Jean Paul Favand

« Laughter is not taken seriously »


The History of the
pavillons de

The history of the Pavillons de Bercy-Musée des Arts Forains is closely linked to its creator’s life, Jean Paul Favand , a collector of items in the performing and fairground arts, as well as an exhibition designer.

Jean Paul Favand a perdu le tiret de son prénom dès la naissance. Cette disparition ne l'a pourtant pas trop inquiété et il s'est très vite accommodé d'être le seul Jean-Paul dont le prénom s'écrit sans tiret.

The Musée des Arts Forains was first established in Gentilly (1), then moved to the 15th arrondissement of Paris (2) and finally settled in 1996 in an ancient wine storage facility in Bercy, the “Chais Lheureux”. (3)


The "Lheureux" warehouses : a wine storage

In the 19th century, the Bercy neighbourhood was known as a festive area. The Joyeux-Bercy, which was at the time beyond the borders of Paris, benefited from the privilege of tax removal on wine. Naturally, “guinguettes” were established there, along with the main wine traders. Wine was thus actively sold and drunk.

History of Bercy


Dans le quartier de Bercy, les tonneaux de vins arrivaient par bateaux, sur le Seine. Ils étaient ensuite acheminés à l'aide de wagons jusqu'aux chais. C'est pourquoi vous pouvez encore apercevoir des rails dans la rue privée des Pavillons de Bercy - Musée des Arts Forains.

Now called Pavillons de Bercy, the site brings back to life past festivities by being a lively place full of memories of the most traditional performing arts. It welcomes over 300 000 visitors every year for evening events, guided tours and special openings (for example for the Festival du Merveilleux).

With its documentation centre and restoration workshops, the museum is a place of discoveries and preservation. Thanks to cutting-edge technologies, Jean Paul Favand is able to both restore and stage his prized objects here.


As a curiosities exhibitor, a rare objects collector, a cellar master and a master of ceremonies, Jean Paul Favand, is a self-taught man who followed his own path.

Jean Paul Favand, a unique journey

Jean Paul Favand


Robert Doisneau

His artistic approach and his interest for curiosities led him to meet many artists. For instance, he interacted with surrealists such as Dali, providing him with objects for his museum in Figueres, and became among other well acquainted with Doisneau and César.

Robert Doisneau et Jean Paul Favand partageaient une complicité nourrie par le goût des lieux vivants.
Doisneau a pris de nombreuses photographies du premier Musée des Arts Forain à Gentilly et a également suivi l'installation dans le 15ème arrondissement.


Yvette Guilbert

As his collection was constantly growing, it became of utmost importance to restore and properly store his authentic “objets d’art”. Thus the idea of a commemorative site for amusement artefacts bloomed, in order to keep his collection alive and preserve it for the future.

Using his experience in designing over fifty interactive exhibitions and creating a themed “bistrot” (bar) called the Tribulum, Jean Paul Favand gave birth to an innovating museography and created a lively museum.

A new kind of

A very lively museography

This entertaining museum is different from traditional cultural institutions. It’s a bit disconcerting to discover a museum without labels or display cases where it is possible for the visitors to touch the pieces of art which are staged around them.

A new kind of museum


The art restoration work

In order to make these objects accessible to guests and to create a dialogue with the public, each item in the museum has been carefully selected among thousands in storage. After choosing the pieces, Jean Paul Favand worked meticulously on positioning and staging them, using lighting effect to even further reveal their evocative power to the visitors.


Dans notre univers fantastique, après avoir parcouru 7 lieues, l’une des jambes du géant se repose.
Cette jambe de géant a poussé sur un arbre. En avez-vous déjà vu ? Vous imaginez le nombre de probabilités qu’il a fallu à la nature pour qu’elle fasse pousser à la juste place et dans ses justes proportions le pied, le talon, le mollet, le genou et la cuisse ?
Aujourd’hui elle est habitée par un nain logé dans une enseigne de bottier du 19ème siècle.
Jean Paul Favand passe souvent près de l'arbre où il l'a trouvée, afin de voir si la deuxième jambe n'est pas en train de pousser.

To fully comprehend the very special nature of the place, visitors must participate on a guided tour so that they can be fully immersed in each whimsical scene. During the tours, the visitors also participate in the scenes in each room, becoming actors as they enter through theater curtains. Each carousel presents a different scenario. For example, in the Venitian rooms, our visitors become mechanical dolls on a gondola ride inside a music box.
It is this interaction between the amusement artifacts and the visitors that makes Musée des Arts Forains such a lively and entertaining museum.


Dans chaque salle ou sur chaque manège, le visiteur participe inconsciemment à un scénario, il est mis en scène et devient acteur de ses propres rêves.

"The elf", a digital installation

An innovative

Just like the 1900s showmen who used techniques created during the Industrial Revolution, Jean Paul Favand is turned toward the future using the latest technological innovations to give life to his objects.


Jean Paul Favand
The conception of project "Virtualia"

Portrait de Jean Paul Favand

« Here, the past meets the future, which enables me to tame the modern technologies I use in my object-staging approach » Jean Paul Favand

A film projection
of 8m by 12m
about the Unicorn's astrological game

Now, thanks to video projectors and multimedia shows, magic lanterns, Robertson’s phantasmagorias, and mechanical fairground theatres can come back to life.

Even though digital technologies offer many possibilities, they’re only one of the tools used by Jean Paul Favand, whose scenography has mainly traditional theatrical roots.

The approach of digital creation

The interactive installation
of the "Paésine"

Jean Paul Favand also develops this approach outside of the museum, through his work as a plastic and digital artist.

Discover Jean Paul Favand’s website

A salon-carousel

The heritage
of performing arts
and fairground arts

19th-century funfairs were a social phenomenon, as important as cathedrals in the preceding centuries and television today. The fairground was the cradle of most modern forms of entertainment: theatres, music hall shows, hawkers, sports, illusionists, acrobats, jugglers, puppeteers, and many more.

A short history of Fairground Arts


Ces cartes postales anciennes témoignent de la grandeur des carrousels salons et de la richesse de leurs sculptures. Ces attractions couvertes pouvaient mesurer plus de 40m de long.


The representation of technology:
a velocipede merry-go-round from the Musée des Arts Forains.

During the Belle Époque, visitors came to be entertained but also to learn and discover. Through mechanical theatres, wax museums, cinemas, and scientific demonstrations, funfairs popularised innovations and technology.

Fairground and science : Showmen as science popularisers


Ces cartes postales anciennes témoignent de la grandeur des carrousels salons et de la richesse de leurs sculptures. Ces attractions couvertes pouvaient mesurer plus de 40m de long.

Baroque woodworks
and decorative panels

Although fairground arts were belittled for many years as “popular” art, they are now recognized as decorative art thanks to the quality and diversity of their ornaments. The past craftsmen are now considered artists. They hold workshops with students, and catalogues have been printed and exhibitions organized to present their work.

A decorative art in its own right

Subjects and attractions
in the Musée des Arts Forains

The merry-go-rounds and booths preserved by the Pavillons de Bercy are the evidence of a vast heritage. The display of these magnificient pieces of art brings back an atmosphere similar to 19th century funfairs.

The merry-go-rounds, booths and showfronts: an overview of fairground heritage