One of the sorrows of museums is missing an exhibition one would have loved to have seen. Over two years ago the Petit Palais in Paris staged an exhibition ‘God(s) – a User’s Guide’. Details are at http://www.petitpalais.paris.fr/en/expositions/gods-a-users-guide – but be sure to look at the video, which is only in the French-language pages.
The website’s archive describes the exhibition:
Believers, agnostics, atheists: in France people have got used to living in a largely unreligious society. But this is not the case everywhere in a Europe now confronted with a brand new phenomenon: migration and the advent of global communications have made its cities melting pots for the religions of the world. The resultant contacts are not easy: believers are conversant with their own religions, but know very little about the beliefs of others; and non-believers have little grasp of the notion of religion, despite today’s worldwide media focus on the issue. As potentially the 21st century’s biggest issue, religion urgently demands our understanding.
The Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, in association with Tempora/Musée de l’Europe, is taking up this challenge with an overview of the religions practised today all over the world, and in Paris. Here we find the three “religions of the book”: Judaism, Christianity and Islam; the Asian religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, etc; and the animism of Africa, Oceania and the Americas.What is man’s vision of the divine within these different belief systems? How does he communicate with it, and with what intention? How does he organise time and space to accommodate the sacred? What impact does religion have on social activity in terms of rites of passage and disciplining of the body? What is the role of religion in some of the conflicts now setting the world aflame? The exhibition addresses all these questions in a spectacular mingling of religious art and anthropology.
In all, 160 works from humanity’s spiritual heritage are being lent by the Musée du Quai Branly, Musée du Louvre, Musée Guimet, British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the Musée de Cluny and the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme in Paris – to mention only the principal contributors.
Paintings, sculptures and artefacts will be backed up by models, photos, films and interactive terminals in a panorama of today’s beliefs and forms of worship.Drawing directly on the living religious practices of our time, this event opens up new worlds for believers and unbelievers alike: here are all the ferment and richness of contemporary responses to religion and the sacred.