The sea! The sea!, A New Museum Unfurls its Sails
Bordeaux’s newest museum in the vibrant new Bassins à Flot quarter gathers fascinating collections referencing the region’s seafaring past
On June 15, the Musée Mer Marine (MMM) - the Museum Of the sea and seafaring - Opens in Bordeaux in the
Bassins à flot district. The museum, with its striking modern achitecture, was founded by real estate entrepreneur Norbert Fradin, whose love of the sea and cultural heritage inspired this magnificent project.
“I had these collections, and wanted to share them... The sea and seafaring have always been my driving passion. From the dawn of time, there has always been a link between people and the sea. As a boy, I had a model of a square-rigged trading ship in my bedroom. And I still have it. Perhaps it was that ship that awoke my passion for boats”, he says. The museum will open in stages over the coming months, starting with a worldclass temporary exhibition devoted to Claude Monet, “Entre terre et mer: chefs d’oeuvre du Musée Marmottan Monet.” (Between Land and Sea: Masterpieces from the Musée Marmottan Monet.) The exhibit is presented in partnership with the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris, providing a rare opportunity to see these masterpieces outside the French capital. There will also be glimpses of the final project, with a scenography designed by Gérard Puech-morel. The permanent collection will cover three floors and includes racing yachts from Fradin’s personal collection like the ‘Vera Hugh’, the 1.6 meter boat on which Tom Mcnally traversed the Atlantic to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s voyage to the America, as well as navigational equipment and models. For Fradin, Bordeaux seemed the obvious location for this museum. The striking building, designed by Fradin and architect Olivier Brochet, with slanted angles and green terraces, will become a landmark on Bordeaux’s historic waterfront.
“The link between Bordeaux and the Atlantic is very strong indeed. Bordeaux had been one of the greatest ports in Europe, but the city rather turned its back on its maritime culture towards the end of the 20th century. At a time where it was becoming one of the most visited tourist destinations in France, I felt that this lack of centre dedicated to the maritime adventure was wrong. So we chose this iconic location: the historic harbor known as the Bassins à Flot, which was created at the end of the 19th century”, said Fradin.
As the permanent collection opens to the public, visitors will also be invited to
explore the science of the oceans. One floor of the museum will be devoted to oceanography with a library and conference area. To broaden awareness, the museum plans to hold scientific events open to the public.
“A museum is a living resource and a window to the future, because we cannot build our future without learning the lessons of previous civilizations. By observing the history of seafaring and the sea, we can see how the relationship between mankind and the oceans is changing. This museum will also embrace oceanography, the new sciences of the sea, and all its environmental problems. We hope that this will improve our understanding of the ocean depths that could help humanity to survive far into the future”, said Fradin. Linking past and future, this multidisciplinary approach to the sea and seafaring will tell the story of humankind’s relationship to the sea, its navigation and conquest. The building itself — the base reminiscent of a ship’s hull and the asymmetrical levels of sails in the wind — invites visitors to think and dream.
“The world of the sea is often a world of suffering, but it is always - even for those of us who have never sailed - a great adventure fantasy. The museum will celebrate an immense variety of beautiful boats. These are much more than art objects and the stuff of dreams; they are also purposeful tools of trade and pleasure”, said Fradin.
Bassins à flot, view from the Musée de la mer.