Despite its reputation for being staid, posh, and even boring, the 16th arrondissement is home to a surprising number of cultural treasures. The Palais de Chaillot area (those stone buildings that fan out from the platform where all the tourists take their photos of the Eiffel Tower) is famously full of museums. There are the Musée de la Marine and the Musée de l’Homme in the southern wing, while the Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris and the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine occupy the northern one. Within five minutes’ walk are the Palais Galliera, Musée Guimet, Mona Bismarck and Palais de Tokyo.
But that’s far from all this picturesque arrondissement has to offer. Slightly further afield are the Musée Baccarat, Fondation Lecorbusier, Musée Clémenceau, Musée Marmottan Monet and the Maison de Balzac. You could spend a whole week just exploring the museums of the 16th arrondissement.
Perhaps it’s because of the sheer number of museums in this otherwise residential district that the Musée Dapper slipped under my radar for so long. This little museum won’t be at the forefront of any guide books or on the lips of many tour guides. But it should be.
Located just off the airy boulevard Foch, in a quiet residential street, the Musée Dapper is all dark wood, polished black concrete, low lighting and dark-tinted glass. With its sombre decor, it doesn’t exactly stand out from the street. But once inside, it is calming, unique, and elegant. Founded in 1986, from a number of private collections, the Dapper is devoted to the art and artefacts of West and Sub-Saharan Africa. There are masks, statues, ritualistic clothing, jewellery, amulets, tapestries, currency and other artefacts from communities across the Northern and Western swathes of the huge African continent.
An element I particularly respected about the Dapper was the emphasis the museum placed on tribal and communal identity, rather than the more Western conception of national identity. Information next to each piece explained where it was from and what it meant to the community that created it. Often these communities are based across national borders- and almost all nation states are home to multiple ethnic groups. I would have liked to know more about how the collections made their way to Paris, and about the impact of colonial and neo-colonial practices on their creators. But that said, the Musée Dapper is respectful and beautiful. From now on, when people ask me what to do in the 16th arrondissement, the Dapper will be at the top of the list.
Xx La Muséophile
35bis rue Paul Valéry 75016 (métro: Victor Hugo or Kléber)
Full price: 6 euros
Reduced price: free-4 euros
Wednesday to Monday: 11am to 7pm