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There have been so many MP2013-related events this year across the region that one does have to wonder what next year will be like? Will the momentum continue?  And how successful has the Year of Culture been?

Some stats are emerging, and some details of programmes for 2014.

Apparently museum entries are standing at 530,000 this year in contrast with 220,000 last year. This information from the Marseille town website does not include details of parameters for these statistics – I’m assuming it is for the first three quarters of each year?  I do find this year’s figure surprisingly low considering that both the Musée des Beaux Arts and the  Musée d’Histoire de Marseille were closed last year and neither the gallery J1 nor MUCEM existed.  I guess that many visitors to MUCEM and J1 don’t pay to go into the special exhibitions and wouldn’t be recorded, plus many events have been free.  It will be interesting to see what the final figures are.

Musée des Beaux Arts, Marseille.

Musée des Beaux Arts, Marseille. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway the recent press conference also introduced part of the programme for next year. After the big expo ‘Le Grand Atelier du Midi’, the Musée des Beaux Arts will re-open on 31st January to show its rehung permanent collection.  Then the following month, the Vieille Charité will host ‘Visage: Picasso, Magritte, Warhol…’ from 21st February.  Details on the statistics and the 2014 programme are here: http://www.marseille.fr/sitevdm/jsp/site/Portal.jsp?document_id=19428&portlet_id=8

The budget for all of these events must have been enormous, especially as many were free.  Some of the money came from central government but it must have added a lot to the local burden of debt.  The town of Aix for instance is in the red to the tune of 123,758,000€ which is 852€ per head of population.  This article from La Provence makes sobering reading. http://www.laprovence.com/article/actualites/2564534/la-region-paca-face-au-poids-de-la-dette.html

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Thank goodness we can look forward to more of the new buildings being ready for the Year of Culture.  MUCEM will be inaugurated by President Holland on June 4th and will open its doors to the public on June 7th.  It will be free access for the public on June 7th, 8th and 9th.mucem-marseille-musee-ricciotti The fascinating documentary on France 3 on Wednesday evening went some way to explaining the complexity of the building – the two walkways which link MUCEM to the Fort St Jean and then across to the Esplanade de la Tourette had to be made from innovative strengthened concrete to withstand the pressures.  I don’t think I’ll be the first across!

Inside MUCEM, thousands of exhibits, from national museums, will illustrate the theme of Mediterranean civilisation.  Architect Rudy Ricciotti has added the distinctive concrete ‘lace’ walls, so reminiscent of eastern Mediterranean design.  I would imagine the sun shining through these will make the most amazingly pretty patterns.  There will also be a ‘restaurant panoramique’ managed by Gérard Passédat of Le Petit Nice.

copyright:golem

copyright:golem

So, walking bravely across the passerelle, visitors will come to the renovated Fort St Jean which was constructed by Louis XIV with its cannons directed, not out to sea to shoot at pirates, but inwards on the uppity population of Marseille.  This area will be a 15000 sq m garden which is currently being landscaped and planted up.  Good for picnics!  The fort itself will have a display on its history and will house temporary expos.

On the other side of MUCEM will be the Villa Mediterranée which opens on 15th June.

It is a strange looking building but apparently architect Stefano Boeri wanted to bring the sea rightvilla-mediterranee-marseille-2013 in at the ground floor. So the top part which projects out will have a massive exhibition space above the 2000m2 bassin, and below water will be an agora with an amphitheatre.  It will be free to go in and wander around but 7€ for exhibitions.  The purpose of the centre is to provide a place of contact for all Mediterranean countries.  There will be all manner of conferences and think-tanks.  They will also place an emphasis on the young people of the region.  Indeed the first exhibition is ‘2031 Mediterranee Nos Futurs!’  The 70m€ tab has been picked up by PACA.

Much as I am looking forward to seeing all these new buildings, I must say that I can’t wait for the Transhumance to happen. Again I have to thank the documentary on Wednesday for explaining how all these sheep, horses, goats and so on will be rounded up and herded through Provence and right into Marseille. It is utterly and splendidly bonkers.  Horses will be coming from Italy and Morocco to join in, and they will be led by a wonderful woman who stands on a black horse in a long ball-gown.  TransHumance-2

The programme showed her and her partner riding their horses through Gare St Charles to the astonishment of people waiting around for their trains.

There will be animals converging on Marseille from 3 different starting points across Provence, and they will meet up at the Vieux Port on Sunday 9th June.  This I must see!

Of course it has been sad that all the buildings weren’t ready on January 1st; and I do think the communications have been bewildering.

But so far so interesting.  The MP2013 theme is focusing on celebrating the whole Mediterranean, rather than simply Provence, which would have been the obvious thing to do; and the individual activities, and the new buildings, are very creative and stimulating. It will leave an enormous legacy which should have a powerful regenerative effect on the city.

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Having a special hiking trail to celebrate the Year of Culture has always struck me as being an inspired idea and very much in the ‘plein air’ spirit of this lovely part of France.  As usual though, it has taken some time to figure out exactly what is going to be happening. Communications so far have been telling us how poetique et inédit the whole thing will be…now detail is emerging for the coming weekend.

The trail will be 365km in the shape of a large butterfly, crossing over at the Aix TGV station.  It will pass through 38 communes and would take 20 days to walk.  It isn’t though just a typical Provencal hike.  The route will go right through Plan de Campagne, giving us all a different view of the shopping centre (I hope one can stop for cake….) and also through some of the industrial complexes at the Etang de Berre.

map for GR2013

The launch this coming weekend (22-24th March) will involve 4 relay teams of 400 people whose handover batons will contain GPS transmitters.  Locals can cheer them on or, better still, join in.  It’s a fairly complex series of events which is why they must have had to take time to work the detail.  It’s best to check out the website on www.mp2013.fr/gr2013 to see what is happening near you.  However, this being Aixcentric, these are our times:

Sat 23.  11.30 Gardanne, 13.30 Meyreuil, 15.00 Aix  (I’m assuming it is going via Le Tholonet and the Route Cézanne).   Sun 24. 10.45 Fondation Vasarely 13.30 Aix TGV Station.

In addition to this inauguration, there will be special events and art installations at various spots along the way during the year.  For instance, we saw a TV programme about the sound installations around Martigues where the wind will blow through various structures and make lots of noise!  ‘Wouldn’t want to live near there’, said M. Aixcentric not being very poetique about the whole thing.  Their special weekend is 12-14 April.  Click below for the flyer with details of the individual ‘temps forts’.

http://www.mp2013.fr/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/MP2013-A3A6-GR2013-carte-dépliant-WEB-1.pdf

I may well get my hiking boots out and join in………if the rain holds off.  Let’s hope so!

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The last time I was in Marseille, I was very keen to see an exhibition of French advertising posters.  I think the French are brilliant at this and always have been, right from the old Belle Epoque metal ads for Chocolat Menier through to today’s ads for small village fetes.  I knew the expo was at 9 La Canebiere – what could be simpler?  But I couldn’t find 9.  I investigated when I got home and it turned out that the expo is actually inside the Bourse!bourse  You have to enter a little gap in the fabulous trompe-l’oeil painting – see right.

So, it is totally hidden away and not surprisingly we were the only visitors yesterday.

But what a show!  The city of Marseille has 4000 posters from way back and this is just a small sample of the collection.  There are ads for lots of consumer goods – especially local ones like Pernod or soaps; plus great travel ads promoting the Cote d’Azur or individual resorts like Bandol or La Ciotat.  They are marvels of simplicity – stylish and colourful – each with a single and very clear proposition. IMG_4758

This is open every day but only on until 13th March.  What a shame they can’t find a permanent home for all these affiches.  They would be a great resource for students of marketing or graphic design.IMG_4748

On now to another exhibition, Mediterranées which is at the J1 – the jetty sticking out to sea that I described in a previous post.  It’s a 10-15 minute walk from the Vieux Port to La Joliette,  plenty of fresh air (esp this week!) but roadworks etc to dodge around.

But it’s worth the walk as the building is so interesting and apparently is only on loan, as a gallery, for this Year of Culture.

Mediterranées is a celebration of Mediterranean culture that explores 11 cities and their contributions.  It starts in Troy and leads us through Tyre, Athens, Alexandria, Rome, Al-Andalus, Venice, Genoa, Istanbul, Tunis and Algiers – right up to Marseille today.  Each city has an explanatory panel and a selection of objects to illustrate its past. There are some wonderful statues, pots, paintings, models of original boats, mosaics etc to give us a feel for each culture, plus films of current residents talking about, for instance, the Arab Spring, or life in Berlusconi’s Italy.IMG_4772 

Here’s Isis (right), a bit chipped on the nose but after 1800 years still looking beautiful.  They have gathered some magnificent exhibits.  The section on Venice includes a portrait of the Holy Roman Emporer Charles V but neglected to point out that he had the temerity to invade Aix and burn down our Hotel de Ville!

The whole exhibition is mounted in and on reclaimed shipping containers which is fun and very appropriate given the original function of the building.  Funnily enough at Christmas we had lunch at Tate Britain in London which is being renovated and the café had been moved to 3 shipping containers on the front lawn.  Maybe these containers will outlive in usefulness all the junk they transport.

Entry to J1 is free but the expo is 9€.  Buy tickets at the entrance to the building – they are not available at the entrance to the expo itself.  Also interesting photography, café and loos.  Open 12-6 daily.  Close to La Joliette metro station.

 

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This is a round-up of various bits of news but first a challenge:

How many people do you think come into Aix, from outside, to work every day? The answer is at the end of this post…

The ‘Parcours d’Art Contemporain’ is continuing to make waves. 

The structure Abbottabad in the courtyard of the Hotel de Gallifet is the subject of an interesting essay by Alain Paire who has a gallery in town and a very stimulating website.  He is fascinated by the piece and declares his friends to be ‘enchantés‘.  He has written a long piece which may interest you if you have visited this recreation of Bin Laden’s complex in Pakistan:  http://www.galerie-alain-paire.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=217:abbottabad-une-piece-dhuang-yong-ping-dans-un-hotel-particulier-daix-en-provence&catid=7:choses-lues-choses-vues&Itemid=6  Apparently the Chinese artist was hoping it would be installed in the courtyard of the Hotel de Ville, but the organisers felt that it would be too controversial.

red sculptureInstead we have the Le Monument by Xavier Veilhan which seems to have been well-received. According to the panel, ‘The viewer is invited to enter it. It is a self-contained space that is and can be shared’. I think these two young ladies were very much enjoying the invitation today, sitting on it and having a long conversation.

Well, if we are being invited to get involved in the art-works, someone today has made a start in the Cours Mirabeau and has interacted with the dotty trees……..note on treeBasically it says, ‘I must have been smoking.  The trees are red and covered with white dots’.  I wonder if this will start a trend of comments?

 

Just to go back to Alain Paire’s website, he has written an excellent tribute to Jean Ely who died at Christmas.  M. Ely was from the family of photographers who have been working in Aix since the late 19th century when photography was in its early days.  Each generation has produced a fine photographer and they have been in town recording all the key moments in its history.  There was an expo of their work some years ago (before my time) but the catalogue ‘ La Seconde et Le Siecle: Photos Henry Ely Aix’ is one of my favourite local books.  Highly recommended.

Now for the answer to the challenge at the top of the post which is: 43,000 a day!  No wonder the traffic is so horrrendous.  To make things worse, there are 18,000 people each day heading out of town and then there are the 38,000 travelling from home to work within the Pays d’Aix.  Of these commuters, 81% are in private cars.  Cauchemar!  The town is currently displaying its PLU – Plan Local d’Urbanisme – which gives all the data on the area’s plans for development, with details on what is protected and what is ear-marked for expansion.  The town authorities have to work over the next 10 years to provide 10,000 new homes including 2,000 for students.  You can see the exhibition at the Salle Pavillon at the Hotel de Ville, Tues-Fri 10-13, 15-18:30 and Saturdays 10-13.  Until 15th Feb. See also www.aixenconcertation.fr.

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Fun and the Funambule

The centre of town was ‘noir de monde’ today for the big launch.  With EU President José-Manuel Barroso, Culture Minister Aurelie Fillipetti, and Aix Mayor Marysse Joissans present, MP2013 got off to a very creative start here in Aix.

Nobody seemed certain about the events or their timing – the programme had been maddeningly vague.  A little boy asked his mum what was going on and she just said, ‘C’est n’est pas clair cheri’.  Huh, typical I thought.  But then maybe sometimes its better when things aren’t clear: we can get some true surprises.

The orchestra of 30 saxophonists were not in les Allées Provencales as I had thought, but on top of the Grand Théatre de Provence, clad in medieval-style outfits made out of shiny grey fabric with elaborate plastic head-dresses.  To their accompaniment, a white balloon arose with a circus performer, dangling and gyrating on a long white fabric loop.  She was wonderful.

IMG_4495Then came the funambule, walking across his wire between the Pavillon Noir and a crane.  The crowd were utterly entranced. Then he danced, sat on the wire, lay on the wire and even hung off it on his long pole.lying on wire

Everyone was holding their breath, silent and amazed. 

His finale was greeted with tremendous applause and then, as the Patrouille de France roared past – boom – all those large red balloons popped to release lots and lots of little balloons to the delight of all the children.  As I was walking through town afterwards, there were so many families clutching their kids, cameras and red balloons.  What a lovely surprising start to the year of culture!

balloonsreleased

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IMG_4456Three days to go and isn’t the Cours looking wonderful?  It’s such an imaginative idea to wrap the trees in this delightfully dotty fabric….4km on 60 trees according to La Provence.  The artist is an 85 year old Japanese lady called Yayoi Kusama who had a major retrospective at Tate Modern last summer. 

Everyone today seemed happy to see the trees – lots of people taking photos.  It’s all part of the art trail of 13 works to be launched on Saturday which promises to turn the town into an open-air gallery.

Here’s what else will be happening:

12:00 Tapis Rouge – a red carpet will be rolled out from the Rotonde to the Grand Théatre de Provence.  There will be acrobats and musicians and we have been promised an aerosculpture of red balloons.  ‘Keep Looking Up’ urges the publicity. 

12:15 Group Urban Sax will be playing – 30 saxophonists, 10 singers and 3 dancers.

13:00 A tight-rope walker will be linking the Grand Theatre with the Pavillon Noir – that should be fun…something I have never seen before.

Same time -ish, the Patrouille de France will be in their planes performing an aerial ballet – I will ‘Keep Looking Up’!

In the meantime, the Musée Granet’s new exhibition ‘Cadavre Exquis’ will have opened (12:00).  It’s a show based on a surrealist game where one work of art prompts another and will incorporate 15 painters, writers, photographers, dancers and musicians.  No?  Me neither but I look forward to finding out!  All the museums in town are free over the weekend.

So, after all that, maybe you will have the energy to set off to Marseille for La Grande Clameur and the light show?  It all looks very exciting but if you’ve had enough for one day, there will be television coverage on France 3 at 15:30 and 20:10.  The museums in Marseille are free all weekend too.  MUCEM which won’t be open will however have a ‘portes ouvertes’; but there are two new venues, both of which look exciting: http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/?u=34acec6974542c6ab86b76d07&id=6daf1eb63f&e=d3b39f27c9

treescezannehouse

And finally….I don’t believe Cézanne was much into pointillisme. 

What would he have made of this spotty tree outside his old bedroom window?  I like to think he would have liked it!

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