The MuCEM, Museum of European Civilization and the Mediterranean, is housed in a new building, which was symbolically chosen to be the centerpiece of the structures realized in Marseille as one of the European Capitals of Culture for 2013. The museum overlooks the sea to which it is dedicated, celebrating its history and culture. The MuCEM is an original tribute to the city’s historic role throughout the centuries as a crossroads in the Mediterranean for commerce and maritime traffic and trading, all factors, which have had a large impact on the making of Marseille.
The exhibition is divided into four main themes referred to as “singularité.” The first one called “Naissance des Dieux, invention des agricultures” features tools and other items having to do with agriculture, such as an old system for milling, a typical hut used by ancient farmers and an old sailboat. The second themed area is called “Une ville sainte, trois révelations” and is dedicated to reliquaries and sacred objects from the religions of the Mediterranean. The third area called “Citoyennetés et droits de l’homme” tells of customs and lifestyles that occasionally overlap and inspire one another. The fourth area called “Au delà du monde connu” features works of contemporary art.
Building project: Rudy Ricciotti, Paris
Exhibition design: Studio Adeline Rispal, Paris
Goppion designed the permanent gallery, realizing the entire installation and the 77 display cases included in it. Large semi-transparent fabric panels hung from a sophisticated system of tracks serve to guide visitors into the museum. These panels are meant not only to lead visitors to discovering the artworks but to represent the lightness, fragility and dreamlike quality of the sea and the sails that glide across it.
The wide range of objects found in this museum is housed in large exhibition islands in wood and Corian, topped with extra-light glass bonnets. A very unique island was created for Le Mur des Portraits and Le Banquet. This was created by alternating display cases and seating areas so that visitors can stop and admire the “wall” of ancient busts with modern heads on them. The ‘cabinet de curiosité’ is dedicated to more precious objects. This is an original arrangement of display cases, which are airtight and maintain proper humidity levels depending on the temperature.
The overall sense of the museum is to serve as the “perfect example of a dialogue among peoples” in the words of Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, and this is symbolized with a creation by the artist Michelangelo Pistoletto. This flower with five petals symbolizes five different religions (including an area for nonbelievers, which is represented with a blank display case) that with their diversity make up a unified whole.