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Musée du Quai Branly, 7th Arr.

Champigny-sur-Marne, France, Europe: A sculpture in the Musée du Quai Branly flashes a Cheshire cat grin.
37 Quai Branly
France 75007
Tel: 33 1 56 61 70 00
Metro: Iéna, Alma-Marceau, Pont de l'Alma or Bir-Hakeim
view web site ›'s insider take:

After a decade of dithering, Parisian star architect Jean Nouvel's $300 million Seine-side complex finally opened in June 2006. Built to embody President Jacques Chirac's politically correct dream of French multiculturalism, Quai Branly is a provocative architectural and cultural statement, and the city's latest must-see. Imagine a comic-strip cargo ship with rust-red and yellow containers jutting from one side, the rusty louvers of a tobacco-drying barn on the other, and a freeway underpass below. That's the main building. Plants cascade junglelike from adjacent twin office towers; behind high glass walls, sinuous garden paths coil toward the dark, tangled, Halloween nightmare within. Wild proliferations of artwork and objects (masks, totems, sculptures) from the non-European world are swirled, stacked, or hung with apparently methodless madness (though they're actually organized by geographical region and date). Many are gorgeous, others downright disturbing—a 19th-century Nigerian headdress made from a skull and human hair, for instance. Intense spotlights cast shadows everywhere, and multimedia pods add acoustic confusion. Of course, it's all intentional: By observing yourself and others struggling to make sense of it all, you become a player in Nouvel's neo-mannerist game. The final challenge is to find the one unqualified success here: glass-domed Les Ombres restaurant, where talented young chef Arno Busquet turns out innovative Franco-world meals made from fair-trade ingredients. (There's a separate, badly marked entrance at 220 Rue de l'Université; 33-1-47-53-68-00.) The indoor-outdoor café is also a good place to snack or lunch, and to watch others hunt for the entrance. Go clockwise; you'll find it eventually.

Open 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (until 9:30 p.m. on Thursdays). Closed Mondays.

P.S. Take a virtual spin around the museum in our "24 Hours in Paris" video.

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