After offering you a preview on social media, Art-Trope provides you with more details about the Musée de la Romanité in Nîmes. What is at stake for this new museum with international ambitions?
A colossal budget and six years of construction
The construction of the Musée de la Romanité took place from 2012 to 2018. The total budget reached 59.5 million euros including 35.4 million financed by the city of Nîmes and local authorities. A contest was organzed prior to its construction in order to select the architect that was to be in charge of the museum’s conception. “The explicit demand of the contest was to create a museum which would be a contemporary response to the Roman arena. (…) Designing a light architecture, doable thanks to the current technologies, was obvious to me as well as expressing the differences between the two buildings through a dialogue based on complementarity” explains Elizabeth de Portzamparc, the contest’s winner. Jean-Paul Fournier, Mayor of the City of Nîmes said: “as an evidence of Nîmes’ identity deeply rooted in its Roman past, the Musée de la Romanité is one of the most significant architectural and cultural projects of this early century for the city of Nîmes but also for the whole region.”
A priceless collection of antique objects
In 2006, the archaeological digging of one of the city’s main boulevards, a Domus, which is a rich Roman mansion. In it, two mosaics exceptionally preserved were found. There is one called Achilles and one called Pentheus. Their amazing state of conservation and the richness of their ornamentations made them “second in beauty only to the mosaics of Pompeii” according to Nîmes’ mayor. The museum exhibits 5000 unique pieces with dates ranging from 700 BC to the Middle Age and benefits from a huge collection of 25 000 artifacts. Since 2012, the conservation team has been evaluating the whole collection. It made possible the restoration of great part of the collection including 12 mosaics, a statue of Neptune, monumental fragments of prolypée’s pediment or a 100 Roman sculptures. These objects of Art and History are supposed to attract 160 000 visitors a year. For the museum’s opening, the temporary exhibition “Gladiators, heroes of the Colosseum” in partnership with the Roman Colosseum, offers a different perspective on the famous Roman games.
The UNESCO bid
In 2012 the city of Nîmes submitted its application to be part of the UNESCO’s World Heritage status. Danial-Jean Valade, the Mayor’s Cultural Delegate stated “the city of Nîmes wants to pursue this architectural gesture, emphasizing the collections of Roman civilization in a contemporary framework, to show that [their] breadth and quality deserve UNESCO World Heritage status”. However the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos) recently published an unfavorable report regarding the city of Nîmes’ candidacy. The architectural ensemble of the city also includes another significant Roman site. Indeed, the Maison Carré, ancient Roman temple dedicated to the Princes of Youth and Thomas Jefferson’s favorite building, interacts with the Carré d’Art, the Contemporary Art Museum on its opposite side. The city intends on capitalizing on this aspect of its history.
Read our article about the exhibition Zao Wou-Ki Space of Silence at the city of Paris Museum of Modern Art here.