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Paris’s Historic Musée d’Orsay Announces a Massive Future Expansion

By Sarah Buder

Mar 13, 2020

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The Musée d’Orsay in Paris welcomes an estimated 3.6 million annual visitors.

Photo by zonesix/Shutterstock

The Musée d’Orsay in Paris welcomes an estimated 3.6 million annual visitors.

Thanks in part to a hefty anonymous donation, the Paris museum will undergo an ambitious redesign that opens the entire building to the public, showcasing more of its vast art collection.

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Note: Though COVID-19 has stalled a lot of travel plans, we hope our stories can offer inspiration for your future adventures—and a bit of hope.

Each year, an estimated 3.6 million visitors head to the Musée d’Orsay to enjoy the vast collection of 19th- and 20th-century art, with works by Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, and other famed creators on display. But the hugely popular site in Paris hasn’t always been a museum—it was built as a train station on the Left Bank of the Seine River during the early 1900s. The barrel-vaulted hall of the historic Gare d’Orsay station has remained largely unchanged since it was repurposed as museum, which opened in 1986. However, after a recent $22.6 million donation from an anonymous philanthropist (made through the nonprofit American Friends of Musée d’Orsay), the layout of this internationally renowned museum will soon change.

In early March, Musée d’Orsay announced its plans for an ambitious redesign to transform the entire 19th-century building into public space, allowing the museum to show more of its vast selection of artworks, which includes the world’s largest impressionist collection. As part of the overhaul, former hotel rooms built within the original train station, which are currently used as the museum’s administration spaces, will be converted into a new wing of impressionist and post-impressionist galleries that span 13,000 square feet in total, while the offices in the museum’s south wing will be relocated to a nearby venue.

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There are also plans to reorganize the fourth floor of galleries as an educational center where art lessons will be offered to children, families, and school groups using digital technology, according to museum organizers. The goal is create a more lively visitor experience for all audiences, “with special attention to catering for the young public,” Musée d’Orsay architectural and museography department director, Agathe Boucleinville, stated in a press release.

The project, known as “Orsay Wide Open,” is set to be completed in two phases: the first (the educational center) by 2024, and the second (the new wing) by 2026. Once finished, it will mark the first time that the whole Beaux-Arts-style building has been open to the public since the former train station’s reconfiguration as a museum in the late 20th century. 

Although the renovations wont be complete for another few years—and while France’s art museums, among them Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre, are temporarily shuttered to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19)—this is some news we’re glad to look forward to.

>> Next: Where to Eat in Paris, According to Eric Frechon, One of France’s Most Famous Chefs

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