Behind the Scenes Look at the Renovated Orsay Museum, Paris

Orsay MuseumThe Musée d’Orsay has unveiled a dazzling renovation that was two years in the making and cost 20.1 million euros. Luxury Travel Advisor recently went behind-the-scenes (before opening hours) to get a firsthand look at the museum that’s a sacred Paris institution, home to the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces that draw three million visitors a year. (Half of these annual visitors are American.)

What we found: The fantastic new exhibition spaces, including the Impressionist gallery, were designed to showcase the art in (literally) the best possible light. The walls are painted in bold colors (reds, purples, dark green), and the paintings just pop off the wall. Previously, walls awash in stone-colored beige seemed to camouflage the canvases in a neutral wash. Even the benches placed in the gallery are meant to be ogled; Japanese designer Tokujin Yoshioka created seating that’s like art. We also admired the wood flooring, and the increased floor space-- crucial for a museum as popular as the Orsay. Orsay Museum, Cafe by Campana brothersThere are five floors in this new wing, three of which are devoted to the decorative arts, and a fast glass elevator that whisks you between them.

After you gape at Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’herbe, Monet’s depictions of Etretat in Normandy, and Degas’ ballerinas, make a b-line for the gorgeous new Café de l’Horloge, designed by the Campana brothers with cutting-edge décor. The café faces the interior of the grand clock- as the museum is housed in a former railway station, a vestige of the Industrial Age that's immortalized in many of Monet's paintings.

Related Link: The American Friends of Musée d’Orsay which raises public awareness and financial support for the museum

All photos by Mary Winston Nicklin

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