Ohh la la, the French really have a reason to stay too long at the fair!
Forget Las Vegas, when there are fantastic and feathery costumes in Paris at the Musée des Arts Forains (the Museum of Fairground Art). Richard Nahem takes us there, cancan costumes included. —S.H.
The Musée des Arts Forains, the Museum of Fairground Art, is only open to the public once a year for a two-week period between Christmas and New Years. Luckily, this year I had to opportunity to visit.
As I have mentioned before, I spent my summers as a child and adolescent on the boardwalk in Wildwood, New Jersey and have vivid memories of carnivals, rides, fairgrounds, amusement parks, cotton candy, custard, games of chance, pinball machines, Skee ball, and many other activities.
I was instantly whirled back to my childhood memories front and center at The Musée des Arts Forains. It was still the school vacation, so it was jammed with tots, teens, and their parents.
What I loved most was the dark, mysterious atmosphere and the costumes from the showgirls and the Follies Bergere with lots of feathered headdresses (calling Cher!) and beaded costumes and dresses. The other very special part of the museum was the carousels. One rare carousel is powered by gold-plated stationary bicycles and you pedal to make it go as fast as you can. Of course, cotton candy and popcorn was served but I was a tad disappointed not seeing any jelly apples for sale. There was live entertainment with shows featuring music and magic acts and there were some games of chance. It’s a good thing there were no pinball machines because I would have spent the week playing them without leaving.
Jean Paul Favand, an actor and antiques dealer, started The Musée des Arts Forains. He collects objets from fairgrounds and has become one of the foremost collectors in the world. The museum was opened in 1996 and is divided into three rooms: The Marvelous Theater, The Venetians Lounges, and the Fairground Art Museum. The collection contains works from 1850 to 1950 and includes 14 amusement rides, 16 fair stalls with 18 sets of historical pieces.
You can contact the museum to make an appointment for a private visit but it’s usually for groups over 25 or for journalists. — Richard Nahem
Richard’s photo gallery of the Musée des Arts Forains:
Vist in Paris:
Musée des Arts Forains (the Museum of Fairground Art)
53, avenue des Terroirs de France, 75012
Metro: Cour Saint Emilion