Creating The Musee D'Orsay: The Politics Of Culture In France

Creating The Musee D'Orsay: The Politics Of Culture In France

  • Publish Date: 1998-06-01
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Author: Andrea Kupfer Schneider
Pennsylvania State University Press
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The Gare d'Orsay train station, designed by French architect Victor Laloux, opened in Paris in 1900 to much fanfare. In fact, it was so beautiful that the French painter Eduoard Dtaille felt it would be more appropriate as a museum. Eighty-six years later, after a complex and controversial decision-making process, the French government finally transformed the station into the Muse d'Orsay, now one of the most dramatic and popular museums in Paris. This concise book presents the fascinating history of the creation of the Muse d'Orsay and the battles among the prominent politicians, curators, and historians over the architecture, collections, and concept of the museum. Relying primarily on interviews and contemporary newspaper articles, Andrea Schneider uses her expertise in decision-making analysis to uncover a story that reveals the true power of the curatorial elite. The book focuses on the powerful role of the government in the French art world--a role that may seem remarkable to most Americans. The book also provides insight into the zealous, and often amusing, viewpoints of the French public, art critics, and politicians. Battle lines were drawn over many questions: Should a nineteenth-century building be saved or destroyed? Should its interior be decorated in a Beaux-Arts style or in a modern design? What period should the museum encompass? Should both academic and avant-garde art be shown in the museum? How should it be organized? Is the museum concerned with the elite or the masses, with high culture or popular culture? Should there be history in an art museum? The story behind the compromises that resulted is fascinating for what it reveals about the interaction of power and culture in French society.

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