Grand Palais Story
The doors open
that saved the Grand Palais
rivet in 1993 was the wake up call that things were not exactly right
within and beneath the Grand Palais.
What happened during the past 12 years while the Grand
Palais was closed to the public and why at one time it seemed to be
shrouded and framed by scaffolding. This is a continuing story. But there is
hope because it is no longer sliding into the banks of the Seine river.
Panel translations inside the Grand Palais
When I entered this edifice in January 2006, several panels (in French)
and accompanying photos provided information about the cost of the
renovations (between 2002 and 2007). They explained the history and
events that led up to the current situation, and another panel summed up
the edifice as a modern
building in fewer words. These panels are not available every time the
Grand Palais has an exhibit.
translations are provided for your information along
with photos also shown on these panels.
Renovation costs of the Grand Palais
A panel appeared on the exterior of the Grand Palais
explaining briefly the costs of the renovations of the Grand Palais:
"In June 1993, a rivet came loose on the metal frame of
the nave, about 35 meters (114 feet) causing the closing in November of
the Grand Palais.
The government decided that the time had come to make the
necessary renovations of this exhibition building, classified on
November 6, 2000 as a historical monument.
The work would be accomplished in two phases:
The first phase (2002 - 2004) treated the most urgent
points: foundations of the nave, complete repairs to the metal frame of
the nave and the elements related to the roof, ceiling and glass; and
restoration of the Récipon
quadrigas (horses pulling the chariot).
The second phase (2005 – 2007) treats the façade
restoration, the stucco ceilings, sculptures in stone and metal, ceramic
and mosaic decorations and interior components, wrought iron
decorations, as well as completing work on the foundations.
The work is budgeted for 101 million euros (120 million
dollars) – 72,3 million euros for the first
phase and 29,06 million euros for the second phase."
Palais - A modern building
Ever since the
disappearance of the Crystal Palace in London, constructed for Universal
Exposition of 1851, and destroyed by a fire during the 1930s, the Grand
Palais is considered one of the largest glass paneled building in
Europe: 15,000 square meters under one nave.
restoration campaign has permitted the Grand Palais to once again find
its original splendor and spaciousness under glass and steel, paying
homage to light.
day, the national galleries of the Grand Palais, condemned to be “all
electric” since the 1960s, will once again use natural lighting.
a long time, the classical styling of the stone façades bears witness to
the decency of the Third Republic, which worried that this vulgar
umbrella of iron and glass would offend the Hôtel des Invalides.
baroque-inspired quadrigas were technically children of the century.
armature of iron, without with its metallic, framed profile that anchors
them to their pedestal of stone, the furious, galloping horse would defy
the laws of gravity. Considerably lighter than bronze, these two groups
still weigh 12 tonnes (13 short tons or 26, 455 pounds), not counting
once again open
One night in January 2006, while walking along the Champs
Elysées, the nave of the Grand Palais was lit in reds, lavenders,
yellows, greens, etc. Under the big top's 15,000 square meters
(161,458 square feet) was an amusement park and circus!
I visited the interior the next day and recorded the
images within this immense cavern filled with amusement rides including
two Ferris wheels, bumper cars, and was filled with the wafts of air
filled with the scent of waffles and cotton candy.
During 2005, the doors of the Grand Palais were opened
for special occasions such as "les Journées du Patrimoine" and a
concert. The public could see just how far this once "beached whale" had
My last memory of the interior was of dusty, dirty
greenhouse-type windows and dingy beams during a design show.
That would be my last Grand Palais exhibition. The
Lartique exhibit in 1993 that I procrastinated in
attending would be the last exhibition of any kind under
the big top until 2005.
Triumphant at last
In the end a refined beauty awaits the public instead of
a rubble heap. Six years and two phases of work will bring her back to
full triumphant glory (2002 - 2007). I did read in the magazine
NouvelObs that a third phase for security enhancement may once again
temporarily close the doors in 2008.
One could say that the quadrigas that top the north and
south points of the palace are appropriate. The four-horse chariots
harnessed and driven by the maiden who keeps them from galloping away
lives up to its originally-intended symbolism of triumph and victory..
The Grand Palais was headed for demolition.
Procrastination took place among decision makers. This delay may have
saved the Grand Palais.
The Grand Palais has survived two world wars, multiple
changes in architectural styles and the abuse of exhibitions when
hanging, heavy objects weakened its frame.
Art exhibits since 1993
The Grand Palais, built between 1897 and 1900, has always
been devoted to the arts. From the beginning it was a "monument
consecrated by the Republic to the glory of French art" (inscription on
the front of the Grand Palais).
Even during its closure of the grand nef the Grand Palais has
continued exhibiting art in two other locales. My imagery of the one is of cardboard cubicles.
The other is a series of galleries initiated in
1964 by André Malraux, the Culture minister. These galleries were
intended to present prestigious, temporary, international art
As you continue to visit the other pages on this story, you will
see that art takes many forms under this glass roof (The Paris home show (Foire de Paris),
automobile show (Salon de l'Auto - 1908), air show (Salon de l'aéronautique),
childrens' fair (Salon de l'enfance) or the home appliance fair (le
Salon des arts ménagers) and everyone of them required construction of
spectacular interiors and equestrian competitions (Concours hippique
au Grand Palais, 1938-1939.)
Be sure to visit the Grand Palais, if not
for a special event, during the Heritage Days (Journées du Patrimoine)
September or White Nights (Nuits Blanche) in October). Between
September and the end of October 2005, 500,000 came to admire this
renewed giant of glass and iron --le NouvelObs-Bernard Géniès.