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Brief Published: 6 Oct 2011

Musée d'Orsay’s Living Grey


The Musée d'Orsay, Paris, is due to reopen on October 20th following the completion of a two year, €20 million renovation. The impressionist section of the galleries, supervised by Parisian architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte is painted in a uniquely developed grey, designed to adapt to the colours in the artworks that are hung against it.

Speaking about the paint, Wilmotte described is as a versatile hue, capable of appearing green-grey and red-grey when under different lighting conditions. He comments, “It doesn't have a name, but if pushed to give it one I would say gris vivant [living grey] because it changes with the light. The light gives a kind of visual comfort and the painting stands out against this grey.”

Aiming to replicate the conditions under which the artworks were created, the gallery spaces have been designed to make maximum use of daylight. Fractured glass that disperses the light into the galleries has been used, allowing for artificial light to be limited.

The museum’s current president Guy Cogéval has described the renovation as the trigger for a renaissance of the museum when speaking fondly of the transformation at a press event this week.

Musée d'Orsay
Willmotte & Associés