Towards the Nouvel Orsay

The grand outline of the "Nouvel Orsay"

Philippe de Montebello and Guy Cogeval© Tous droits réservés

In March 2011, in a conversation with Philippe de Montebello, former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and board member of the public establishment since 2008, Guy Cogeval, director of the Musées d'Orsay et de l'Orangerie, took the opportunity to reveal the main ideas behind the "Nouvel Orsay. Here are some extracts from that conversation, published in its entirety in the Musée d'Orsay's 2010 Annual Report .

The idea behind the renovations

Amont Pavilion© Musée d'Orsay / Sophie Boegly

"The idea for the works came from the originally more modest aim to make use of the Museum's Amont Pavilion [...]. The conversion of this wing entailed closing off one of the two ends of the large Impressionist gallery, making it virtually unusable. We then had the idea for a project on a much grander scale [...]. This was coupled with a long cherished desire of mine to update the lighting and presentation of the works in the galleries".

The reorganisation of the rooms

In the Pavillon Amont© Musée d'Orsay / Sophie Boegly

"With the exception of the central nave, a superb design by Gae Aulenti and Anne Pingeot, everything will be changed. Jean-Michel Wilmotte is redesigning the Impressionist Gallery. He is creating a temporary exhibition space in the former Column Gallery. Dominique Brard and the Atelier de l'Ile are constructing five levels within the Amont Pavilion, a building we had never previously been able to exploit fully. [...]. The Campana brothers, famous Brazilian designers, will turn the Café des Hauteurs, behind the great clock, into a catering area full of surprises that will also be a tribute to Gallé".

The coloured walls

Post-Impressionist Rooms© Musée d'Orsay / Sophie Boegly

"White kills all painting apart from 20th century and contemporary art. When you put an Academic or an Impressionist painting against a white background, the radiance of the white, its indeterminate aura around the work prevents the sometimes very subtle contrasts of values from being revealed. In my view, white is the enemy of painting.
[...] We chose [the colour of the wall] according to the overall display, without having one particular painting in mind. The choice is an aesthetic one".

The rehang

In the impressionist Gallery© Musée d'Orsay / Sophie Boegly

"We are going to try and establish a different rhythm in the presentation, whilst still respecting the various "schools" and great artistic personalities. We will try to bring out more meaning, and introduce more stimulating questions [...] It has to be surprising, thought-provoking. Through this new interdisciplinary approach, presenting the works in relation to other disciplines [...], we are getting back to the essence of the original project.
[...] I would like to create the best possible conditions for the visitor to view the works in a way that is well informed, unconstrained and imaginative. The works will have more space; the display cases will be less intrusive […]. They will invite dialogue with the artists all around them. The presentation will be more "polyphonic"; the categories will be less assertive".


The future

"In 2012, further small galleries will in turn be transformed. We will then tackle the spaces on the median level on the Seine side. All the renovation work should be finished around 2015". But before that, we look forward to meeting you on 20 October 2011 when you can discover the "Nouvel Orsay".

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