Passionate, conscientious and knowledgeable, Olivier Simmat works tirelessly to provide an international standing for the Orsay Museum. For more than 10 years he has been in charge of international relations and development. An advisor to the President, he strives to guide the public and ensure that the presentation of the museum’s collections is constantly evolving.
Standing majestically on the Left Bank of the Seine, the Orsay Museum is one of the key monuments of Parisian life. This former railway station dating from 1900 was transformed and reinvented in 1986 as a museum dedicated to 19th century art. Cosmopolitan and open to all, the museum has the largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world. An exceptional resource, a treasure-house of a museum; words are inadequate to convey the unique importance of its heritage.
But simply stating how impressive it is fails to convey the excitement engendered by this marvellous museum and its priceless holdings. Drawing vitality from its works and their creators, the Orsay Museum expresses the life of creation in all its strength and majesty. An essential witness to the 19th century, it reveals its profound truths today in the 21st century.
Certainly, Impressionism is a crucial artistic movement in contemporary history. Many are so familiar with it that they take it for granted, but these masterpieces and their artists constitute a cultural legacy on a global scale. However, in the epic scale of time, they represent but a brief moment. “There will be no new artists but new audiences. Audiences that therefore need to be established.”
Because masterpieces and artists transcend time, Olivier Simmat uses his privileged position to spread the word. To pass it on. To radiate this heritage intact across generations and countries. To reveal; giving enthusiasts and experts the opportunity to discover these fragile works by illuminating them. To share; allowing all people, not just the enlightened ones, to appreciate the genius of this artistic revolution.
In 2018, the Orsay Museum broke records. The number of visitors hit 3.2 million (+ 3%). The exhibition ‘Picasso: Blue and Rose’ received 670,667 visitors. The Orangerie, which is partnered with the Orsay, welcomed more than a million visitors in 2018. A worldwide success, the Orsay has been voted the world's number one museum by the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards based on the quality and quantity of reviews posted by users worldwide over 12 months (2018 travellers), being acclaimed over even New York's MomA.
With dynamic passion and strategic deployment, the Orsay captures the hearts of new visitors of all ages and helps to make the cultural treasures of Paris known throughout the world. A success generated by the excellence of its projects, pedagogy and innovation. A success that stems in large part from a real desire, as Olivier Simmat explains: “The Orsay being largely responsible for its own programming and its artistic choices, we are able to organise major exhibitions in France and abroad. Our works travel everywhere, we lend our masterpieces to foreign museums. Our major exhibitions circulate around the world, and they are also designed and produced for this purpose. We have partnerships in many countries.”
On the Parisian art circuit, the Orsay Museum leads the way, catering to an extremely varied and perpetually renewing public of enthusiasts and experts.
A young audience that has been introduced to Impressionism by its parents or grandparents. “We have developed many initiatives for young audiences to help them discover and love the art of the 19th century, to get them to understand how modernity grows out of this period. We have trained and recruited many mediators, true storytellers who guide visitors by giving voice to the works and their period. Access to the Museum is free for people under 27 years old.”
An international audience; visitors from all over the world find themselves within the impressive walls of the Orsay Museum. The Japanese, for example, have a passion for Impressionism. The attendance of the Brazilian public at the Orsay is 3%. In Brazil, while Impressionism is taught in school, examples of it are not found in museums. “We organised a major touring exhibition in Brazil in 2016 from Sao Paulo to Rio. ‘Impressionism: Paris and Modernity’ displayed some 85 masterpieces from the Orsay.”
This dynamic goes hand in hand with a vast restoration programme and a very active patronage policy to finance the purchase of new works and the production of exhibitions in France and abroad. Every year, a major exhibition is mounted such as the Picasso in 2018.
Olivier Simmat concludes: “The Orsay Museum is unique. Our desire and our goal is to disseminate and share throughout France and internationally our passion for this art and our works.” A passion that is communicated very effectively, indeed.
The Hotel de Lille invites you to discover all the collections and the new exhibitions of the Orsay Museum via tours and presentations designed especially for you, utilising the talents of Isabelle Coquatrix, historian and storyteller.
Crédit photo : Nicolas Krief