like to emphasize one more evidence of the refinement of the place. The Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature is the only museum I’ve ever visited where thistles replace ‘Do not sit’ signs on chairs and armchairs exhibited… A source of inspiration for others?
I hope that you will enjoy your visit and I will be back with a new post in early 2018. Meantime I wish each of you happy Christmas and New Year holidays.
Christine Bokobza – Good Morning Paris The Blog
Practical information: Exhibition Sophie Calle – Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature – 62 rue des Archives 75003 Paris – Tuesday till Sunday: 11am-6pm (9.30pm on Wednesdays) – Until 11 February 2018