Presentation of the museum

Who are we ?

Located in the heart of the city, next to Place Garibaldi and in the extension of the “Coulée Verte”, MAMAC offers a dive in the International Postwar Art from 1950’s to nowadays. With a collection of nearly 1 400 works by more than 350 artists, (with an average of 200 on display), the museum offers – among others – an original dialogue between the European New Realism and American Pop Art. The museum also displays key works of minimal art and arte povera. Two major artists of the 20th century art form the heart of the collections: Yves Klein, with a permanent room that is unique in the world, made possible thanks to the long-term loans of the Yves Klein Archives, and Niki de Saint Phalle. Prominent Postwar female artist, Niki de Saint Phalle gave a great donation to the museum in 2001. MAMAC thus owns now one of the biggest funds of the artist in the world.

The museum also sheds light on the singularity and prominence of the local art scene from the late 1950’s to the early 1970’s. Nice and the Côte d’Azur were then an important place for experimentation and invention of new artistic gestures with prominent artists such as Yves Klein, Martial Raysse, Arman, Ben and groups such as Supports/Surface. Despite the singularity of personalities and practices, three key issues arise: the act of appropriation of everyday life (with the New Realists in particular), an art of gesture and attitude (with Fluxus) and an analytic exploration of the painting (with Support/Surface and Group 70). This research is put in perspective with the European and American artistic creation of the last sixty years.

The spaces cover five levels, including two sets of 1.200 m2 devoted to the museum’s collections. One floor and a project room are devoted to international temporary shows alternating thematic exhibitions and monographs of major artists of the last sixty years. A roof terrace accessible to the public offers a breathtaking panoramic view on Nice.

A museum to share

Guided tours, workshops, meetings with artists or researchers, storytelling tours, lectures or projections, dance visits, concerts, performances and events, promote the accessibility of contemporary art to the wider audience and transform the museum in a playground for artists from different fields. All year long, the museum team builds a constellation of networks with companies, associations, students, social workers to invent specific programs and ways of reinventing the museum.
About a hundred events a year make the museum a place to live and share.

A regular program of temporary shows

Over the years, MAMAC has proposed major international group exhibitions: Klein Byars Kapoor (2012), Intra-Muros (2004), De Klein à Warhol (1997) ; Chimériques polymères, le plastique dans l’art du XXème siècle (1996) ; monographic shows of prominent artists Liz Magor (2017), Ernest Pignon-Ernest (2016), Wim Delvoye (2010), Robert Longo (2009), Richard Long (2008), Robert Rauschenberg (2005), Niki de Saint-Phalle (2002), Arman (2001), Yves Klein (2000), Tom Wesselmann (1996) ; while emphasizing on the special relationship with the neighbor region of Northern Italy with solo shows of Giovanni Anselmo (1996), Gilberto Zorio (1992), Pier Paolo Calzolari (2003), or Michelangelo Pistoletto (2007).
Since several years MAMAC is committed in active new readings of art history, anchored in contemporary societal issues; the highlighting of singular figures and the production of new stories. Our relation to Nature and the way artists deal with the ecological challenges is one o the key subjects raised in the program.
Among others MAMAC organized: Gustav Metzger. Remember Nature (February 2017); A propos de Nice. 1947 – 1977 (Summer 2017) ; Cosmogonies, au gré des éléments, a multidisciplinary and historical group show focused on co-creation with Nature from Yves Klein to Thu-Van Tran and Otobong Nkanga (Summer 2018) ; Inventing Dance: in and around Judson, New York, 1959-1970 (Winter 2018) ; Le diable au corps. Quand l’Op art électrise le cinéma (Summer 2019) about the relationship between art and cinema in the 1960s.
The project room or contemporary gallery is devoted to the most current experiments or visual languages in local and international contemporary art.

The genesis of MAMAC

The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Nice was inaugurated on 21 June 1990. Several coherent projects for the creation of such a museum appeared in Nice in the second half of the XXth century. The first was linked to the restructuring of the Galerie des Ponchettes, a project supported by Henri Matisse and Pierre Bonnard, developed by Doctor Thomas, then by Jean Cassarini, the first prefiguration of the Museum of Modern Art in Nice. The second hypothesis that emerged was to build a modern wing in the garden of the Masséna Museum. This project was abandoned in order to build a car park.
The idea was revived in the mid-70s with the appointment of Claude Fournet as Director of the Museums of Nice. The opening of the Gallery of Contemporary Art (GAC) and a contemporary program at the Galerie des Ponchettes, offered the public of Nice a significant showcase of art.

Autour de Nice

In 1985, the exhibition “Autour de Nice” (“Around Nice”) at Acropolis, presenting a first group of works by the New Realists, the School of Nice and Support/Surfaces in particular, was to certify the necessity of a museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nice. The same year, an agreement signed with the State provides for the implementation over five years of an ambitious programme of purchases of works of art. The State’s financial assistance provided to the city in its acquisition drive will set in motion the process of classifying the future institution under the label “musée contrôlé par l’état”. As early as 1987, an agreement was signed between the City of Nice and the State to finance the architectural project.

An architectural gesture

The architects Yves Bayard and Henri Vidal made an original proposal for a sort of tetrapod arch on horseback, on the one hand on the Paillon river, and on the other hand on the axis of the ancient N7 motorway linking the port district and the old town to the districts that developed in the 19th and 20th centuries. The architecture of the museum had to harmonise two elements that make up the urban fabric of Nice: Sardinian town planning and the exotic utopia of the Belle Epoque.

A monumentality inspired by the principles of Classicism (square plan, arcature) responds to the layout of Piazza Garibaldi. The red ochre tones of the base are interwoven with the smooth Carrara marble surfaces of the towers, on which the olive trees are carved, to create an optical interplay that transposes to the heart of the city the registers of order and peace of Mediterranean nature. The coverage of the Paillon provides a rare opportunity to have land in the city centre and allows the ample development of a device called “Promenade des Arts” consisting of a museum and a theatre and extended by the “coulée verte” today.

This crucial location in the heart of the city required a high-rise development made up of four square towers on a base of 20 metres on each side for an elevation of 30 metres. From the outside, they are blind but connected by glass footbridges. The exhibition spaces are distributed over four levels, plus one level for the lobby and one for the terraces accessible to the public. The second level hosts the temporary exhibitions, while the 3rd and 4th levels are dedicated to the collections. The first floor houses the museum’s contemporary gallery. The exhibition spaces are deployed over 10 exhibition rooms.

The terraces are treated as belvederes from which the view largely embraces the city. On one of them, Yves Klein’s Le Mur de Feu (The Wall of Fire), created with the help of the “Direction des Musées de France”, is presented; it is an edition of one of the projects developed by the artist for his Krefeld exhibition in 1961.
The piazza linking the museum to the theatre on the one hand and to the Palais des Congrès on the other, allows the installation of monumental sculptures such as Alexander Calder’s Stabile Mobile or Niki de Saint Phalle’s Loch Ness Monster.

Niki de Saint Phalle, Monstre du Loch Ness, 1993, Miroirs et céramique sur structure en polyester, 330 x 520 x 300 cm, Donation de l’artiste en 2001, Inv. : 2001.13.61, © 2020 Niki Charitable Art Foundation / Adagp, Paris, crédit photographique : Muriel Anssens/Ville de Nice
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