Largely due to the energy and connections of its President, Hélène David-Weill
Which European museum could give a party for its international supporters that would be as glitzy as the Metropolitan at its most modish? The answer is a museum that has been shut for eight years, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, which closed for a complete rethink and restructuring in 1996. These supporters include Louise MacBain, Jayne Wrightsman, Mr and Mrs Sid Bass, Nan Kempner, Ronald Lauder, Nelly de Arrieta Blaquier, Mr and Mrs Oscar de la Renta, Henry Kravis and Mrs Akram Ojjeh, a list that to a large extent reflects the energy and connections of its President, Hélène David-Weill, as well as France’s centuries-old tradition of generating outstanding luxury goods, including high fashion.
Planned to reopen in 2000, then 2003, the museum has had to fight off the director of the Louvre, Henri Loyrette, who said publicly that he would like to take over its spaces in the north wing of the Louvre palace complex, to the protests of Mrs David-Weill. Dr Salmon now faces the challenge of how to re-present the collections in the light of today’s ideas: a reduced interest in the taxonomic approach to objects; the decline in collecting among the public and the near absence of any true connection between the modern design industry and historic decorative arts.
Her museums also have relatively less money than the Louvre. While the collections in her charge are national, the funding for the museum comes via the Union centrale des Arts décoratifs, which in recent years, has contributed around 40% of the annual budget. For acquisitions, it is dependent on donations from private benefactors and industry.
This is the main reason why Mrs Salmon sees collaborations with museums abroad, especially the US, as more important than linking up with the French regions. “There is much more interest in the decorative arts there,” she says.
The opening on 22 June of the Jewellery Gallery is thanks to Rolex watches, who paid for their creation by architect Roberto Ostinelli, and the museum is counting on similar support for the remaining galleries to be opened—in 2005, if all goes better than in the past..