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January 1, 2013

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Musée des Arts Forains – All the Fun of the Fair

by soundlandscapes

THE MUSÉE DES ARTS FORAINS is a fairground museum housed in the former wine warehouses at Cour Saint-Émilion in the 12th arrondissement.

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It’s a private museum created by Jean Paul Favand and it contains a fascinating collection of carousels and funfair stalls, all restored and in working order, as well as costumes and historic works from 1850 onwards.

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This is a private collection and so it’s usually only possible to visit the museum by appointment only. They cater mainly for group visits and corporate functions but occasionally the museum opens its doors to the general public. One such occasion has been over this Christmas and New Year period so I took advantage of it and paid a visit.

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Having paid my €12 entry fee, I was transported into the world of the funfair, a world full of colour, spectacle and entertainment.

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I was captivated by this old cycle carousel and even more captivated by the sounds as the ride got underway and the cycles and their riders trundled round and round. It’s fascinating to think that these are the same sounds that anyone visiting this carousel would have heard over a hundred years ago.

Sounds of the cycle carousel:

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The museum comprises themed rooms each with its own take of the world of the funfair. “Les Salons Vénitiens” offers an Italian opera show performed by automatons as well as a gondola carousel.  “Le Théâtre du merveilleux” offers a glimpse of the turn of the century world fairs including a superb sound and light show.  “Le musée des Arts Forains” is a tribute to the 19th century funfair and the Théâtre de Verdure exhibits splendid gardens.

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The museum has many historical funfair games that have entertained generations of adults and children alike. My favourite was the Parisian Waiter Race in which each waiter is moved by rolling balls into holes, complete with running commentary.

The Parisian Waiter Race:

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There are outside exhibits too and, this being an open-house day, it wouldn’t be complete without food …

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… and, of course, street music.

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The Street Musicians:

And I couldn’t end without mentioning the fabulous costumes on display, some of which were once to be seen in that other Parisian palace of fun, the Folies-Bergère.

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I wish everyone a Happy New Year and, if you’re in Paris, I thoroughly recommend a visit to the Musée des Arts Forains which you can find at:

53 Avenue des Terroirs de France, 75012 Paris


Phone for réservations: 01 43 40 16 22


Métro: Cour Saint-Émilion – Line 14

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jan 5 2013

    What an amazing place you have presented to us. Depending on the right director it could be a place of dreams or nightmares. I was expecting to hear music coming from the carousel but maybe it is so old the technology to do so didn’t exist back then; a conditioning on my part to think that fun times must be had with loud music.

    Reply
    • Jan 8 2013

      Yes, it’s a fascinating place. Some of the carousels do play fairground music and they also have a couple of fairground organs too but none of them were playing while I was there. However, I found the sound of the old cycle carousel going round and round musical enough to captivate me. I think it’s quite a unique sound.

      Reply
  2. I first saw this place a couple of years ago and really enjoyed the historical vibe of it. Then I was tickled to have recognized it in Midnight in Paris. A very special place — even more so with its incredibly sparse opening times!

    Reply
    • Jan 10 2013

      Yes, it’s a shame that this museum is not open to more people more often but it is a private collection so I guess it’s a matter of cost. Let’s hope they continue to open it to the general public at least some times during the year.

      Reply

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