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Even more great museums for Paris.

Even more great museums for Paris

Another museum? In Paris, a city of grand museums, the opening of still more galleries is like adding pastries to an overloaded dessert cart.

But museums, like desserts, deserve selective sampling, and some recent additions to the city's arts menu are worth a try. One is a collection of 19th-century art housed in a restored train station. Another is an explosively energetic display of works by Picasso in an austere 17th-century townhouse. At the Louvre, you can also check progress on its controversial expansion and visit its recently reopened museums of decorative arts and fashion.

Art in an old railroad station

The newest is the well-publicized Musee d'Orsay, a turn-of-the-century station spared from the wrecker's ball in 1973 and transformed into a stunning exhibition hall. It opened this past winter.

As the new home for Impressionist paintings from the Jeu de Paume, the Orsay is more than just a picture gallery. From its Beaux-Arts exterior to its eclectic exhibits, it's truly a monument of 19th-century French art. Documenting its evolution from 1848 to 1914, the museum bridges the gap between earlier European paintings at the Louvre and modern collections at the Centre Georges-Pompidou.

Space is arranged chronologically: you start at street level with neoclassic and romantic art and work your way up to the third floor and early 20th-century art. Some 4,000 works represent everything from furniture to photography, as well as painting; they include press accounts of the times, exhibits on architecture, even a display of circus posters. Descriptions are all in French.

A cafe on the third floor is one stop for the foot-weary; a restaurant on the second floor is set in delightfully ornate rooms.

The best time to arrive at this popular museum is just before opening on a weekday morning. Hours are 10:30 to 6 Tuesdays through Saturdays (to 9:45 Thursdays), 9 to 6 Sundays. Admission costs about $3.50.

The Musee d'Orsay is at 62 Rue de Lille, just across the Seine from the Jardin des Tuileries and a short walk from the Louvre. Closest Metro stop is Solferino.

The Louvre: work in progress, two completed renovations

A 10-minute stroll from the Orsay will give you a look at one of the city's most controversial projects: the expansion and reorganization of the Louvre.

A platform above the fenced construction site overlooks the excavation. The planned entry courtyard will be landscaped, but the new underground entrance is to be topped by a soaring glass pyramid designed by architect I.M. Pei.

To evaluate the plan, stop at the temporary structure (next to the platform, toward the river) containing a small exhibit and models of the design. The exhibit, open 9:45 to 6 (closed Tuesdays), is free.

The Musee des Arts Decoratifs, reopened two years ago after a five-year renovation, fills the Louvre's Pavillon Marsan wing; its 100,000 objects include paintings, sculpture, furniture, tapestries, and toys. Displays--from the 16th century to the present--are arranged chronologically. Of particular interest are complete art nouveau rooms and magnificent art deco apartments of designer Jeanne Lanvin.

The museum, at 107 Rue de Rivoli, is open 12:30 to 6:30 Wednesdays through Saturdays, 11 to 5 Sundays. Admission is about $4. Nearest Metro is Palais-Royal.

Literally next door, at 109 Rue de Rivoli, the Musee des Arts de la Mode contains changing exhibits on French contributions to fashion design. Hours are the same; admission is about $5.50.

Picasso: his women, his work

Unlike the Musee d'Orsay, which represents an entire century, the new Musee Picasso contains only a fraction of the work of one artist. But what an artist!

What first strikes you as you walk through the Hotel Sale (the restored house of a 17th-century salt tax collector) is how prolific Picasso was. Some 200 paintings, a group of sculptures, 1,000 prints, and 88 ceramics--as well as his collection of primitive art and a few pieces by contemporaries--fill 20 large rooms. Photographs, letters, and memorabilia explore his changing relationships with the women portrayed in his art.

The museum (5 Rue de Thorigny, in the Marais quarter) is open Wednesdays through Mondays from 9:45 to 5:15 (till 10 Wednesdays); entry is $3.50. Nearest Metro is St.-Sebastien-Froissart.

Photo: Large bronze elephant trumpets at earlymorning visitors outside Musee d'Orsay's Beaux-Arts entrance. Skylit barrel vault spans sculpture-dotted main concourse of new museum, a restored 1900 railroad station

Photo: Sedate 17th-century facade of Picasso Museum hardly hints at imaginative profusion within; remodeled interior accommodates multifaceted show by and about 20th-century's artistic giant
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Date:Oct 1, 1987
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