Monday, September 06, 2004

A New Museum in Paris Inches Toward Reality

PARIS, Sept. 5 - Primitive art has not lacked admirers here. A century ago Picasso and Brancusi were inspired by African masks and statues. Thirty years later André Breton fell in love with tribal carvings from Oceania. Today dozens of Left Bank galleries specialize in the exotic creativity of distant lands. Yet in the museums of Paris, primitive art is still the poor relation of Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities and European painting and sculpture.

All this is about to change. A $265 million museum devoted to the indigenous art of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania is rising on the banks of the Seine beside the Eiffel Tower. Within a year the Musée du Quai Branly, as it is known, will begin receiving the 270,000 objects in its collection. And early in 2006 President Jacques Chirac is expected to inaugurate what is already considered the principal cultural monument to his 12 years in office.