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History of the collections

History of the collections

Cernuschi Museum, Asian Art Museum of Paris, perpetrates Henri Cernuschi's life's work. It stands as a link between the  capital, China and other Asian civilizations.
Born in Milan, Enrico Cernuschi (1821-1896) was an Italian patriot. He had to flee to  France in 1850, right after the 1848 Revolution and its consequences. Economist then  banker, he made a  fortune at the end of the French Second Empire (1852-1870). Fiercely  Republican, he actively supported the rising of the 3rd Republic. Deeply troubled by the tragic events of  Paris Commune in 1871, he started a trip around the world  from September 1871 to January 1873. He travelled with  his friend,  Théodore Duret (1838-1927), an art critic. In Japan and then China, Henri Cernuschi purchased around  5 000 art pieces, including a great amount of bronzes. When he  returned, his  collection was exhibited for a few months at the Palace of Industry, and so contributed to the emergence of Japonism in France.
In the meantime, he had his mansion built by the architect William Bouwens der Boijen (1834-1907) in the  Vélasquez Avenue, near the Park Monceau.  The main room of this building was designed to receive the master piece  of the collection, the Buddha Amida. He bequeathed his home, and all his Asian collection to the City of Paris. Eugène Benoît Causse, his secretary,  was in charge of turning the place into a museum. It opened October,  26th 1898, two years after Henri Cernuschi's death.
Henri d'Ardenne de Tizac (1877-1932), curator from 1905 to 1932, changed this house of  traveller into a modern cultural institution, related to great thinkers and scientists and  actively supported by The Society of Friends of Cernuschi Museum since 1922. He specialized the museum in Ancient Chinese art and archeology, from the Neolithic period to the 13rd century. Then, successors kept this orientation and got interested by other Asian cultures (among them, Japan and Viêt Nam), in particular for temporary exhibitions. The museum was directed by René Grousset (1885) from 1933 to 1952; Vadime Elisseeff (1918-2002) from 1952 to 1982; Marie-Thérèse Bobot (1929-2011) from 1982 to 1994; Gilles Béguin (1946-) from 1994 to 2011,and Christine Shimizu (1950-) since 2011.
 
Regularly enriched by purchases and donations, the museum gathers nowadays one of the first  Chinese art collection in Europe. The building , human sized, near the Park Monceau, has organized since 1911,  temporary exhibitions on every aspects of Asian cultures.Those exhibitions have become famous worldwide.

History of the collections