Paris’s Musee d’Orsay undergoes renaming

The Musée d’Orsay in Paris has been renamed the Musée d’Orsay-Valéry Giscard d’Estaing.

This name change is in honour of the late Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, who served as France’s President from 1974 to 1981 and was integral in the institution’s creation.

President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing died on the 2nd of December 2020 at the age of 94. In his presidency, he brought in socially liberal reforms, reduced the voting age to 18, introduced divorce by common consent, and legalised abortion. Giscard d’Estaing only served one seven-year term yet still marked the turn from post-war conservatism to a more liberal France after the 30-year economic boom.

In 1977, President Giscard d’Estaing reestablished a railway station located on the left bank of the river Seine as a museum. In doing so, the president’s initiation saved the station from imminent demolition. The museum was named the Musée d’Orsay. This museum also encompassed the Musée de l’Orangerie, an impressionist and post-impressionist gallery nearby.

The Musée d’Orsay is one of the most popular in Paris and houses multiple works by Van Gogh, Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet. In 2018 the museum welcomed more than 3.16 million people visitors.

The name change means the individual museums will retain their names. The renaming will only alter the name of the establishment as a whole. A spokeswoman for the museum stated that the official name will change from “‘Etablissement public des musées d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie’ to, ‘Etablissement public du musée d’Orsay et du musée de l’Orangerie-Valéry Giscard d’Estaing’.”

It is rare that a prestigious museum undergoes a change of name. Often such events serve as a rebranding after a vast redevelopment, such as in the case of London’s Geffrye Museum being renamed to The Museum of the Home. The Parisian museum’s name change, however, seems overdue. As a commemoration for a liberal president, this honour feels very fitting.

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Harry Hunter

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September 2021
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