Unusual Paris Museums and Galleries – Musée Guimet:
Located at 6, place d’Iéna, facing the equestrian statue of George Washington is the Musée Guimet, one of the largest collections of Asian Art, outside of Asia. The Musée National Guimet has the most important panoramic collection of Indian, Chinese, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Japanese, Nepalese and Tibetan art in France and it is a real treat for anyone interested in oriental art.
The museum started off as the pet project of Emile Guimet (1836-1918), a Lyons industrialist who wanted to open a museum devoted to the religions of Ancient Egypt, Classical Antiquity, and Asia. What it has become is a major centre for the appreciation and knowledge of Asian civilizations, with an emphasis on the inter-relationships and differences between the various artistic traditions of Asia.
Well-preserved archeological treasures
It’s full of well-preserved archeological treasures from all over Asia – from Afghanistan to Japan and many points in between. Cambodia (if you’ve been to Angkor Wat in Cambodia then many of the exhibits will seem familiar) and Vietnam are particularly well-represented.
The Collections are presented per country and chronologically on five levels surrounding a grand staircase. There’s an emphasis on the influence on Asia of its two major civilisations: India, whose religious iconography travelled up to Japan via the Silk Road and into the whole of South East Asia through maritime routes; and China, whose ways of life and philosophy have been absorbed into most Far Eastern cultures.
In 1876 Guimet was commissioned by the Minister of Public Instruction to research the religions of the Far East and the Guimet’s collections include many fine pieces from that expedition. We particularly enjoyed the impressive collection of buddhas ranging in styles from the Sukhothai buddhas to Cambodian, Nepalese and Chinese.
Free brochure and audioguide
At the entrance to the museum pick up a free English brochure and 90-minute audioguide which will introduce you to a selection of the museum’s masterpieces. The audioguide is free upon presentation of your ticket and you’ll need it because the descriptions of the exhibits are in French. The commentary lasts approximately 90 minutes and is available in French, English, German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese and Japanese. Have a look at our Musée Guimet photos before your visit.
Tip: Don’t miss Guimet’s personal round library whose eight carytids watch down on visitors from the upper balcony. Make sure you get to the top floor where there’s not only an 18th-century ivory replica of a Chinese pavilion but also a terrace from where you have a magnificent panorama stretching from Notre Dame to the Eiffel tower.
Panthéon Bouddique du Musée Guimet
This is a separate building up the street (19 avenue d’Iéna; included in the entry ticket) which displays a vast collection of Buddhas and occasionally holds traditional Japanese tea ceremonies.
The tea pavilion was designed by architect Nakamura Masao and built by master carpenter Takaaki Yamamoto. Many of the materials were imported specially from Japan.
You can also enjoy the peace and natural surroundings of the Japanese garden (constructed in 1992), an ideal spot for tranquil meditation, especially after being impressed by the serenity of the Buddhas inside.
Tip: Be careful about queues on free Sundays and when there’s a newly opened temporary exhibition. A visitor commented “When we popped out of the metro we noticed a huge line for the Guimet Museum. That place always has the longest lines on free Sundays (the first Sunday of the month) or when there is a special exhibit. There had to have been 150 people on the line at 10:30pm.”
National Museum of Asian Art-Guimet
6, place d’Iéna,
Tel: 01 56 52 53 00
Next page : Musée Grévin