Posts Tagged ‘Marseille’

Ai Weiwei at MuCEM

This is a highly political show – highly personal too.  Much is about the artist’s relationship with his father whose ship from Shanghai back in 1929 docked right next to where MuCEM is today. Indeed it was France that inspired him to become a poet, a dangerous occupation back in China where he was later forced into internal exile for 20 years; which underlies the political theme of his son’s exhibition, that of the refugee.

Colored House 2015

Ai Weiwei has made items specifically for Marseille, in the first large-scale exhibition of his work in France.  In the first room, visitors see one-tonne cubes of Marseille soap, one inscribed with the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the other with a Chinese Declaration of the Rights of Women.  The centre-piece of the first room however is a recreation of a Chinese house from the Ming Dynasty, strikingly colourful in the cool white geometry of the gallery. But its covering in modern industrial paint is a comment on China’s modern rush to economic progress.

‘A small act is worth a million thoughts,’ Ai Weiwei

This theme carries through into the second room where the centre-piece is an installation of 61 chandeliers mounted on a traditional bottle rack. It evokes the type of lighting in international hotels in Chinese megacities, contrasted to the humble support of the bottle rack.  It’s dazzling.

‘Creativity is part of human nature.  It can only be untaught’, Ai Weiwei

The destruction of these blue and white dragon bowls symbolises the effects of the Cultural Revolution

Elsewhere in the room, there’s an installation of pots from 5000BC slopped with industrial paint (you may have seen these at the RA in London), plus a 2016 series of portraits of the artist made from lego.

‘A refugee could be anybody.  It could be you or me. The refugee is a crisis, a human crisis’, Ai Weiwei.

  • Info-boards in French and English
  • Exhibition opens tomorrow; but from 16:00 hrs today, it’s ‘portes ouvertes’, free entry, with DJs performing  on MuCEM’s wonderful terrace.
  • MuCEM closed on Tuesdays except during August when it is open every day….good!
  • Entry 9,5 euros for over 18s.  Free first Sunday of the month.

‘My conclusion is we are one humanity.  If anyone is being hurt, we are all being hurt. If anyone has joy, that’s our joy’, Ai Weiwei.



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If you would like a preview of MuCEM’s summer show, ‘Ai Weiwei Fan-Tan’, head off down there on Tuesday 19th June when there is free entry 16-23:00hrs.

Plus…. (more…)

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The F1 mini-roadshows in 8 villages in Provence have been a great success with crowds of people turning out to see these events organised by Renault.  Now finally we have the date for the roadshow in MarseilleFriday 22nd June, the evening before the F1 weekend at the Paul Ricard circuit. (more…)

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The first treat is the resumption of the ‘Navette Maritime’ service in Marseille.  (more…)

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…..is my new book which is being launched this week. (more…)

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Marseille is the oldest town in France, so when you walk along by the Vieux Port, you are following in the footsteps of Greek fishermen, shopkeepers, sailors and traders who established their colony in 600 BC.  They, and the Romans who arrived later, have left traces that emerge so often when new building takes place.

Take for instance the shopping mall at the Bourse, in the centre of town.

Greek and Roman remains in the middle of France’s second city

Excavations for the building in 1967 revealed the foundations of the original Greek port,  burial sites, remains of warehouses…all of which can now be seen in a spacious garden beside the shops.

The Musée d’ Histoire de Marseille was established alongside during this time, but was renovated and updated in time for the 2013 Year of Culture.  It is now one of Europe’s largest history museums and really worth a visit.

In fact there is almost too much to take in, as it walks us through 26 centuries of urban development.

Discovered during the building of the Bourse shopping centre, this 2nd century boat sank in 3m of water.

Highlights include the remains of the biggest ancient boat on show in the world.  It would have carried 100 tonnes of merchandise.

There are lots of statues, tableware, jewellery, household items, mainly from Roman times, before we get to the section on Marseille in the Middle Ages.  Different stages of development are illustrated by large models of the town and port.

Unlike some local museums, this one has tried hard to engage younger visitors with an interactive game or info-point for kids at the beginning of each section – bravo!  Explanatory panels are in English too.

On we go, through the Revolution and a section devoted to the rapidly industrialising Marseille: posters and paintings show the importance of the port, the soap industry, metallurgy and chemicals. 

There is so much to discover in this museum which couldn’t be more central.  After visiting, you simply go through the connecting corridor back into the Bourse shopping centre which continues the commercial activities started by the Greeks 2,600 years ago.


We were very surprised how few other visitors there were in the museum.  Maybe ten at the time of our visit. So my friend who is very active in various local associations asked if she could organise a group visit through the museum.  No was the answer – they only have guides for school parties.  Were there any reproductions of the posters for sale?   Was there a catalogue?  No and no again.

Surely some marketing focus could be brought to bear here; and I’m thinking of the numerous visitors coming in on cruise ships who are in town for a short space of time.  Most will want to stroll round town, but on very windy days like today, or when it’s hot or wet, it would make an ideal place to explore.

The ‘Journal de visite’ which is given at the beginning is an excellent 24pp news-sheet, in French.  English version here and good to skim before visiting: journal_musee_dhistoire-anglais

The museum is open daily exc. Monday, 10:00-18:00hrs. If you haven’t, do visit!







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Did you know that Marseille has France’s oldest quincaillerie, or hardware shop?

It really is a must-visit if you are interested in traditional Provencal life.  Take the magnificent big hand-graters for instance – just the sort of gadget used in café kitchens many years ago for churning out carrots and cabbage for salads.  Then there are traditional crepe pans for sale, as well as Provencal jugs for the table.

See the original fittings in France’s oldest quincaillerie


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This month’s ‘Dimanches de la Canebiere’ on Sunday 25th February will be dedicated to celebrating the Year of the Dog: there will be a ‘Dance of the Dragon and Lion’ as well as martial arts.

It’s the 10th such event, when Marseille’s famous thoroughfare La Canebiere is pedestrianized and dedicated to entertainment, street food and market stalls.  Each month there is a special theme, usually involving music and dancing with lots of community participation.  Organised by the local mairie, 1st and 7th quartiers, it’s going from strength to strength, with more shops specially open and visitors pouring in – all part of reanimating centre-ville, struggling somewhat with commercial competition from La Joliette. Programme on: http://marseille1-7.fr/canebiere/

Maybe combine this with the 2 newly-opened Picasso exhibitions? https://aixcentric.com/2018/02/13/plenty-of-picasso-in-provence-right-now/





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easyjetEasyjet are adding London Luton to their destinations served from Marseille, making 10 in total: (more…)

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There is a major pilgrimage each year in Marseille to celebrate Chandeleur, (more…)

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