One reason I love the Musée des Arts décoratifs is that I get to walk by the crowds forming a queue outside the Louvre’s famous pyramid entryway, and walk right into the equally impressive building next door. Yes, it can get crowded, and yes, some people know about it, but somehow it’s off the tourist track.
The other thing I love is that there are no paintings on the walls. Paintings are okay, but in their rigid single dimension they make for a tedious exhibit when compared to a great piece of Empire furniture, or a mustard-colored set of china from Napoleon’s table, and a collection of emeralds strung into a gold bracelet.
What I would potentially love are the 152,800 works of art that are French fashion, accessories and textiles going back to the year 300. (Not a typo.) The trouble is, every time I check into this museum, the latest clothing and textile exhibit has just closed, like two days ago.
This news of closure is always delivered with the sort of French sneer you don’t see much anymore in Paris. The Ministry of Tourism has been coaching tourist interfacers with friendliness lessons. Apparently, the charm school dropouts have all ended up working here at the Musée des Arts décoratifs.
No matter. I’m not here to make friends. I’m here to revel in some prime examples of the best in French historical design. Furniture, silver, carpets, chandeliers, ancient wallpaper, glass and porcelain from many centuries, and of course, the Jewel Gallery. I don’t actually know anything about design. I just know what I like.
So, instead of seeing a costume exhibit, I went around and just took pictures of patterns that delighted me and color combinations that stirred my soul. For centuries, we have added interest to our basic beige food, shelter, and clothing with the sort of fanciful touches that lift them out of the ordinary, and lift us up as well. And that is the whole point of decorative art.