The Musée des Arts Décoratifs, located in the Louvre’s 19th-century Marsan Wing, has finally reopened after a 10-year closure, during which both the building and its collection were extensively renovated and restored.
The immediate impression is spectacular. Visitors enter the museum through a three-story-high main hall with light streaming in from oval skylights above and a mosaic-tiled floor gleaming beneath their feet. Glimpses of some of the 5,000 restored pieces on display in the exhibition areas on each side of the hall can be seen through the glass walls of the hall.
The renovation has added exhibition space, which now totals 9,000 square meters, and reorganized the display of part of the museum’s enormous collection of 150,000 pieces. The chronological display meandering through the entire museum covers every period and movement from Gothic and Louis XVI to Art Deco and contemporary design. The great names in French design are all here, among them Boulle, Sèvres, Aubusson, Christofle, Lalique, Guimard, Mallet Stevens, Le Corbusier, Perriand and Szekely.
Some of today’s top designers, working in four teams, have contributed to the renovation to the museum: Oscar Tusquets and Bruno Moinard for the historic collections, Bernard Desmoulin for three special galleries, Sylvain Dubuisson for the modern and contemporary section, and Daniel Kahane for the temporary exhibition spaces and circulation.
As they wander through the chronological display, visitors occasionally come upon one of 11 re-created period rooms, including several rooms from Jeanne Lanvin’s apartment, designed by Armand-Albert Rateau in the 1920s, and a lavish early-18th-century room from the Hôtel de Rochegude in Avignon.
Two levels on the north side of the building are taken up by a thematic show that will change every year. It currently focuses on tableware and seating from various periods. In three other galleries, collections of toys, jewelry and works by Jean Dubuffet are on display.
The profusion of riches in this collection is overwhelming. While the museum has made a valiant attempt to help visitors make sense of it all with its new organization, a number of glitches remain: the visitor sometimes runs into dead ends when following the chronological path or is unsure of which way to go, and the labels describing the works are difficult to read (a common problem in French museums). But for the sheer wealth of fine objects, this is one of the world’s finest decorative arts museums.