Inside the Quai Branly


Musée du quai Branly was designed to house major collections of art and artifacts from the Americas, Oceania, Asia, and Africa. Now we are here to see those collections.As I noted earlier, I love this high-tech Jean Nouvel structure, but almost as soon as we enter we discover a problem: it seems like we have to walk forever to actually get to the galleries. Once we get past the glorious pillar of musical instruments, there is no purpose for this and nothing to see but a few annoying videos. It irritates me. If I’m going to hike, I’d much rather do it outside!

We finally reach the galleries and are confronted with a conundrum – where do we start? In one direction lie treasures from Asia and Oceania, to the other, Africa and the Americas.

We pick the Americas, beginning with exquisite ancient artifacts from Mexico, Costa Rica, Columbia, Peru, and other spots. We see Incan gold and silver, Moche pottery (always a favorite), Mayan artifacts, and feathered tunics unlike anything we saw in Peru and Ecuador. It’s amazing.

There are only a few pieces from north America, but almost every one is stunning and many are unlike anything we have ever even seen illustrated before, including incredible Yupik and Aleut pieces. They are amazing.

The African galleries are absolutely overwhelming, with amazing masks, sculpture, weapons, jewelry, clothing, and other wonderful, beautiful objects from across northern and central Africa. There is a gallery with ancient Christian pieces from Ethiopia and booths showing evocative videos on various subjects (including a favorite of ours about rebuilding a mud brick temple in Mali). It’s exhausting to try to view it all. It would be easy to spend a whole day right here!

The Asian collection is smaller, but heavy on exquisite textiles and jewelry from Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, China, Japan, Arctic Russia, and parts of what I consider the Middle East.

We save Oceania for last. Although this is the most notable of the collections here, it is the area in which we have the least interest. However, our introduction to the collection begins with an amazing display of Aboriginal art from Australia (We clearly need to get to Australia) and Maori pieces from New Zealand.

There are other great pieces too, from Hawaii, Sumatra, and lots of lots of amazing pieces from the South Pacific, Papua New Guinea, and across Indonesia.

I guess everything here is pretty interesting.

It is an incredible museum and I am exhausted long before we actually have finished our visit.

All photos are from the Branly’s website, which has wonderful information on their collections, but only in French and without a way to link to a specific item.

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