The Quai Branly Museum opened on June, 2006, after a special committee, set up by French President Jacques Chirac, decided that the area adjacent to the Eiffel Tower would be used by the museum.
The museum's display includes about 267,000 exhibits, of which only about 3,500 are presented to the general public, with the exhibitions occasionally changing. It presents the collections transferred from the National Museum of African and Oceanian Art (now closed) as well as collections from the Anthropology Department of the nearby Man Museum. In addition, the museum exhibits many works by contemporary Australian Aboriginal artists.
The building was designed by the renowned architect Jean Nouvel. It is like a huge bridge surrounded by a garden that includes 178 types of trees, including maple, cherry trees and magnolia. On the southwestern side of the building is a "living wall" 200 meters long and 12 meters high, designed by Gil Kalman and Patrick Blanc. The wall contains watering systems that allow the plants to grow all the time.
The museum complex includes the museum building, which stands on pillars on the second floor, and the museum garden below which is located below it on the first floor.
The construction of the museum took 11 years and cost 285 million dollars.
Museum architect Jean Nouvel explained that his goal was to create a kind of nature reserve for tribal art collections. 3,500 items will be displayed regularly in the museum and arranged in a circular manner. Many of the exhibits are in France because of its colonial past, and some fear that their renewed exposure to the public will reignite the debate over the right of the French to hold these exhibits, rather than their countries of origin. Also, exhibits from other museums were brought to the Quai Branly Museum, and there is an uncertainty about the continued relevance of the other museums. One museum has already been closed due to the changes.
Among the thousands of items on display are objects from Papua New Guinea, masks from Africa, Amazonian headdresses, embroidered garments from Vietnam and bridal jewelry from the Middle East. The museum's tall space also features a 14-foot Indian tumbler and a glass tower where some of the museum's musical instruments are displayed.
Chirac admitted that he hoped that one day the name of the museum would be renamed and named after him, however it is still called the Quai Branly Museum.
The building causes the people passing by to look at it in amazement at the façade that is full of plants - from top to bottom.
The wall was built by Patrick Blanc, a French botanist and scientist who has been planting gardens on walls since 1994 and this wall is his most famous work. He is one of the pioneers in this field and he has developed a system that allows vertical gardens to grow almost everywhere - inside a building with the help of artificial lighting, and on the exterior walls of buildings (even without a supporting wall). This is because the system is very light and weighs no more than 30 kg per meter, and also the wall is built of a metal infrastructure, a PVC surface and fabric, with mosses, ferns, ivy and other pre-selected plants, so that it creates a live and impressive 3-dimensional carpet.
Patrick Blanc's vertical gardens have been built in at least 18 sites around the world and are proof that even under imperfect conditions (on the facade of buildings facing busy streets in a city), impressive and captivating vegetation can develop.
The wall has 15,000 plants from 150 different species.
The gardens inside the museum are also impressive, but the overall interior design has been criticized by architects who claim that the dominant design takes all the attention out of the exhibits.