The Musée Rodin might be my favorite museum in Paris. That’s a big statement, I know, and I’m probably not prepared to defend that assertion even against myself, with all of the other incredible museums to pick from. But for sentimental reasons —we got engaged at the Rodin last year, it was one of my dad’s favorites, we have the sister museum in Philadelphia, etc.– and taking into consideration the incredible sculpture garden and the fact that Rodin actually lived there, it’s a pretty solid contender. Admission for just the gardens is €2, and there are countless sculptures dotting the wide lawn and leafy, shaded sides, as well as a café and multiple benches and deck chairs for lounging. I went several times after breakfast around the corner just to see the gardens, and to relax and read in the back, past the arched hedges and tucked away from the rest of the world (it felt). On my last visit, there was a couple napping on two wooden chaise lounges, holding hands; a woman doing yoga in a sunny patch of grass; two little kids playing in a sandbox; all within feet of bronze studies for “The Burghers of Calais.” It feels magical, especially because you can see the Eiffel Tower from “The Three Shades.”
Of course, for €9 you can visit the temporary exhibition as well as the rest of the house and the art inside, and the gardens are included. I was pleasently surprised by the Mapplethorpe exhibit currently on view; it was one of the most well curated and cohesive exhibits I’ve seen. The juxtaposition of Mapplethorpe’s black and white photography, all of nude male and female figures, with the white marble and dark bronze of Rodin’s sculptures dotted throughout the exhibit was so, so striking and incredibly successful. In parts it left me speechless, it was that powerful, and I am still kicking myself for not buying the exhibition guidebook. Because, as my father always said, “Every good cultural experience must end in a retail experience.”
If you’re in Paris before September 21st, I cannot recommend it enough. Anytime you’re in the city though, this is one museum I would urge you to see. It’s never nearly as crowded as the Louve or the Musée d’Orsay, and its size makes it a manageable afternoon visit.
Musée Rodin, 79 Rue de Varenne, 75007 / metro M13 Varenne / Closed Mondays