Asian arts shine again at the Cernuschi Museum

- through Fabrice Groult

Published on

It was an event eagerly awaited by many of those who love Asia. On March 4, after a construction site lasting almost 9 months (1), “Cernuschi”, the legendary Museum of Asian Arts of the City of Paris, reopened its doors. Dedicated to Asian arts, and more specifically to those of the Far East: China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam, it is the second museum to be dedicated to them in France, behind the Guimet Museum, and the fifth centered on the Chinese art in Europe with more than 15 works listed.

The Cernuschi Museum (see box) got a makeover. Let's say it right away, the result is a success! After facelifts in 1962 and 2001-2005, it has become modern and majestic, while proudly looking back on its rich past! The works which have just been completed have made it possible to reorganize the scenography of the museum while accompanying it with a major campaign to restore the collections. For Eric Lefebvre, the director of the museum, the visit is first seen as “an invitation to travel”, thereby respecting the spirit of its founder. It is also a return to the sources of Japonism, an artistic movement influenced by Japanese civilization and art, which was fashionable in France at the end of the XNUMXth century.

Like in a Buddhist temple

The visitor discovers at the top of the monumental staircase of this private mansion the presentation of the collection initiated by Henri Cernuschi (1821-1896) during his stay in Asia between 1871 and 1873. The director of the museum underlines that the color of the walls, a red - very soft burgundy, was chosen “to recall the museography of the XNUMXth century, but also the color of the Buddhist temples that can be visited in Japan, China and Tibet. If there is one room that attracts the visitor like a magnet, it is the central room where the imposing statue of Amida Buddha (Amitabha) sits majestically, one of the masterpieces of the collection. of the museum. Dating from the XNUMXth century and over four meters high, this representation of the Amida Buddha (see box) is among the largest Japanese bronze statues outside the Land of the Rising Sun. Discovering this statue in its new setting, the visitor is immediately transported into a buddhist temple.

The museum offers, among other things, a return to the sources of Japonisme, an artistic movement influenced by Japanese civilization and art in fashion in France at the end of the XNUMXth century.

After having climbed the few steps located under the Buddha, a magnificent perspective is then offered to his view. The glass roof overlooking Parc Monceau evokes the Japanese temple of Byodoin. The statue of Amida contemplates the splendours of the garden from the openings provided for this purpose. In this collected atmosphere, we almost expect to see monks coming to pay homage to this Parisian Amida Buddha…

China and its neighbors from century to century

The new scenography invites the visitor to then immerse himself in the arts of China, considered in their continuity, from prehistory to the XNUMXst century. The chronological journey that accompanies the cultural and artistic evolution of the Middle Empire is punctuated by moments devoted to the other major cultural areas of the collection, Korea, Japan and Vietnam.

One of his most beautiful pieces is the vase You called “La Tigresse”. Gilles Béguin, one of the museum's previous directors, jokingly described it as “Cernuschi's Mona Lisa”. Dating from the first half of the XNUMXth century BC, this vase represents a feline, mouth open, hugging a human being against it. In its new environment full of light and transparency, this phantasmagorical vase-animal intrigues and captivates the visitor's attention.

From the roots to the flowerings of art today

If the Cernuschi museum was founded at the end of the XNUMXth century, it is today anchored in its time. To this end, it offers contemporary works by artists from Asia. At the end of the tour, a new room entitled "Painting room" has been designed to present to the public, at a rate of four rotations each year, around fifty works of graphic art (paintings on paper or on silk, but also fans and screens) extremely fragile from the museum's rich collection of graphic arts.

The second aspect of this successful entry into the 3st century is the digital mediation that accompanies the “pilgrim” throughout his journey. Thus, with the help of touch tablets distributed throughout the course, the visitor can access all sorts of content: 45D modelling, enlargements of details, presentation of fragile or oversized works... An application "which gives all the keys to understand the Asia of yesterday and today", specifies Eric Lefebvre, should soon be available offering two "masterpiece" tours of 1 minutes to 30hXNUMX.

A Tibetan proverb says that: "The journey is a return to the essential". This is what the Cernuschi Museum now offers. Don't forget your passport!

photo of author

Fabrice Groult

Fabrice Groult is an adventurer, photographer and Buddhist who has traveled the world since a young age. After studying Buddhism in India, he embarked on an eighteen-month journey through Asia that took him to the Himalayas, where he discovered his passion for photography. Since then, he has traveled the world capturing images of Buddhist beauty and wisdom. He was a guide for ten years, and is now a journalist with Buddhist News.

Leave comments