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Mask─Beauty of the Spirits: Masterpieces from the musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac

The exhibition, Mask─Beauty of the Spirits:Masterpieces from the musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, presents a prestigious selection of masks from the musée du quai Branly which had formerly belonged to the musée de l’Homme and the musée national des arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie. The selection ranges from very ancient to relatively recent masks and bears testimony to their ongoing use within traditional societies across the four continents. 

These objects, from Asia, America, Africa and Oceania, display an extraordinarily rich array of formal qualities, materials and dimensions and a creative ingenuity in their functions that never ceases to amaze.

This exhibition provides the public with the opportunity to explore the diverse materials and functions of these masks and, more globally, to see how different cultures throughout the world have given tangible shape to divinities and spirits in order to come into contact with supernatural forces.

If theatrical and dramatic play masks are rightly exhibited, one can also view masks from other cultures which embody social and political realities. These masks are invested with the same authority as the police or the judicial system and even have the power to sentence people to death. More often however, the masks act as an intermediary between humans and the powerful forces of nature in an attempt to appease their ruthless savageness. This explains why in agricultural societies one often finds - though not always - masks that signal the human, "cultivated" land and distinguish it from the hostile no man’s land, ravaged by the uncivilised forces of the forest and of the sea.

Mask─Beauty of the Spirits:Masterpieces from the musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, displays 100 masks, with 100 different types of facial representations that act out the struggle between magic and invisible forces and reflect our relationship to the unknown and the invisible.

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