FRAC PACA Marseille facadeThe FRAC (Fonds régional d'art contemporain, or Regional Collection of Contemporary Art) is yet another stunning, futuristic new gallery space in Marseille. logoClick here to book a hotel in Marseille



The FRAC Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur is part of a network of nearly two dozen centres set up all over France in 1982 to do what the name says: collect modern art from the region, put it on show and educate the public about it.

To mark the network's 30th anniversary, six of these regional FRACS moved to new premises. But while the other five are all located outside their respective cities, the FRAC PACA is right in central Marseille.

Formerly based in Marseille's Panier, or Old Town, it now sits in the port area just north of the upwardly mobile rue de la République.

The FRAC is squeezed into a narrow, triangular plot of land, surrounded by banks, the tramway and residential apartments so close that, from inside parts of it, you can practically see the neighbours watching Olympique de Marseille on television.

Its director, Pascal Neveux, describes the FRAC as a "laboratory" rather than a museum. He hopes it will form an unequalled art and architecture circuit along with the other buildings which sprang up all over this part of town in 2013 (during that year, Marseille went through an extraordinary regeneration as part of the European Capital of Culture programme).

The FRAC PACA MarseilleAlso in this area to the north of the Old Port of Marseille: the Musée Regards de Provence, the Villa Méditerranée, the Tour Panorama and the MuCEM.

It's difficult to think of another city which has acquired so many new art-oriented spaces in such close proximity and so short a time.

The architect of the 20 million €uro FRAC project is Japan's Kengo Kuma, who also designed the new Conservatoire in Aix en Provence.

A disciple of Le Corbusier's urban architecture, Kuma, pictured below, recalls visiting Marseille in the 1980s. He was hugely impressed then by the city's vibrant street life and by Le Corbu's Radiant City, which inspired, he says, his own concept.

Kengo KumaOutside, the FRAC is bright and shiny - in the most literal sense. Its dazzling "fragmented" façade is covered with 1,500 panes of recycled glass melded with enamel (a detail is pictured top left).

Hand-produced at the workshop of the master-glass-maker Emmanuel Barrois, these are all set at different angles to each other and shine in the sun like sequins.

Inside, the FRAC is high-ceilinged, extremely spacious (5,400 square metres / 58,000 square feet), luminous and, in Neveux' word, "sober", with exposed ducting, strip lights and bare concrete.

The design is labyrinthine, with a number of irregular-angled, interlocking spaces linked by inner walkways inspired by Le Corbusier.

The public areas include a restaurant, a bookshop, two galleries and two terraces, one looking out onto the boulevard, the other in the interior of the building overlooked by apartments.

Other floors are taken up by artists' studios, offices and, in a vast basement 20 metres / 65 feet underground a reserve storing the FRAC's collection of around a thousand artworks.

This covers a period from the 1960s and 1970s and a geographical area extending from Nice to Marseille and the Mediterranean basin, including some international work from Egypt, Algeria and further abroad.

Many of these works will go out on loan. Others will appear in temporary shows at the FRAC itself, which also has a budget to acquire new pieces, around 15 a year.

The FRAC's summer 2017 exhibitions feature the Nice-based artist Pascal Pinaud, the photographer Antoine d'Agata and the film-maker Marie Bovo.

The main winter 2016-2017 show at the FRAC chronicled the strange journey of performance artist Abraham Poincheval, pictured below, who went on a two-month cruise up the Rhône river last summer in a giant glass bottle! Click here to read more about it.

abraham poincheval bouteilleOther recent exhibitions were dedicated to Thierry Fontaine, Patrick Van Caeckenbergh, Eric Hattan, Adrian Schiess, Marie Reinert, Marie Bovo, Marc Bauer, Lieven de Boeck and Françoise Pétrovitch.

Where: 20 boulevard de Dunkerque, 13002 Marseille. Website for the FRAC PACA

How to get there: In the Joliette district, near Marseille's port area, the FRAC can be reached by metro line 2, tram line 2 or tram line 3. In each case the stop is Joliette.



Main Menu