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Paris airport opens art museum for the jet set

Fancy a slice of art in between flights? Culture vultures now have a chance to satisfy their on-the-go urges with a new museum in the heart of France's largest airport, showcasing collections from top art institutions.

Paris airport opens art museum for the jet set
Passengers admire works by French sculptor Auguste Rodin in the new museum at Charles de Gaulle airport. Photo: Eric Piermont/AFP

Meant as a "window" onto the capital's main museums, the exhibition space unveiled Tuesday at Charles de Gaulle international airport will allow passengers "to get to know Paris' rich cultural offering better," said Pascal Bourgue, marketing and services director at Aeroports de Paris.

Open between the first flight of the day and the last, and offering free entry to all passengers transiting through terminal 2E, the "Museum Space" as it has been dubbed is set to display original works, on loan from Parisian museums, he said.

Nestled between the waiting lounges and boutiques, the space designed by architects Willmotte Pere et Fils blends wood, glass and steel in its decor. The 250-square-metre (2,700 feet) area targets long-haul international passengers, many of them bound for Asia.

For its inaugural six-month exhibition, organisers reached out to the Rodin Museum which loaned some 50 works by the 19th-century sculptor, including "The Thinker" and "The Kiss".

The Rodin Museum's director Catherine Chevillot hailed the initiative as "unusual and original", and a way to "reach an audience which isn't necessarily familiar with museums."

After Rodin, the gallery is expected to host two six-month exhibitions a year, although it has not yet disclosed which museums are taking part. Francis Briest, president of the fund set up to finance the space, says the art institutions involved will get a chance to showcase their collections to a wider audience.

A similar museum exists within Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands, but it is dedicated solely to the country's national museum, the Rijksmuseum. American gallerist Larry Gagosian in October also opened an exhibition space at Le Bourget airport nearby, but that targets a more limited audience of private jet passengers.

With a record number of 61.6 million passengers having passed through the doors of Charles de Gaulle airport last year, the museum expects to host between 1,500 and 2,000 visitors a day.

"On an average, passengers spend between one and a half to two hours in the airport. During that time, they're relaxed and open to this type of experience," Bourgue said.

"The goal is to make this area a real cultural space, with a vibrant and dynamic offering," Briest said.

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CULTURE

Asterix: Five things to know about France’s favourite character

Asterix is hitting the box offices again, so to celebrate here's a look at France's most treasured hero.

Asterix: Five things to know about France's favourite character

If you have walked past a bus stop anywhere in France in recent weeks, then you have likely run into film posters advertising Asterix and Obelix: The Middle Kingdom.

Starring high-profile French actors Marion Cotillard and Vincent Cassel, France’s film industry is hoping that this film, capitalising on France’s nostalgic relationship with the comic series “Asterix” will bring box office success.

The Asterix comic book series was first published in 1959, and tells the story of a small Gallic village on the coast of France that is attempting to defend itself from invaders, namely the Romans. Asterix, the hero of the series, manages to always save the day, helping his fellow Gauls keep the conquerors at bay.

As the beloved Gaulish hero makes his way back onto the big screen, here are five things you should know about France’s cherished series:

Asterix is seen as the ‘every day’ Frenchman

“Asterix brings together all of the identity-based clichés that form the basis of French culture”, Nicolas Rouvière, researcher at the University of Grenoble-Alps and expert in French comics, told AFP in an interview in 2015.

READ MORE: Bande dessinée: Why do the French love comic books so much?

The expert wrote in his 2014 book “Obelix Complex” that “the French like to look at themselves in this mirror [of the Asterix series], which reflects their qualities and shortcomings in a caricatured and complacent way”.

Oftentimes, the French will invoke Asterix – the man who protected France from the Roman invaders – when expressing their resistance toward something, whether that is imported, American fast food or an unpopular government reform.

The front page of French leftwing newspaper Libération shows President Emmanuel Macron as a Roman while Asterix and his team are the French people protesting against pension reform.

The figure of ‘a Gaul’ is a popular mascot for French sports teams, and you’ll even see people dressed up as Asterix on demos. 

A man dressed as Asterix the Gaul with a placard reading “Gaul, Borne breaks our balls” during a protest over the government’s proposed pension reform, in Paris on January 31, 2023. (Photo by JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP)

Asterix is the second best-selling comic series

The series has had great success in France since it was first launched in 1959, originally as Astérix le Gaulois. It has also been popular across much of Europe, as the series often traffics in tongue-in-cheek stereotypes of other European nations – for example, caricaturing the English as fans of lukewarm beer and tasteless foods.

Over the years, Asterix has been translated into more than 100 languages, with at least 375 million copies sold worldwide.

It remains the second best-selling comic series in the world, after the popular manga “One Piece”.

There is an Asterix theme park 

The French love Asterix so much that they created a theme park, located just 22 miles north of Paris, in the comic series’ honour in 1989.

The park receives up to two million visitors a year, making it the second most visited theme park in France, after Disneyland Paris. With over 40 attractions and six themed sections, inspired by the comic books, the park brings both young and old visitors each year. 

READ MORE: Six French ‘bandes dessinées’ to start with

The first French satellite was named after Asterix

As Asterix comes from the Greek word for ‘little star’, the French though it would be apt to name their first satellite, launched in 1965 after the Gaulish warrior.

As of 2023, the satellite was still orbiting the earth and will likely continue to do so for centuries to come.

Asterix’ co-authors were from immigrant backgrounds

Here’s become the ‘ultimate Frenchman’, but both creators of the Asterix series were second-generation French nationals, born in France in the 1920s to immigrant parents.

René Goscinny created the Asterix comic series alongside illustrator Albert Uderzo. Goscinny’s parents were Jewish immigrants from Poland. Born in Paris, René’s family moved to Argentina when he was young and he was raised there for the majority of his childhood. As for Albert Uderzo, his parents were Italian immigrants who settled in the Paris region.

Goscinny unexpectedly died at the age of 51, while writing Asterix in Belgium. From then on, Uderzo took over both writing and illustrating the series on his own, marking Goscinny’s death in the comic by illustrating dark skies for the remainder of the book.

In 1985, Uderzo received one of the highest distinctions in France – the Legion of Honour. Uderzo retired in 2011, but briefly came out of retirement in 2015 to commemorate the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists who were murdered in a terror attack by drawing two Asterix pictures honouring their memories.

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