History of Musee des Art Asiatiques Guimet Museum in Paris

Originally started by the industrialist Emile Guimet after his trips to Japan, China, India, etc, he devoted his time to Asia and accumulating a large collection of different artefacts that eventually became the Musee Guimet, plus he also maintained a section for ancient Egypt.

The Beginnings of Musee Guimet

Louis Delaporte was a French artist and explorer that wend to places such as Siam and Cambodia and collected Khmer art, plus documented this along with drawing and engraving from many places he visited, which were first shown at one of the World Fairs in Paris.
Musee des Art Asiatiques Guimet artefacts
This collection became the core of the Indochina museum founded in 1882 at the Palais du Trocadero, which has since been destroyed, and this building was replaced with the Palais de Chaillot for the 1937 Universal Exhibition in Paris.

However, taking a step back in time, Emile Guimet first presented his own collection in Lyon from 1879 and then he decided to transfer his collections to a property in Paris, which became the Musee Guimet museum that opened in 1889, which was the same year as the Eiffel Tower was inaugurated.

In addition to this, the Musee du Louvre museum also devoted a section of arts to Asia, that later became the department of Asian arts, yet Emile Guimet also presented objects that were brought back from Korea by Charles Varat.

Then in 1912 a collection of Tibetan art was also displayed at the Musee Guimet, which had been brought back to Paris by Jacques Bacot.

The Next Stages of the Musee Guimet museum in Paris

Unfortunately, Emile Guimet died in 1918, however, his legacy of the Musee Guimet, which he had founded, lived on, and in 1927 the museum became attached to Musees de France and housed important collections that had been reported in major expeditions in Central Asia and China.

It was this very same year that this museum in Paris was to receive the original works, which had been presented at the Indochinese exhibitions held at the Palais du Trocadero.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s a rich collection of artefacts came from the French Archaeological Delegation in Afghanistan through the museum director, Joseph Hackin, who also headed the excavations, and these were a part of Khmer collections.
Painting at Musee des Art Asiatiques Guimet
Exhibition hall at Musee des Art Asiatiques Guimet
It was just before World War II that the Musee Guimet became famous for its rich collections, yet unfortunately Joseph Hackin was to be one of the victims of War while he was in the service of the Free France Forces.

Yet after the war had finished, the museum went through an extensive amount of reorganisation and the Musee du Louvre made an exchange with the Musee Guimet, so that The Louvre would get back Asian art works, but provide The Guimet with Egyptian pieces.

The institution of the Place d'Iena became one of the largest art museums on Asia in the world under the direction of Rene Grousset, who had taken over the running of the Musee Guimet after Joseph Hackin died.

Philippe Stern, who was an expert on art from Cambodia, took over in 1954 and organised a library, photo archives and numerous different activities for scholars and he ran the museum up until 1965.
Japanese artefacts at Musee des Art Asiatiques Guimet
Jeannine Auboyer, who was an author and specialist in ancient India, became the new curator of the Musee Guimet and set about developing the collection relating to classical India, then Jean-Francois Jarridge, a specialist in ancient archaeology between India and Pakistan took over.

In 1982, he was then followed by Vadim Elisseeff, who been on the management team for the Musee Cernuschi, which is another impressive museum in Paris.

More recent years of the Musee Guimet

With the support of the late Bernard Frank who was a professor of Japanese culture, an additional annex to the Musee Guimet was opened in 1991 called the Pantheon Bouddhique, or Buddhist Pantheon, with some of the original collection from Emile Guimet, the founder of the museum.
Facade of Musee des Art Asiatiques Guimet
Sculptures at Musee des Art Asiatiques Guimet
Yet how ideas and what the public expects having changed dramatically over the years, so the entire museum was renovated, starting in 1996, which has been designed in such a way to provide people with a greater understanding of other civilisations.  This was also for the conservation of works, and at this time also became known as the Musee des Arts Asiatiques Guimet.

Architects and designers Henri and Bruno Gaudin were commissioned to improve the permanent galleries in order to better showcase the impressive collections on display, plus there is now a cafe style restaurant and an auditorium.

The Japanese Garden and its traditional Tea Pavilion called the Jardin Japonais et Pavillon de The in French, which are linked to the Buddhist Pantheon, were also opened, so there is much more to discover that has made the Musee Guimet even more of an incredible tourist attraction in Paris.

However, in 2015, the Pantheon Bouddhique once more became a part of the Musee des Art Asiatiques and in 2017 the Hotel Heidelbach became home to a  new museum dedicated to tea and furniture that coincides with traditional practice.