Posts Tagged ‘Musée de Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée’

Before we get to the future of J1, just a few words about Fort St Jean.fortstjean

MUCEM gets much of the attention and deservedly so, but the renovation of Fort St Jean has been equally spectacular considering what a sad run-down old building it was. It would have been easy to turn it into another exhibition venue but instead it was transformed into a fabulous free space for eating and picnicking, for climbing up for views, for sunbathing, for boat-spotting.

Until recently a dilapidated old building

Until recently a dilapidated old building

Now a fabulous open space for enjoying the views

Now a fabulous open space for enjoying the views

The attention to detail has been admirable with its provision of wide steps, large rocks and ledges for impromptu seating as well as polished wooden sun-loungers. The Mediterranean planting scheme is inspired and I love the vegetable gardens supplying the restaurant.

We sat there one summer day watching the armada of 2013 boats sailing past, a popular event, but the old fort absorbed crowds of people with ease. Its military past, as a defensive tower and then a WW2 ammunition store for the occupying troops, is behind it. How wonderful that it is now dedicated to peaceful pursuits with local families able to enjoy the superb position at the mouth of the Vieux Port. Well done to architect Roland Carta who worked with Rudy Riccotti to effect this transformation and landscape architects APS from Valence.

Meanwhile, along the seafront at J1, there is a debate as to what will happen to the superb hangar once the year of culture is over.  To my astonishment I read that there is a proposal to turn it into a casino…or to site a casino next to MUCEM.  http://www.laprovence.com/article/actualites/2668151/poker-menteur-autour-du-casino-de-marseille.html  I always thought people in casinos sat in darkened and curtained rooms (or is that just in films?) – they don’t need a prime sea-view – do they?

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IMG_5478MUCEM’s first exhibitions both end on 6th January and the programme for 2014 has been announced.  From 11th March, there will be an expo on Volubilis, an ancient town which became an outpost of the Roman empire near Meknes in Morocco. Bronzes from the museum in Rabat will be brought over to Marseille where they will be shown alongside exhibits from museums in France.  To complement this, works from contemporary Moroccan artists will be exhibited in the Fort St Jean.

The second expo will open on 25th March and is entitled: ‘Le Monde a l’Envers, Carnavals et Mascarades d’Europe et de Méditerranée’. It will trace the significance of the Carnaval in the region and illustrate its historical roots with costumes, photos, films and paintings since it has inspired many artists.

Then from 21st October, ‘Sur les Chemins d’Odessa’ will focus on the history of the town from its inception until the end of the 19th century; and an exhibition entitled ‘Food’, which has been showing in Geneva and is currently in Italy, will be coming to MUCEM.

All very esoteric.

This point was put to Bruno Suzzarelli, the president of MUCEM by La Provence in a recent interview. The new museum has of course been a massive success – France 3 said that there have been 2.5 million visitors so far this year; but while the building and its incomparable site have won plaudits, the contents have been less popular.  M Suzzarelli explained that the museum’s function is to display broad social themes rather than the work of one particular artist which is what the public are used to.  He feels that there is value in this different approach because it raises questions in the visitors’ minds;  and this approach he says will continue.

So prepare to be challenged at MUCEM next year!




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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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