Friday, June 12, 2015

The amazing MuCem in Marseille




Marseille. France's second largest city remains an enigma for me. I don't know it well, I admit. Beyond the fact that it is a bit far, logistically speaking, it is also a lot to take in. Within it's limits, a métissage or a mixing of all of the Mediterranean cultures can be found. It is quite the macro-microcosm.

All the better then that there is now a museum right on the shores of the sea to celebrate exactly that. Welcome to the MuCem, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations. Inaugurated in 2013 as the crowning achievement of Marseille having been named the European Capital of Culture for that year, it's stunning architecture, designed by Rudy Richiotti, was immediately heralded by locals and visitors alike. I was especially taken by the 15,000 square meter lattice work shell of reinforced concrete that wraps around the main exhibition space, called the J4 after the port terminal that had previously occupied this strip of land. While it is imposing, even slightly prison-like from the distance, once inside one feels cradled in a cocoon - even while walking the semi-enclosed pathways between floors and exhibition spaces.

The permanent collection is housed in the Gallery of the Mediterranean on the ground floor. While the museum is purposefully going for an interdisciplinary approach for exploring the historical and cultural cross-fertilisation of this vast region, at times it resembles an untidy cabinet des curiosités. Ancient masterworks are presented next to contemporary art installations and animated films attract the youngest of visitors. The Gallery is quite diverse and it was oddly pleasing to visit a museum where every single step is not over-explained, where you have to become a part of the experience in order to take something out of it.

The same can be said for wandering around the rest of the complex as well. A 115 meter long footbridge (constructed with technology used by Air France) leading from the J4 to the 17th century Fort Saint Jean provides a very literal link between past and present. There one can wander among the lush Garden of Migration with stunning views over Le Vieux Port or take another footbridge to the Panier, the city's oldest neighborhood.

That open connection between what is "the museum" and what is public space is one of the most attractive aspects of the MuCem for me. And each time that I have gone, I have seen nearly equal numbers of museum-goers and locals in the outdoor areas. While I have thoroughly enjoyed several temporary exhibitions there, what I appreciate most is the environment itself. Gérald Passédat, chef of the local 3-star restaurant Le Petit Nice, is running all of the restaurants from the gastronomique La Table (with menus starting at 49€ at lunch and 69€ at dinner) to the Café where I bought an authentic pan bagnat to munch outside, next to a gentleman who was sun-bathing. It is said that the MuCem was constructed from "stone, water and wind" and these elements, along with a shot of culture backed by the gorgeous light of Marseille, are enchanting - just as they must have been for the first visitors to this ancient city so many centuries ago.
























MuCem
7 Promenade Robert Laffont
13002 - Marseille
Tel.: +33 (0)4 84 35 13 13
Open everyday but Tuesday from 11am to 7pm (closing at 6pm in winter)
Friday night late opening at 10pm
Full ticket price: 8€ per person
Family ticket (2 adults and up to five children): 12€
Free on the first Sunday of every month


 

An essential part of this post? Well, I love when worlds overlap. I will leave you with this video of "Au revoir mon amour" by Dominique A. Not only is the song beautiful but the video is in part filmed at the Mucem and features some of the most exceptional aerial choreography that I have ever seen. Enjoy...


...and have a wonderful weekend!




24 comments:

  1. That was spectacular - both the article and the video. Thank you!

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  2. What a stunning (and surprising) space. (And your photographs, as usual, are superb.)

    I have only been to Marseille once, 10 years ago almost exactly, and I found it beautiful, rough, contradictory, mysterious, and of course... delicious. I was there with a friend (from Aix) who showed me around, and every sight, sound and taste felt infused with that timeless sun, sea and wind.

    I'm going to show this post to my college student (in Architecture) son... We've been discussing indoor-outdoor public spaces. This is one I would love for him to see.

    Fantastic post, Heather. (Oh, for my next trip to France! Perhaps the South?)

    xo

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    1. Hooray! Oh you know how much I would love that! And would spoil you rotten too...

      That is fabulous that you had a friend show you around Marseille - that is exactly what I need. It really is overwhelming otherwise. Where to go? What to see beyond the most basic sites? But I remember meeting a Parisienne who had moved down and she said for rien au monde would she ever move back up!

      I think that you both will enjoy looking at Rudy Richiotti's website - indoor/outdoor public spaces is what he is known for.

      Thank you for the kind words, DA...Bisous...

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  3. Heather, what an amazing art museum to have in the city of Marseille.
    The exterior is so unique and what a beautiful setting!! Thank you for sharing.

    xoxo
    Karena
    The Arts by Karena

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    1. Isn't it gorgeous? There are actually a few other museums that were also built for 2013 that I haven't seen yet in the area - I need to go back!

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  4. The light! Gorgeous...and architecture that fits the site. Thanks for the holiday without leaving my computer!

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    1. Oh, you are welcome. I actually wrote this during a torrential downpour so the holiday did me good too. ;)

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  5. Replies
    1. The light is so gorgeous in Marseille but I was especially lucky on the day that I took these photos...

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  6. What a beautiful space! I love the attention to aesthetics and, as you say, the overlapping between the museum and public space. France has always been good at creating inviting, beautiful spaces for the public to enjoy. I wish urban planners in California would pay more attention to this and incorporate it into our landscape. It's difficult to find outdoor space here where one feels invited to stay (when not simply in nature), but I'm afraid this is done on purpose because they generally don't want people loitering. Quel dommage! As always, thanks for sharing. The music video is stunning!

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    1. It is so true, Jessica. "No loitering"! And at the MuCem I saw people that were clearly camped out for the afternoon or others who it was obvious that they probably came every day.

      Glad you liked the video - I thought it was amazing too!

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  7. Heather, Excellent and inspiring article and your photos took my breath away. Would have loved to munch one of those pan bagnats with you--and with Judi Miller, who directed me to your latest post. Happy weekend, xo.

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    1. Oh, that was so nice of Judi! I so seldom write about Marseille and points further south...you have that beat covered. ;) But I am glad that you enjoyed and yes, I bet the three of us would have a mighty fine time there...or anywhere for that matter! Bon Weekend à toi aussi. xo

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  8. The museum and space look so beautiful! I think you did have gorgeous weather, but it really is an amazing space, and your photos showcase it so nicely. Also - I admit to not watching very many of your videos, but I did watch this one - wow!! Loved seeing the museum and the song/dancing were exquisite! I'm glad I sneaked a watch of it (you know our data issues...)! Thank you for another lovely post!

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    1. Maybe we can go next year when you visit again (hopefullleeee) if something good is on there! And yay for sneaking a bit of data - isn't the dancing amazing???
      I love you!!

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  9. Thank you for this -- I just want to go there! You captured it from so many angles with skill and finesse. Wow. Just wow. (And the pain bagnet looked yummy too -- and the video -- I'm like Robin. Glad I watched this time.)

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    1. Oh Judith! Watch them! They are never random and I know that an appreciation for world music runs in your family!!! Glad you liked it though. ;)

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  10. The photos are simply beautiful. Coincided with what I’m reading abou Japanese elegant designs .

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    1. That was fascinating to read about Edgar - even if I am more of a Wabi-Sabi girl myself!

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  11. Thoroughly enjoyed your account of this beautiful museum and its surroundings. Your photos make me feel as though I was actually walking there with you.

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    1. I wish you had been, G. It would have warmed up your winterized bones! :)

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  12. The museum indeed has a superb location. I especially enjoyed the video. the music and the ballet dancers strung like puppets by the sea.

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    1. So beautifully put Janey...but they were even strung above the sea! I can't imagine being so strong and fearless...

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