France - Society

France’s only erotic museum to close, auction exhibits

A shop selling erotic paraphernalia near where the Paris Erotic Museum is currently located
A shop selling erotic paraphernalia near where the Paris Erotic Museum is currently located Nina Carel / RFI

France's only erotic museum is closing its doors, its owners said Thursday, after passions flagged in the "city of love" for its titillating though surprisingly tasteful collection of artefacts.


Just down the street from the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret in Pigalle, the closure hastens the slide of Paris' naughtiest neighbourhood towards respectability.

Owners Jo Khalifa and Alain Plumey, a former porn star, who founded the museum nearly 18 years ago, said the double whammy of falling tourist numbers and rising rents caused by creeping gentrification had done for the Paris Erotic Museum.

"We never got any support from either the state nor the city of Paris," Khalifa told reporters, "Although it has to be said, I could never imagine politicians supporting us."

He said its whole collection, including its love chairs and a notorious 18th-century French musical automaton of a couple in flagrante, will be sold off when the doors close on Sunday.

Auctioneer Bertrand Cornette described the sale as "exceptional" saying the museum's collection was a "world tour of erotic art, a unique panorama of customs and cultures" through their sexual proclivities and fetishes.

'Capital of pleasure'

Everything from a forest of phalluses to South American objects based on female genitalia, to a Thai pipe shaped liked a reclining male member will go under the hammer.

Much of the 2,000-item collection, including its oldest object, an 18th-century marble plaque of the Hindu god Vishnu from an Indian tantric temple, comes from Asia.

"Erotic representations in art are very rare," Cornette insisted, "and it would be very hard to put together this collection" which has been amassed over three decades.

The auction also includes many drawings and photographs from late 19th-century "Belle Epoque" Paris, when the city was seen as the world capital of pleasure.

There are also objects taken from France's legal brothels or "maisons closes" which were shut down after World War II.

But the most expensive object is expected to be a modern bronze sculpture of a woman making love to a robot, which is estimated to fetch 8,000 euros.

Khalifa said like almost all tourist attractions in France, visitor numbers had fallen sharply because of the wave of terrorist attacks over the past 18 months.

"There is no reason we should be spared that... leaving us no choice but to sell our collection," he said.

In a touching footnote, several drawings by Georges Wolinski, one of the cartoonists killed during the gun attack on the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in January 2015, will also be sold. The artist, known for his saucy sense of humour, had been a supporter of the museum.


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