Marseille – Provence, 2013 European Capital Of Culture

Ana B. Remos


In 1985, Athens, cradle of European civilization, was the first city to be designated Europe’s Cultural Capital, a title created to promote Europe’s shared cultural legacy. Since, every year, one or two European cities are chosen to represent the Union and attract the world’s attention. This year, the honor was bestowed on the French city of Marseille and many surrounding communes. On January 12, precisely at 7 o’clock, the Grand Clameaur (Great Clamor) set in motion the yearlong celebration. Onlookers heard the unanimous roar of thousands of people, alongside bellowing sirens from the port, and the majestic sound of all of the town’s church bells.

Marsella-Provenza, 2013
Mobiile Centre Pompidoule

This metropolis with more than 2,600 years of history and an illustrious maritime and trade tradition has been at the center of migratory flows, which, with the passage of time, have forged the multicultural and cosmopolitan spirit that characterizes Marseille. The cultural events of 2013 pay homage to this spirit of openness, using the Mediterranean Sea as the guiding theme.

The event is structured in three large chapters, the first took place between the months of January and May, under the title Marseille – Provence, with a unique focus on local hospitality traditions, not only towards visitors but also towards new art expressions. The second, In Open Air, was presented from May to August and took advantage of the summer to promote contact with nature, outdoor shows, concerts and seasonal festivals. The last chapter will take place between September and December under and is titled Marseille – Provence of the Thousand Faces. Sheltered by the melancholic intimacy of the autumnal landscapes, the art of living, coastal cuisine, new writings and works by emblematic Mediterranean authors will be prominently featured.

Marsella-Provenza, 2013
1. Architectones, Xavier Veilhan.
2. International Folkloric Festival, Basque Country.
3. Odysseia.

The program, funded with almost 100 million Euros, includes more than 400 artistic and cultural events for which ten new facilities were created. The most outstanding being MuCEM, Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean, created by the Algerian-French architect Rudy Ricciotti. It consists of a simple glass cube covered with arabesque calligraphy and is located at the entrance of the old port on a platform suspended over the water. The building is integrated into the Front Mer urban project located in the old pier, and it has become the new cultural beacon of a renewed Marseille. Other buildings worthy of a visit are the Regional Fund for Contemporary Art, the FRAC, designed by architect Kengo Kuma, as well as the fantastic Friche La Belle de Mai, a former tobacco factory that, today, houses works of contemporary art, or the gigantic port warehouse, J4, devoted to the visual arts.

Marsella-Provenza, 2013
1. Elena de Cavalli, Theatre des Salins de Martigues
2. Strauss’ Elektra
3. Alonzo King Lines Ballet
4. Luc Vleminckx

Another novel event is the Travelling Pompidou Centre, the first nomadic Museum, which, under a tent designed by the architect Patrick Bouchain, brings together residents from the peripheral towns and villages, with the attraction of pieces by Matisse, Picasso and Braque from the Parisian collection.

At the end of this year, the celebrations will come to an end, but the experiences will remain in the collective memory of a city, which hopes to attract visitors with a brand new physiognomy and its traditional spirit of hospitality and exchange.


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