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

Bordeaux J'Adore - - Contents - SUZANNE NEL­SON

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.

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