Its building, designed by English architect Lord Norman Foster, makes a strong architectural statement. It presides over the heart of the city, on the site of the ancient Roman forum and temple, from which it derives its name, the Maison Carré “The Square House”.

The museum’s 2023 season will be dedicated to celebrating its collection, one of the most extensive contemporary art collections, both nationally and internationally. The Carré d’Art’s thirtieth anniversary will also mark the beginning of an era in the city of Nimes where contemporary art will be occupying a key position in this city, which is possessed of an exceptional historical heritage, but whose identity is also resolutely modern.

City-Wide Exhibitions

The main focus of the 2023 cultural program will be dedicated to the celebration of this anniversary. It will be an ideal occasion to highlight the Carré d’Art’s rich collection. Its first acquisitions were made back in 1986 through a partnership between the Ministry of Culture and the city of Nimes. It is worthwhile to note that all public collections are nontransferable.

Since the museum’s inauguration, the Carré d’Art’s collection has grown considerably through the generous donations of artists, collectors and galleries. Today, the museum’s collection is one of the major collections of contemporary arts, both nationally and worldwide.

From March to December, this 30th anniversary will be celebrated with exhibitions of contemporary art throughout the city at the following venues: the Musée du Vieux Nîmes, the Museum of Natural History, the Musée des Beaux-Arts, the Musée des Cultures Taurines, and the Musée de la Romanité. As of April 21, the Musée de la Romanité will feature a solo exhibition by Oliver Laric, who worked with the archaeological collections.

© Stéphane Ramillon – Ville de Nîmes

Nimes is a city with an exceptional historical heritage, poised amidst 2,000 years of history, and yet it remains a resolutely modern city, one firmly planted in its times. Created thirty years ago by Lord Norman Foster, the Carré d’Art is a perfect illustration of the city’s dual identity. This anniversary is the occasion to rediscover the splendid exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, whose international renown stands on its own.

Jean-Paul Fournier, Mayor of Nimes

Under the leadership of Jean-Marc Prévost, the Director of the Carré d’Art, who will coordinate the events to commemorate the museum’s 30th anniversary, all the museums of the city will provide visitors with a space dedicated to contemporary art from the Carré d’Art’s collections.

Sophie Roulle, Assistant Commissioner of Culture

A Singular Perspective on Contemporary Art

Today, museums have a particular role to play in understanding the past, and conceiving the future. They offer a critical space to counter the spectacularization and instrumentalization of art.

When taking a critical look at the works of a collection, it is important to perceive them in their historical context, whether esthetic or political, in terms of their links with the present and the future. The collection is presented from a specific perspective, a precise moment in which globalization, social networks, and new ecological and social issues have deeply changed the way in which we relate to the world.

The exhibition of any museum collection will always be a learning process, something that will raise questions. With each story one chooses to tell, there are necessarily others that get left behind.

Although the Carré d’Art’s mission is not specifically universalist, the works shown demonstrate that, over the last decades, it has become clear that Europe and the United States are no longer the only continents in play. Other parts of the world, such as the Middle East or Asia, have carved out their reputations, showing the complexity of the world in which we live. Over these last years, a reinterpretation of history has enabled us to rethink the places and visibility of women and minorities in the collection, as well as the programs.

The Creation of an International Destination as of 2024

© Dominique Marck – Ville de Nîmes

The 30th anniversary of the Carré d’Art marks the launch of a new initiative, one where contemporary art will be center stage. Consequently, as of 2024, the Mayor of Nimes, Jean-Paul Fournier, and myself have set out to coordinate a major event of international scope, dedicated to contemporary art, but based locally, one which includes the population of Nimes and local artists. We have just chosen the Artistic Director for it, and the result will be the creation of a new destination, one that will develop another form of cultural expression, one focused on the future, which will further increase the appeal of our city.

Sophie Roulle, Assistant Commissioner of Culture

An Architecture That Melds the Ancient with the Contemporary

The inauguration in 1993 of the Carré d’Art was a landmark event that marked the successful commitment to contemporary art and the decentralization policies undertaken in France as of the 1980s. Following the example of its Parisian counterpart, the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Carré d’Art became the site of a multimedia library and a contemporary art museum, providing a new public space for both the people of Nimes and visitors from all over the world.

The Carré d’Art’s distinctive and internationally renowned architectural features provided an optimal location and it quickly became a key cultural landmark of the city.

The name “Carré d’Art” was derived from its close proximity to the Maison Carrée, an ancient Roman temple dating back to the 1st century BCE, and it was conceived as a contemporary complement to this monument. The contemporary building is a work in glass, concrete and steel conceived by Lord Norman Foster, an internationally renowned British architect, and one of the main proponents of contemporary architecture. The result is a large rectangular parallelepiped in glass with lines of perfect purity; its main feature is its transparency.

Another essential element of this architectural design is a central atrium, inspired by the inner courtyards of the traditional homes of Nimes, which is topped by a glass roof that allows for a maximum amount of light to penetrate within.

The Collection

View of the Nouveau Réalisme section (photo C. Eymenier) © ADAGP Paris 2023

Instituted in 1986, the museum’s collection comprises almost 600 works created from 1960 to the present day. They are grouped into three principal categories:

  • The representation of movements that originated in the south of France, such as Nouveau Réalisme, Supports-Surfaces, and Figuration Libre (known in the US as Neo-Expressionism);
  • Arte Povera: including the works of Mario Merz, Giuseppe Penone, Alighiero Boetti and Giovanni Anselmo;
  • Key works of American artists such as Richard Artschwager, Allan Kaprow, Joseph Kosuth and Christopher Wool, as well as German painting, including the works of Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke and Albert Oehlen, along with installations by Thomas Schütte.
  • Sophie Calle, Annette Messager and Suzanne Lafont, key figures of the French art scene, are also represented in the collection through a series of photographic works and installations.
  • New acquisitions include the works of artists like Walid Raad, Ryan Gander, Georg Baselitz and Taryn Simon.

Museum of Contemporary Art

A series of exhibitions will provide a special perspective of the works in the permanent collection, situating them within their historical context, whether it be esthetic or political.

The collection will be presented at a precise moment, and will be featured from several perspectives, all designed to create a narrative of the artistic activity of the last decades. As the works that are part of this narrative unfold, they will pave the way for many more works to come in the future.

View, Arte Povera Room (photo C. Eymenier) © ADAGP Paris 2023

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