On January 15, 2013, officials at Charles de
Gaulle Airport in Paris formally announced the opening of Espace Musees, an art
museum located in Terminal 2E near the M boarding gates. The museum is open
every day of the year, and there is no charge for admission, according to the
Espace Musees website. Selected works from the French sculptor August Rodin,
sent by the Rodin Museum in Paris, are currently featured, and this exhibition
will last until May 2013. Catherine Chevillot, director of the Rodin Museum, is
happy to be a part of such an "unusual and original" undertaking. She
views it as an opportunity to introduce the Rodin Museum to a worldwide
The company that operates Charles de Gaulle, Aeroports de Paris, believed that people who travel to France should return home with a positive image of French culture in their minds. Building an airport museum that displays the works of prominent French artists represented an effective way to leave foreign travelers with that positive image. According to Serge Le Moine, artistic director for Espace Musees, the airport will secure works of art from the famous museums of Paris, and there will be a new exhibit every six months. The February 12, 2013 edition of "The New York Times" reported that Aeroports de Paris and an auction firm called Artcurial have teamed up to establish an endowment fund for the maintenance of Espace Musees and for the negotiation of the loans of the art collections. The president of this endowment fund, Francis Briest, believes that the Paris institutions participating in the airport program will have a chance to reach a much larger and diverse group of people than they could reach on their own.
The concept of offering access to art and culture at an airport did not originate in Paris. The Amsterdam Airport has been exhibiting works of art from the world-renowned Rijksmuseum, and the airport at Toulouse has displayed examples of contemporary art since May of 2012. However, Charles de Gaulle airport is the second largest airport in Europe, and it handled over 61 million passengers in 2012. When an airport of this size decides to dedicate space for the presentation of works of art, people notice. The gallery occupies about 2,700 square feet of space, and is constructed of a mixture of glass, wood and steel. The impressive structure was designed by the architectural firm of Willmotte Pere and Sons.
It is not surprising that the stunning works of art at the Espace Musees are being offered free of charge. The City of Paris has long been an advocate of educating the public to the elegance and beauty of art. In 1988, it began its Paris Museum Passes program with the aim of making the cultural attractions of Paris easily available to the public. A traveler purchases one of the Paris Museum Passes for a specified period of time, and thereby gains access to nearly 60 museums and monuments at a steeply discounted price. In addition, holders of Paris Museum Passes usually do not have to wait in line to gain entrance to one of the museums or monuments.