In the early 1900s, during Paris’ big artistic renaissance (one of them anyway), the Musée de l’Orangerie built two large oval rooms for an express purpose. The godfather of Impressionism, Claude Monet, had proposed to paint a large series of canvases to be wrapped around the walls enveloping its audience in a 360-degree representation of his French garden in Giverny. As a man in his eighties, the project would serve as Monet’s magnum opus and final statement to the art world. Some say it’s the first time a museum had built a space solely for a determined piece of work, which would make it the birth of installation art in a sense.
Twelve years later the canvases were finished, yet Monet passed away before seeing them installed. Today the two oval rooms offer a great example of what I would call the “second tier” museum experience in Paris, meaning you can meditate in front of some fantastic art while the masses fawn over the Mona Lisa a few hundred yards away. Signs and security guards unapologetically require that noise be kept to a minimum, which actually makes sense in a serene gallery like this one and only adds to the peacefulness of the work. Combined with a stroll outside in the Jardin des Tuileries, I’d highly recommend it.