With the reopening to the public of the Albert-Kahn departmental museum on Saturday, April the 2nd, 2022, Île-de-France now has a reference museum of images and society, a new essential step for all audiences in search of knowledge and of senses, emotions and sensory experience. In the setting offered by the ambitious architectural project signed by the Japanese Kengo Kuma which brings together the inside and the outside, it is a dynamic program deployed throughout the site that will be offered to visitors. Centered on the heritage of Albert Kahn, both heritage – with priceless image and plant collections – and philosophical – through the values of humanism and openness transmitted by the philanthropic banker -, the offer of the new museum departmental Albert-Kahn is resolutely diversified, accessible to all audiences, amateurs or neophytes. Strengthened by their place in history and their resonance with our contemporary world, the museum’s rich collections invite them to share the world and keep their “eyes wide open”.
In Boulogne-Billancourt, close to Paris, the new Albert-Kahn departmental museum is unfolding on a four-hectare site, created by Albert Kahn at the end of the 19th century, now the Musée de France and listed as a Historic Monument, which now includes a new building as imposing as it is delicate, facing the city and open to the garden.
Chosen as part of international competition, Kengo Kuma’s project for the museum gives an essential place to nature and creates a dialogue between the new building and the gardens, through an element borrowed from traditional Japanese architecture: “Engawa”, boundary space between interior and exterior. The reinterpretation of this element that develops on all the buildings makes it possible to weave a link between the different areas of the site and to forge an identity, a coherence, for the whole, reinforced by the permanent echo of chosen materials: light wood, bamboo, metal. Kengo Kuma’s work is also defined as a synthesis between East and West by updating many traditional Japanese techniques, in harmony with the environment.
The vast restructuring project of the museum was wanted by the Department of Hauts-de-Seine, owner of the site and the collections, with a view to better conservation and enhancement of the collections, but also a renewed presentation and reception of the public in accordance with the requirements of a museum of the 21st century.
By engaging in this structuring project, with an assumed objective of cultural democratization and sharing, the new Albert-Kahn departmental museum wishes to establish itself as a cultural institution of reference at the national and international level and affirms its positioning:
• a museum for education in the image and through images, focused on social issues where debate, argumentation and collective exchange raise public awareness of social, environmental or aesthetic issues;
• a museum deeply rooted in a place – Boulogne-Billancourt, place of residence of the philanthropic banker, his “campus” and his place of experimentation, production and dissemination of his ideas – but which looks towards the distance – the world, object of the visual inventory of the “Archives of the Planet”;
• a museum that gives a central place to the question of plants and living things, to their knowledge and preservation – a desire that is embodied first and foremost by the garden, an exceptional testimony to horticultural art at the turn of the 20th century and a mirror sensitive to the scientific project of its creator.
The identity of the new museum is thus developing around a central promise: to transmit and provide an understanding of this project of knowledge of the world in the service of progress and understanding between peoples; and this, not only by the historical contextualization but also by its contemporary reactivation which gives to perceive the topicality of the themes developed.
To kick off a demanding and multidisciplinary program, the museum will reopen its doors not only with a new permanent route, offering a sensitive and immersive visitor experience between interior spaces and gardens, photographic, cinematographic and plant collections, but also with an inaugural temporary exhibition entitled “Around the World. The crossing of images, from Albert Kahn to Curiosity”. This will take visitors on a journey to the origins of the Archives of the Planet, by offering a journey through the museum’s collections and an exploration of the representations of travel through photography and film from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day, with contemporary incarnations of works by Bernard Plossu, Catherine Hyland, Denis Roche, Corinne Vionnet, Marcus deSieno.