“Ça fait longtemps!” is what French friends say to each other when they meet up for the first time in years. With the recent reopening of two major Parisian museums after long renovations — and the debut of a third after years of expectations — the phrase could practically be Paris’s motto these days. But the wait has been well worth it.
After a five-year expansion project, the Beaux Arts-style Petit Palais reopened its doors in 2005. Like a miniature Louvre (without the Louvre’s crowds), the museum houses a diverse collection, spanning ancient Grecian urns, medieval panel paintings, Rembrandt’s “Self-Portrait in Oriental Attire,” Louis XV-era furniture, French Impressionism, the symbolist works of Odilon Redon and Art Nouveau ceramics.
The world’s most famous water lilies — the ones painted by Monet — have a refurbished home at the Musée de l’Orangerie. Reopened in May 2006 after six years of renovations, the space also holds an eye-popping collection of paintings from Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Cézanne, Renoir, André Derain and others.
Chia Pet or a museum? With its exterior wall that sprouts green plants, the new Musée du Quai Branly is easily the city’s wildest architectural concoction since the Centre Pompidou. Inside the strange jumble of angular and colorful buildings — designed by the boldface architect Jean Nouvel — are airy galleries of tribal masks, totemic carvings and other ethnographic works from Africa, Asia, the Americas and Oceania.
By SETH SHERWOOD