The Carnavalet museum, the archaeological crypt located under the parvis of Nôtre-Dame, and the Petit Palais are just three of the 14 institutions that comprise the municipal museums of Paris. Together, the consortium (also known as Paris Musées) welcomed over 3 million visitors in 2015. In that same period, 9.3 million people visited the Louvre. In a bid to generate greater interest and public awareness in the city's museums, Paris Musées recently launched a website where nearly 200,000 images from the various instutions are accessible online. As part of the kick-off, Paris Musées curators teamed up with ten well-known Instagramers--artists, photographers, fashion bloggers, and comedians--to reinterpret ten different works of art found in the municipal collections.
Instagram artists like @audrey.pirault and @rafaelmantesso selected paintings and photographs and gave them a funky, chic overhaul in tune with the social media generation. For example, an oil painting of the illustrious Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) by Georges Clairin (1843-1919) shows the comédienne draped luxuriously over a satiny divan. Instagrammer @miss_etc remade the portrait into a sumptuous selfie, showing the artist lounging on a beige sofa in pricey sneakers and flowy gown, holding her iPhone just right to capture the moment.
Georges CLAIRIN (1843-1919). Portrait de Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923). 1876. Musée des Beaux Arts de la Ville de Paris, Petit Palais. ©Petit Palais.
The Instagram exhibition is targeting a specific audience: People who do not go to museums. By inviting social-media darlings (each with hundreds of thousands of followers) to reimagine classic works of art, Paris Musées is battling the perception that museums are stuffy, irrelevant, out-of-touch cabinets of curiosity, and are in fact culturally relevant and hip.
Portrait de Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) reinterpreted by @miss_etc. Reproduced with permission from Paris Musées.
The Instagram exhibition is being held at the Gare Saint-Lazare. While a train station seems an odd choice for an art installation, the goal is to promote the city's museums to the greater, non-museum-going public, and thousands of commuters hustle through the massive station daily. Passers-by will also be invited to propose their own remakes and share them online using the #ParallèleParisMusées hashtag, the whole endeavor highlighting how technology can bridge the gap between art and audience.
Art, inaccessible? Not in Paris.
Check out the Paris Musées Instagram account at https://www.instagram.com/parismusees/
The Instagram art will be on view at the Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris through July 31. More information is available here.