Jacques Chirac’s Problematic New Museum

“As an epitaph to a presidency, Chirac really couldn’t have chosen a more controversial subject. The new museum contains that stunning national collection of ethnographic artefacts that so entranced Modernist artists in Paris — it is Chirac’s passion, too, as the self-styled ‘great defender’ of global culture. But at a time of national soul-searching over the stagnant economy, the loss of the Olympics and the recent race riots, this is bold indeed. True to form, the project has been dogged with controversy — not just the usual ‘will it be finished in time’ (not quite), the cost (£180 million), the ‘Elgin Marbles’ debate, but its very purpose.”