The bustling port of Marseille is France’s oldest city and stands on its southern shores trapped between sea, river and mountain, a position so favourable that it has long served as a busy Mediterranean trading post with origins dating back to 600BC. Over centuries, passing civilizations have indelibly left their mark, creating a cultural melting pot that is unmistakably French but with a distinct flavour of Italy, Spain and even North Africa. And whilst the city fell out of fashion after years of post-war decline, in recent years it has undergone a remarkable revival, reinventing itself as an attractive and vibrant city and indeed the 2013 European Capital of Culture.
All manner of events are taking place throughout the year across Marseille to celebrate the city’s elevated cultural status, the following simply representing a small snapshot of the myriad festivities scheduled over the next few months.
Last week the French President, François Hollande, opened a new national Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MUCEM), a €191 million project dedicated to celebrating the cultures and civilisations of the Mediterranean. At the Villa Méditerranée meanwhile, a temporary exhibition (14th June to 27th September) looks at the future of the Mediterranean 20 years from now and from 18th June to the end of the year, the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle at the Palais Longchamp offers an exhibition entitled ‘Lumières’ bringing together astronomy, biology and technology.
There’s also the Festival de Marseille (19th June to 12 July) featuring a programme firmly featured around dance and related arts, Musée Cantini’s foremost Fauvist and Surrealist art collections, featuring works by Picasso, Matisse, Giacometti and Bacon, on display from 15th June to 15th September, and the grand reopening of the former Château Borély (15th June), rechristened the Musée des Arts Décoratifs et de la Mode which will exhibit collections of decorative art, ceramics and fashion.
And yet the star attraction must undoubtedly be ‘Le Grand Atelier du Midi’, running from 13th June to 13th October. Described as the exhibition of the summer, the newly renovated Musée des Beaux Arts, in partnership with Aix-en-Provence’s Musée Granet presents a fabulous collection of some 200 works by a veritable who’s who in the art world including Gauguin, Van Gogh, Renoir, Cézanne, Monet, Modigliani, Picasso, Dalí and many more. The exhibition is divided into two parts: From ‘Cézanne to Matisse’ is situated in Aix, whilst ‘From Van Gogh to Bonnard’ resides in Marseille. A combined ticket costs 19€.