Elevating art into a world of luxury at the New National Museum of Monaco
Monaco, undoubtedly the luxury capital of the world, is commonly associated with its famous “Casino de Monte-Carlo” and the expensive yachts docked at the gorgeous “Port Hercule”. But art and culture has also shaped the country in many ways. For centuries, music, dance, theatre and of course artistic illustrations, have took centrestage along the French Riviera. World-renowned Charles Garnier and Gustave Eiffel, just to name two, have sculpted Monaco and Monte-Carlo to what it is today. Art is truly a “Monegasque” lifestyle.
Leading the art scene in Monaco, New National Museum of Monaco (NMNM) aims to educate the public about the intimate links within the cultural, historical and artistic heritage of the Principality. NMNM comprises of two venues: Villa Paloma and Villa Sauber. Villa Paloma’s pure white façade and interior is a stark contrast from Villa Sauber’s “Belle Epoque” style. Two exhibitions are held every year in each venue with differing themes: ‘Art and Performance’ at Villa Sauber and ‘Art and Territory’ at Villa Paloma.
Championing the formidable NMNM is Marie-Claude Beaud, its passionate museum director. Benoit Badufle, Managing Director of Monaco Tourism Bureau in Asia, speaks with Marie-Claude to discover her plans for the art scene in Monaco.
What is a typical day at NMNM like for you?
I must say there isn’t such a thing as a typical day at the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco! As the Director, I lead the team in all the museum’s activities: the preservation of the national and international heritage, as well as the acquisition and production of new artworks, the exhibition programme, the relationships with the governmental entities and the palace (H.R.H. The Princess of Hanover being the President of the Museum’s and Acquisition Committee Board), as well as the usual everyday administrative tasks.
What do you think are the greatest challenges you face heading a major institution in Monaco’s art scene?
I would say that it is to make our mark. Compared to other institutions such as Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, L’Opéra de Monte-Carlo, the Grimaldi Forum or the Oceanographic Museum, NMNM is quite new in its current form since Villa Paloma opened its doors in 2010. It takes time for a museum to take its rightful place, both locally and internationally.
Before 2009 of course, my predecessor had already organised temporary exhibitions and led an inventory of the collection, but the idea of having an art museum in Monaco is quite new. The public is not necessarily used to visiting exhibitions regularly and Monaco wasn’t at the time known in that field worldwide. I believe that we’ve done great work to change that, but we still have a lot more to do!
How do you think the artmonte-carlo fair on the Côte d’Azur factors into the local art ecosystem?
I have to say that artmonte-carlo is the first high level professional contemporary art fair in Monaco. Thanks to the reputation of artgenève, Thomas Hug and his team have been able to attract very interesting international galleries.
2018 will see the third edition of artmonte-carlo and they have already managed to stabilize the presence of serious galleries, invite meaningful non-profit organizations coming from the region, and curate a very interesting programme of talks with international speakers as well as a section dedicated specifically to design.
NMNM is known for its thought-provoking exhibitions. Why is it important to present these to the public?
An exhibition should be thought-provoking, meaning that it should enable the visitor to work on his imagination, his vision, his knowledge in general ; one should always also keep in mind that, as French artist François Morellet says, “each and every person comes with its own picnic”, which means that there are as many ways to see and perceive an exhibition as there are visitors that come into a museum, and that’s what’s interesting!
Has NMNM shown works of Asian contemporary artists?
We’ve worked with Asian artists in the past. In 2010, we advised the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco to present a site-specific piece by Huang Yong Ping, Wu Zei, for example. We also have works from Asian artists in our collections, such as Shimabuku and Wang Du.
What’s currently showing at the museum?
We are currently showing two exhibitions in Monaco. At Villa Sauber, ‘Saâdane Afif’s The Fountain Archives 2008-2017’ celebrates the centenary of Marcel Duchamp’s work ‘Fountain’, and is on show till 15 October. Saâdane Afif is the 2006 winner of the International Prize of Contemporary awarded by the Fondation Prince Pierre de Monaco, and Marcel Duchamp was a regular gambler at the Casino of Monte-Carlo.
‘Kasper Akhøj’s Welcome to the Teknival’ is an exhibition by artist Kasper Akhøj dedicated to E-1027, Maison en bord de Mer, the summer hideaway house designed by Eileen Gray for Jean Badovici between 1926 and 1929 in Roquebrune Cap-Martin, near Monaco, and will be on show till 7 January 2018.