Becoming a "New" Museum? Contesting Oceanic Visions at Musee du Quai Branly

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    The Musee du Quai Branly (mqb) has been the focus of passionate debates in scholarly and public media in France and globally, since even before its opening in June 2006. These debates have often polarized advocates of divergent aesthetic and ethnographic approaches to museum practice, although some argue this is a false dichotomy and that the mqb has the future potential to realize a "double vision". Yet both approaches have their discursive origins in EuroAmerican scholarship and museological practice, and effecting a genuinely "double vision" must surely confront the question of the relation of objects in museums and galleries to living peoples and especially the descendants of the creators of such objects/ subjects. This essay explores this question in relation to mqb displays of Oceanic art, in particular the Pacific and Indigenous Australian art in the permanent collections and in the fabric of Jean Nouvel's building. It juxtaposes the museum's credo "where cultures converse" with the voices of Oceanic curators in dialogue at a conference held in association with the Polynesie exhibition in June 2008. It suggests that becoming a "new museum" is predicated not just on the rhetoric of an equality of arts, but also on people becoming engaged in more respectful relations of dialogue and exchange.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)108-140
    JournalThe Contemporary Pacific
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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