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Mon Petit Palais Isn’t Very Petit

It was “La Nuit des Musées.” The weather held out for a glorious evening at nine-plus city museums that opened their doors to the public until midnight Saturday.

Art galleries and other museums took advantage of the event creating a festive atmosphere all over the city, not unlike “La Nuit Blanche” or “Fête de la Musique.” We chose (I believe, wisely), to visit the largest museums of the listing to avoid any long lines or crowded spaces. Funnily enough, the largest equates to “Le Petit Palais.”

The “Grand Palais” had also opened its doors, to both the current exhibition, “Figuration Narrative” on until July 13th, and its main exhibition
space under the glass domed roof. It is here we chose to enter, easily and quickly, the security guards opening purses, but without much reserve.

Yes, the Grand Palais is larger than the Petit Palais. (Duh!) Built for the Paris Exhibition of 1900 at the same time as the Petit Palais and the Pont Alexandre III, it “combines an imposing classical façade with a ‘riot’ of Art Nouveau ironwork” ( After 12 years of renovation, precipitated by a glass panel having fallen from its roof in 1993, the doors reopened in September of 2005. Those privy to ‘secret Paris’ know that a major police station exists in its basement.

At night the ceiling is stunning. During the day, it is even more impressive. Currently there is an exhibition of sculptor Richard Serra’s “Promenade,” a “multiple piece installation that creates a landscape of steel” made up of five steel pieces measuring 14 meters by 4 meters, with a thickness of 13 centimeters, on until June 15th. (I found this article online that well describes and illustrates it.)

Le Petit Palais is far from “petit.” Just across the street from the Grand Palais, it now houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris (City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts). “Arranged around a semi-circular courtyard and garden, the palace is similar to the nearby Grand Palais. Its ionic columns, grand porch and dome echo those of the Invalides across the river” (

The elaborately painted domed ceiling is cleverly enhanced by a series of mirrors angled so that one can view them by looking down, rather than up. Visitors were plentiful, but not so overwhelming as to be too crowded for pleasure.

As with all public events such as this, we noticed how orderly and well behaved the French are — quiet and respectful in the museums, just as always, in spite of the festive occasion. And we noticed how many take advantage of this opportunity to see art, visit their monuments, make a social evening of it.

Why would a city go to such trouble and expense to open its museum doors to a vast public?

Because it’s Paris, that’s why.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

P.S. For those of you interested in Fractional Ownership, Steve Navaro of Paris Home Shares is extending his offer to Parler Paris and French Property Insider readers to pay for the first year of annual dues to any purchases of a share in Chez La Tour! Visit /frenchproperty/fractional/chezlatour.html for more information or email Steve Navaro by clicking on this link: [email protected]


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