The public institution of the Palais de la Porte Dorée offers a visit of the palace designed to provide a deeper understanding of the history of this unique monument, an emblematic testimony to the Art Deco style but also to colonial history and immigration to France.

The visit aims to give keys to the comprehension and contextualization of colonial ideology as witnessed in the frescoes, bas-reliefs and rooms of the palace. It is also designed to provide a basic understanding and appreciation of the building’s historical, architectural and artistic features. Finally the visit analyses the organization of the Porte Dorée Palace and the creation of the Museum of the History of Immigration (Musée national de l’histoire de l’immigration). It thus may be considered as a preliminary step for visiting the museum’s permanent exhibition.

The historical visit was completed in two stages:

  • First the placing of explanatory texts and models in the gardens, the hall and the Forum that opened to the public in September 2012
  • Later, real exhibition spaces on the mezzanines of the first floor that constitute the final stage of the project, opened to the public in September 2013 

The Visit

Phase One

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Parcours historique © Eric Benqué

In 2012 the first phase of this visit was opened to the public, freely accessible from the gardens to the central Forum. Light concrete sheets supporting illustrated lecterns (some with touch pads) recount the main events of the Palace’s history. The texts are translated into English and German. Interactive touch pads accompanying the presentations in each of the rooms and the Forum provide details about the furniture and decors.

In this way, the visitor may focus on various aspects: the International Colonial Exposition of 1931, the original principles of the work of the Palace’s architect Albert Laprade (1883-1978), the contemporary installations signed by Patrick Bouchain and Loïc Julienne of the architectural firm Construire in 2006, exterior features such as the exceptional bas-relief on the facade by Alfred Janniot (1889-1969). Other features are also brought to the visitor’s attention concerning the hall of the Palace, the tropical aquarium, the two historic rooms and their furniture, the work of the greatest artists of the period, the frescoes and mosaics of the “forum”, and the Art Deco style, of which the palace remains an exceptional example in France. All of these stopping points include illustrations. The public can discover among others: Drivier’s statue at the entrance of the Palace during its inauguration, Printz’s project for the Salon Lyautey, Goor’s painting of a panorama of the Colonial Exposition...

G. Goor, plan de l’Exposition coloniale de 1931

G. Goor, détail du plan de l’Exposition coloniale exposé dans la Cité des informations, 1931. Le tableau est actuellement exposé au Palais de la Porte Dorée. Photo : Lorenzö

The visit also allows to see the model of the Colonial Exposition of 1931, offering a visualization of the Palace in its original setting in the Bois de Vincennes.

Phase Two

Begun in September 2013, it focuses on the discovery of the history of the institutions successively housed by the Palace. Four symmetrical sections relating the four major phases of the Palace’s history can be found on the two historic galleries.

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Moreover, six points are examined in each of these sections: the choice of the site and the establishment of the institution, the building itself, the worksite and designation of the spaces, the collections and their presentation, the context and public reception of these institutions, the impact of each of these museums on the views and ideas of the time, and of course the aquarium’s continuous presence, its installations and the evolution of the bio-diversity presented there.

This exhibition presents objects and documents kept in the institution’s collections, including postcards and posters of the Colonial Exposition, photographs of illegal immigrants by Mathieu Pernot, but also works lent by the Quai Branly, Orsay and Guimet museums, in addition to digitized documents from the archives essential for the implementation of the exhibition. Among the lent works, the public can discover “Portrait d’arabe au grand chapeau” (“Portrait of an Arab with a Big Hat”) by Etienne Dinet, an Orientalist work presented in the hall during the Colonial Exposition, or a figurine of Lakshmi, an example of the Asian collections of the former Museum of Overseas France, or a cane handle from Nigeria, illustrating the African collections of the former Museum of African and Oceanian Arts.

It is an opportunity for the institution to show the public many original documents, objects and works, for example Bernard Plossu’s photographs, Mary Morin’s recently acquired watercolors, or other exhibits taken from the reserves of the Tropical Aquarium or the institution such as a lovely tortoiseshell and sharkskin toilet set and a number of posters, postcards and documents from the archives...

Download bibliographical references (french version) about the Palais de la Porte Dorée.