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 commerical port area of Joliette, 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 the gallery, you can practically see the neighbours watching an Olympique de Marseille football match 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 and the MuCEM. All of them opened within months of each other.

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 1500 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 (5400 square metres / 58000 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 outdoor terraces, one looking out on to the boulevard, the other at the back 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 1200 artworks.

This covers a period from the 1960s and 1970s onwards 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.

Among the winter 2018-2019 exhibitions at the FRAC are Maya Dunietz, Rodolphe Huguet and a biennale of digital art.

Recent exhibitions have included the French artist Claude Lévêque, Le Bruit des choses qui tombent (The Sound of Things Falling),which explored the presence of fear in contemporary Colombian art.

abraham poincheval bouteilleAlso, the strange journey of performance artist Abraham Poincheval, pictured, who went on a two-month cruise up the Rhône river in a giant glass bottle! Click here to read more about it.

Other shows have been 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 commercial 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