Last week was the first time in nearly three months that I waxed poetic about a museum. Which showed remarkable restraint on my part, if I do say so myself. But with over 120 museums in Paris to write about, that restraint was only ever going to last so long. Especially considering how many amazing museums I’ve visited lately. And next on the list is a tour through the art of Asia at the Musée Guimet. How it took me eight years to visit this incredible museum is beyond me. But it certainly won’t be another eight years before I return.
From Lyon to Paris
The National Museum of Asian Arts-Guimet, or Musée Guimet, was originally founded in 1879 in Lyon. It moved to Paris a decade later; re-opening in 1889 in the 16th arrondissement. The museum was founded by Émile Étienne Guimet, hence the name, who spent many years in Asia studying eastern culture and religion. He was also a devoted collector of art and antiquities, and many of the Musée Guimet’s permanent collections were obtained during his travels. Today, the Musée Guimet is famous for having one of the largest collections of Asian art outside of Asia.
An Entire Continent in One Museum
I must admit that I was always going to love the Musée Guimet. Mostly because as soon as you walk in, you are greeted by a magnificent gallery that showcases art from Cambodia. I fell head over heels in love with that country when I visited last year, so I may have let out a squeal of delight to discover that the Musée Guimet features its art so prominently. I spent a not insignificant amount of time wandering among the pieces, imagining I was back at Angkor Wat, before continuing on into rooms that featured art from the rest of Southeast Asia. In particular, there was a room on Thailand that contained a wooden model of a temple that almost made me book a ticket to Bangkok right there and then. I didn’t. I still have some restraint left. But I very much want to see the real thing someday.
Overall, it was a great start to my visit, and a perfect example of why the Musée Guimet was so refreshing. I’ve often found that western museums that feature Asian art tend to focus predominantly on east Asia. And while the art of east Asia is beautiful, it is by no means comprehensive of the continent as a whole. But the Musée Guimet has taken its mission to showcase all Asian art seriously, as it features pieces from Afghanistan to Japan, India to Vietnam, and everywhere in between. I loved it all, but after taking in all three floors, my favourite was still that very first gallery that brought me back to Cambodia.
A Visit to the Musée Guimet
I’m going to assume that the Musée Guimet is probably not on most people’s list to visit. But it is a beautiful museum nonetheless; one that allows you to tour an entire continent in just a couple of hours. If you have any interest in the art of Asia, I highly recommend a visit. And as an added bonus, the Musée Guimet is located just down the street from Trocadéro. Which means you can combine your visit with a stop at Trocadéro’s world famous views of the Eiffel Tower. And another overlooked museum. Sounds like a great day in Paris to me.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.