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No Photos Allowed in the Nouvel Orsay

In November the renovations of the Musée d’Orsay known as the “Nouvel Orsay” were finished, and after two years of being moved around into temporary homes, all of the Degas, Monets and Courbets were placed in their new, spiffed up galleries. Last week I went to check it out and take some photos.

The main area doesn’t look too different, aside from a new small café on the ground level where the sculptures are located. I took a few shots and then noticed a sign that said “No Photos”. Huh? None at all? I turned to my guide, a woman from the American Friends of the Musée d’Orsay, and asked if I really wasn’t allowed to take any photos, at all, even without a flash. Apparently there’s new management, and they don’t want people taking photos. At all. I hesitatingly put my camera back in my bag. Hmph.

One of the only really big differences I could see, aside from the fact that many of the paintings were moved, is that now the walls in the galleries are painted, either a deep dark blue (in the Post-Impressionist Gallery) which made the paintings really pop, a bright red in the halls where the stairwells are located, and a pale gray in the top-floor Impressionist Galleries (which I liked less, probably because the high ceiling still feels so much like…a train station). There are also new benches made of fancy crystal and some bright red plastic chairs, both done by famous designers I’m sure, but are neither comfortable nor adequate for all of the people who would like to sit while contemplating their favorite paintings. Maybe I’m just being cranky because I wanted to take photos.

 

I had a little reprieve on the top floor, where you can still take photos of the big clock-face windows and the views over Paris.

A hallway near the stairwell, where, since there’s no art, you can photograph away (or at least no one tried to stop me). I do like the red.

Had lunch in the freezing cold café. I hope their heaters were broken and it’s not always a chilly wind tunnel. The quiche I had was very nice (probably because it was hot), although my friends didn’t finish their salads (probably because they were cold). The decor is also rather cold, designed again by some famous person who I’m sure I could easily find in the press releases or on their website, but I just don’t care enough to make the effort.They don’t mind if you take photos here.

The historic Hôtel Orsay restaurant hasn’t been changed, except for the chairs, which are now plastic. The old wicker chairs are now in the café downstairs. I’ve never been a huge fan of the food here, but the view is pretty. No one stopped me from taking photos here.

Spotted this view from the windows across the hall from the restaurant. I know I sound rather grumpy, but the art works are among my favorite in Paris. And there are some fabulous “Patron’s Pass” private tours planned by the American Friends of the Musée d’Orsay.  I highly recommend a visit, just don’t get any ideas about taking photos of your favorite Bonnard.

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  • The no photo rule was eliminated in March 2015. I'm visiting in about four weeks time and bringing my camera.

  • A very interesting post and comments, especially as I have just come back from the Orsay. I'd have to say I have mixed feelings about the experience.First, the good. The painted walls are fabulous. As you say, the art pops out at you, and it makes the galleries very handsome. The just-opened Degas exhibit was fascinating. It made me wonder just what kind of man Degas was, and a display that evokes curiosity like that can't be bad. Now the bad. The signage was horrible (and I can read French). I don't mean the captions for the art; I mean the explanations of the pricing and the rules. And the ticketing rules are just weird; we got into a real tangle. You commented about the seating in the galleries. The seats looked so avant garde and uninviting that I couldn't even bring myself to try them.When I saw the cable that prevents you from stepping too close to the paintings, I thought they were an accident waiting to happen. First, they are only one foot off the ground — I started referring to them as trip wires. And second, they are painted the same colour as the wall. Sure enough, an older lady didn't notice it and fell wham to the floor, right in front of us. Are law suits common in France?Five years ago, I had a wonderful time at the Orsay, and thought of it as my favourite museum in the world. This time, it made me feel uncomfortable and a little unwelcome

  • I do agree with Michelle. As much as I hate not being able to take photos myself, it is totally absurd going to the Louvre and seeing a sea of cameras raised up in front of the Mona Lisa. 😉

  • This may be an unpopular view, but I actually prefer museums that don't let you take photos. At the Orangerie, for instance, people were so obsessed with taking photos of Monet's waterlilies that it was impossible just to sit and take them in – the people with cameras weren't taking the time to enjoy looking at the paintings, and they came close to spoiling it for the rest of us who wanted to do just that. So I found the d'Orsay's policy both times I was there to be quite a breath of fresh air!PS Love your newsletter, BTW. Makes me long to be back in Paris. Some day… :)I

  • Many of Europe's (and more large American museums) are banning photography. Few museums in Italy even allow a camera out of a bag. They say it is to protect the art from a flash but in reality I suspect it is to make you purchase the books from the gift shops you are marched through at every gallery exit.

  • It is a pity when you can't do what you thought you could. However, I have observed that a lot of people don't know how to turn off the camera flash -which damages paintings and fabric. I wonder if that is why the rule has come in for some parts of the Orsay. It would be terrible if the Orsay banned cameras altogether because people didn't obey their rules. Taking a photo through the clock is the best bit! Thank you for the overview of the renovated Orsay, I look forward to seeing it [again] in August.

  • The "no photos" rule really bothers me. Not sure why they decided to make it a rule. I recently went and there weren't many guardians so I snuck a few shots of vibrant Impressionist paintings against that deep blue. And I also stopped for a coffee at that new café – a bit disappointed it's so casual. It's Musée d'Orsay after all! I do like the restaurant on the second floor – I had their delicious steamy risotto. But still, I scoff at the no photos idea and will continue to sneak shots whenever I can 😉

  • actually, the photo ban predates the nouvel orsay. i was there last summer and the policy was already in place. i was a bit disappointed, of course, given how i've previously been able to take photographs in there (never with flash) and some of them are among my favourites. sadly, i won't be able to explore more photographic creativity around here…