PARIS (AFP) ― Masterworks by Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir and Edgar Degas get a new home next week as Paris’ Orsay Museum reopens its impressionist gallery following a two-year, multi-million-euro revamp.
Twenty-five years after its creation in a 200-year-old railway station on the south bank of the River Seine, Orsay has spruced up around half of its exhibition spaces at a cost of 20.1 million euros ($27.6 million).
Home to the world’s largest impressionist collection, which draws three million visitors per year, the museum of 19th-century art stayed open throughout the project, which was two-thirds self-financed with the rest coming from the French state.
Special attention was paid to the impressionist gallery on the fifth floor, whose paintings were moved temporarily to the ground floor, or sent on travelling exhibitions for the duration of the works.
Light was at the heart of the renovation, with filters installed to screen the harsh natural light that shone down through the glass roof, along with new artificial lights that aim to reveal the works’ full splendor.
Likewise, the white stone that covered the floor and walls of the impressionist gallery has been replaced with wooden floors and deep grey walls
― creating a more intimate setting, and gentler acoustics.
“These works were painted to hang in salons and bourgeois homes,” said Orsay’s chairman Guy Cogeval, who has dubbed the renovation project a “rebirth” for the museum. “This is closer to the original spirit.”
There are nods to contemporary design as well, with seven clear glass benches by Japan’s Tokujin Yoshioka dotted through the impressionist gallery for visitors.
Four new storeys were also built inside the museum’s Amont pavilion, a vast former machine room, creating 2,000 square metres of new hanging space devoted to putting more of its extensive decorative arts collection on show.
Orsay’s cafe was also revamped by a Brazilian duo, the brothers Hugo and Fernando Campana, with a marine theme in aquatic blues and coral reds, inspired by Jules Vernes’ “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.”
Visitors can rediscover Orsay’s impressionist collection in its revamped home from Oct. 20.