Controversial Musée des Confluences Opens in Lyon

Portrait of Émile Guimet. Collection of the Musée des Confluences, Lyon.

On Saturday, the city of Lyon opened the Musée des Confluences, honoring the businessman and arts philanthropist Émile Guimet (1836-1918), the Art Newspaper reports. The institution contains 2.2 million artifacts split into four categories covering the earth, life, social sciences, and science and technology.

Although the €239 million cost has divided public opinion since the project was launched in 2000, the museum’s director Hélène Lafont-Couturier told the Art Newspaper “My dearest wish is that when it opens the public will have a completely different reaction and fall in love with it.”

Guimet used the fortune that his family made from chemically producing ultramarine to amass a comprehensive collection of religious art from Japan and China, as well as artworks from Greece and Rome. In 1879 he founded the Musée des Religions in Lyon, one of the first private museums in France. However, Guimet soon moved the collection to the Musée Guimet in Paris, disappointed by his hometown’s lack interest for his treasures.

Over time, parts of the philanthropists collection were returned to Lyon, where they were housed in the local Musée Guimet, and the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle. The collections have now been united in the new glass and steel building of the Musée des Confluences, designed by Viennese architects Coop-Himmelb(l)au.

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