France Honors Chirac’s Indigenous Art Museum
Chirac’s fight for greater artistic representation is celebrated despite initial disapproval.
A decade ago, former French president Jacques Chirac was mocked for, of all things, his ideas about art. His plans to create a Paris museum dedicated to the indigenous art and cultures of Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Americas were deemed an “ill-judged disaster which bordered on being racist.” Today, however, the Musee du quai Branly has seen 14 million visitors pass through its doors, and is widely hailed as a massive popular success and a bridge between people.
In honor of Chirac’s efforts towards the creation of the museum, it has been renamed the Musee du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac. Citing a deep-seated interest in the arts of Africa and the Pacifics as his motivation, Chirac believed in the necessity of an indigenous art museum, battling detractors who were outraged that ritual objects and artifacts would be presented simply as art.
As a tribute to its creator, the museum will display a new show tracing Chirac’s lifelong fascination with indigenous art, featuring an 18th century Japanese Buaku theater mask that closely resembles the retired politician. The exhibition was attended by the current French President Francois Hollande, who praised his longtime rival for his stubborn commitment to the project.
“What was obvious to Jacques Chirac, was how could the Lourve remain a great museum if it ignores 70 percent of the world’s population?” stated Hollande.