La Monnaie de Paris reopened last autumn after six years of conversion work. The renovation plan led by the French architect Philippe Prost had to take up four challenges: open up the place onto the city and the world; perpetuate its original purpose, striking coins; make its traditional know-how and treasures known; let the public admire the beautiful architecture of an historic building. It is a great success!
Thanks to the magnificent restoration of the premises one cannot visit the Monnaie de Paris today without immersing oneself in the French history, traditions and know-how. And the temporary exhibitions of modern art which are taking place there create the link with the present and give the whole a timeless nature. One leaves the Monnaie de Paris amazed by the French ‘art de vivre’: Not to be missed, whether you are a Parisian or a tourist in Paris!
Firstly the surroundings and the architecture…
The Palace of the 11 Conti was built in 18th century and has been housing since that time the manufacture or the making of coins and medals. It is a huge and very elegant building with two main entrances. The most majestic is located on 11 Quai de Conti between the Pont-Neuf and the Pont des Arts. It allows to enter the ‘Cour d’Honneur’ with in the end of it the historic heart of the place: the workshop of ‘Grand Monnayage’. The second entrance is on the Rue de Guénégaud next to the new bright souvenir shop -located in former workshops- and to the tea-room Bloom… whose terrace in the lovely ‘Cour de la Méridienne’ is for sure a very pleasant place where to have a drink by fine weather.
Inside one discovers several buildings and wanders through several inner yards, each one more charming than the last and with suggestive names: Cour de la Méridienne, Cour des Fonderies, Cour des Remises, Cour de l’Or. When the renovation is completely over, one will also be able to take advantage of an inner garden at the back!
As far as visits are concerned the Monnaie de Paris offers two different spaces. The first one is permanent: the 11 Conti. It recounts one thousand years of history of the making of coins and emphasizes the fifteen art craft works still taking place there. The exhibition design is very beautiful and educational. The collections are integrated into the workshops themselves, which makes the visit more lively, even if one cannot see the craftmen at work as the working hours are not the same as the opening hours of the museum. But one can imagine…
In the largest exhibition room, which is also the main one, one can experiment in a very educational manner different ways of striking, engraving or reducing coins. I have also appreciated the numerous videos in which each craftman tells his specific work: so lively and informative! One can see Didier the reducer, Stéphane who works in specialized coining…
The following rooms show successively: the creations of the Monnaie de Paris -trophies, medals, rare coins, jewels-; some treasures whose exhibition is set as if one were in the strongroom of a bank; different types of collections; and finally the uses of currency through ages. In any room the explanations are great and translated in English and most of the time also in Spanish.
The second space of the Monnaie de Paris shows temporary exhibitions and is intended to exhibit only modern art. The exhibition taking place at the moment, Women House, is really worth the visit. It tells how the domestic space has been for a long time a prison for women, a space of domination of the female body; but also how it has been turned into a space of creation by female artists in the 20th and 21st centuries. All the works exhibited are from female artists, including the famous Niki de Saint Phalle or Louise Bourgeois. I have also noticed that most of the visitors are women…
The exhibition starts with a striking video of Johanna Demetrakas which is a tribute to the original exhibition ‘Womanhouse’ that took place in Los Angeles in 1972 and launched the movement of women’s emancipation in art. Do not miss it!
Then 17 rooms illustrate 8 themes, from ‘Desperate housewives’ to ‘Woman-House’ through ‘Une chambre à soi’ referring to Virginia Woolf’s essay ‘A Room of One’s Own’, or ‘Une maison de poupée’ in reference to Henrik Ibsen’s play ‘Doll’s house’.
The works, a mix of photographies, videos, paintings, sculptures or wider installations are all exhibited with much care. The colour of the walls varies from one room to the next, from yellow to dark grey. The exhibition lies on two floors. The rooms downstairs are small and without windows: they illustrate perfectly the domestic space as a prison. While the rooms upstairs are much wider and brighter and emphasize more and more the emancipation of women through artistic creation.
One can admire the beautiful decoration of some rooms upstairs, their wooden or black and white tiled floors, their period architectural features… without forgetting the amazing views on the Seine from the large windows.
The highlight of the exhibition is the Spider, by Louise Bourgeois, which stands in the middle of the ‘Grand Salon’ of the palace…
… As far as inside is concerned. Indeed the exhibition goes on outside with some other major artworks such as Nana Maison II, by Niki de Saint Phalle, that everybody can admire in the ‘Cour d’honneur’ while entering the museum. But my favourite is The Teapot, by Joana Vasconcelos, in the ‘Cour de la Méridienne’… So amazing at night when the shadow of the sculpture gets drawn on the enlightened ground!
Women House ends on 28 January 2018. The next modern art exhibition will be a retrospective of Subodh Gupta, a major contemporary Indian artist, and will start on 13 April 2018.
Before ending I must tell for the wealthiest that the Monnaie de Paris is also the place where to find the three-star Parisian Retaurant of the Chef Guy Savoy. Its entrance is located on the opposite side of the ‘Grand Salon’ on top of the ‘Grand Escalier’. You will be welcomed by the motto of the Chef: ‘La cuisine est l’art de transformer instantanément en joie des produits chargés d’histoire’ (Cooking is the art to turn instantaneously into joy produce with a lot of history). An absolutely unique and unforgettable experience… for those who can afford it.
Christine Bokobza – Good Morning Paris The Blog
Practical information: Monnaie de Paris – 11 Quai de Conti ou 2 rue de Guénégaud 75006 Paris – Tuesday till Sunday: 11am-7pm (9pm on Thursdays-and Wednesdays from 31 January 2018) – Exhibition Women House: Until 28 January 2018