Big news in Paris. The new, $296 million Musee du Quai Branly has stirred up a bit of controversy.
On the one side is the man whose dream this was, the man who sees himself as representing the common man and the oppressed peoples of the world, French president Jacques Chirac:
“This museum in some way is the recognition of cultural diversity, of what it brings to today’s world and how it is necessary for the respect of mankind and for peace,” Chirac told a television documentary last week.
“Nothing is worse than the disparaging glances sometimes thrown by pseudo intellectuals on the art, production and talent of others.”
On the other, the elite intellectuals, such as Giles Manceron, a historian who writes on French colonialism, who was quoted in the Wall Street Journal:
What we need to do is to put the art in a universal art museum like the Louvre and not put together continents that are not at all related except for the fact that they were all colonized by Europe.
Oh, and then there are the (inevitable?) ethnologists:
Inevitably, ethnologists have decried the décontextualisation of artefacts that were never designed as aesthetic objects, but for practical, mystical or ritual purposes.
Well, at least they can be happy the museum wasn’t called (as originally intended), the museum of “Primitive Art”! In any case, I’m sure the new Claude Lévi-Strauss Theatre will be showing some great ethnographic films! I hear the man himself was on hand for the inauguration.
More coverage in the NY Times.
UPDATE: More from Anthropologi.info.