Opened in June 2013, The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (Mucem) is located in Marseille, France. Built on reclaimed land at the harbor entrance, Mucem encompasses three distinct sites linked by footbridges with the new modern structure as the focal point. The new building made of steel, glass and concrete sits on the former pier J4. Next to the new building, is the 17th century Fort Saint-Jean which has been restored as part of the Mucem project. Exhibition spaces throughout the museum are dedicated to the multidisciplinary arts that encompass the life and culture of the Mediterranean.
Situated at the vortex of the port, Mucem offers spectacular views of the sea and three coastlines. The design of the building encompasses interconnecting walkways bringing visitors from the inside to the outside, as well as connecting them to the port, the fort, gardens and back to the city. The modern building is encased in a concrete lace that lets the essential Mediterranean elements of land, air and sea interact with visitors as they wander the exhibitions.
The exhibition space on Level 1 is a thematic presentation of the diversity and complexities of the cultures and development of Mediterranean life. Although considered a permanent exhibition, the plans are to update and change the presentation every few years.
Colored House 2015 Wood, industrial paint, crystal bases by Ai Weiwei, Berlin
“Colored House is a testament to a traditional China on the verge of extinction. The wooden structure originates from Zhejiang province and dates back to the early Qing dynasty (1644-1912). Once common, most of these structures have vanished from China, making way for urban development. Here, the house rests on crystal bases and is covered in a brightly coloured layer of modern industrial paint. The ancient is covered up by the new.” Mucem
Chateau Lafite 1986 Chinese slippers, empty wine bottle by Ai Weiwei, Berlin
Soap with Surveillance Camera Motif
Soap with Bird Motif
Soap with CLC Motif
Soap with Fan-Tan Eye Motif 2018
Produced by Les ateliers Sud Side and the soap maker Marius Fabra
iPhone Cutout 2015 Jade by Mao Ran, Beijing
Remains 2014 Procelain by Ai Weiwei, Berlin
Blue and White Porcelain Plate (Demonstrations) 2017 Procelain by Ai Weiwei, Berlin
Tear Gas Canisters 2016 Tear gas canisters and industrial paint by Ai Weiwei, Berlin
Up Yours 2017 Glass by Ai Weiwei, Berlin
Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn 2016 Lego bricks by Ai Weiwei, Berlin
“Ai Weiwei has reconstructed the three frames in which he dropped a 2,000 year old Chinese vase using one of his favourite materials: Lego bricks. He noticed the pixelated nature of the images produced by the bricks while his son was playing with them.” Mucem
Colored Vases 2016 Neolithic vases (5000-3000BC) and industrial paint by Ai Weiwei, Berlin
“In a deliberate act of destruction, or transformation, these ancient Chinese vases have been covered in a layer of brightly coloured industrial paint: the symbol of contemporary society in China, which is preoccupied above all with notions of productivity and wealth, and has a tendency to destroy precious artefacts from the past.” Mucem
Circle of Animals 2011 Bronze with gold patina, wood base by Ai Weiwei, Berlin
Illuminated Bottle Rack 2018 Steel and antique chandeliers by Ai Weiwei, Berlin
Illumination 2009 Digital lambda print mounted on aluminum by Ai Weiwei, Berlin
“Following the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan and the Chinese government’s refusal to openly account for the death toll, Ai Weiwei initiated a Citizens’ Investigation. A fellow activist, Tan Zuoren, was arrested and charged with “subversion of state power”. Ai travelled to Chengdu, Sichuan province, to testify on his behalf but was detained and beaten by the police. He managed to take this photograph, which then quickly spread across social media.” Mucem
Tyre 2016 Marble by Ai Weiwei, Berlin
Death Mask 2014 Bronze by Ai Weiwei, Berlin
One Man Shoe 1987 Leather, wood by Ai Weiwei, Berlin
Empty Worlds by Franck Scurti 2009
Nature Morte Au Tapis by Jacques Hupin 1650
Signe (Le Vent) 1942-1945 by Victor Brauner
Why Does Strange Fruit Always Look so Sweet? 1998-2015 By Johan Creten
The Damned 2004 by Liza Lou
Protrait D’Afrika Bambaataa 1980 by Sophie Bramly
Level 2 of Mucem was built as the presentation space for temporary exhibits with an open design that integrates the views of the sea with the architecture of the building. The building contains an auditorium that seats up to 400. The auditorium hosts cinematic, theatrical, and musical events as well as lectures and workshops exploring the past, present and future of life on the Mediterranean. Although situated in the heart of France, Mucem is an exploratory museum that encompasses all the cultures of the Mediterranean people, from Albania to Turkey, Croatian to Monaco, and the over 20 countries that are considered as Mediterranean.
Le Môle Passédat
One cannot explore the Mediterranean experience, civilization, growth, development and people without exploring the food of the culture. Perched on the top floor of Mucem, the food of the Mediterranean can be experienced at Le Môle Passédat. Offering a spectacular rooftop view of the Mediterranean, the Cathedral La Major and a panoramic view of Marseille, Le Môle Passédat, a multi-space dining experience presented by 3-star chef Gérald Passedat. Hailing from Nice, the chef saw the opportunity to present his culinary explorations in a unique setting at Mucem.
Chef Gérald Passedat accentuates the key elements of Mediterranean cuisine, seasonal produce, spices and fresh protein sources to create a distinctive, immense flavor that exemplifies the cuisine of the culture. Three unique dining areas populate the 4th floor at the Mucem, where Chef Passedat presents his works of art in an ever-changing exhibition of culinary perfection.
The experience begins at Le Môle, Le Café, designed as a simplistic living space nestled among the gardens where guests can enjoy drinks, snacks and meals inside or out on the terrace. Le Môle, Le Café offers a traditional Marseilles menu accented by the craftsmanship of Chef Passedat in an informal setting.
The second dining experience at Mucem is Le Môle, La Cuisine, a larger informal space that is designed in what Americans would term cafeteria style seating. This communal dining experience offers a combination of buffet style starters and desserts with main courses served by wait staff. Le Môle, La Cuisine offers the buffet separately or in conjunction with served full meals. Main course selections include vegetarian, meat and fish for both lunch and dinner.
Le Môle, La Table is the more formal dining area at the top of the building that highlights the harbor view of the docks and boats coming and going from the sea. Le Môle, La Table seats 80 and features a range of hybrid Mediterranean dishes from the kitchen of Chef Gérald Passedat. The menu changes according to the fresh ingredients that the chef obtains from the market. Full service lunch and dinners are served featuring fish, meat and vegetarian selections created by the master chef. As Le Môle, La Table has become one of the hottest reservations in the city, please be advised that you should book early to dine at Le Môle, La Table.
On the ground floor is Le Môle, Le Kiosque, a classic Mediterranean take away offering the guest great food to eat in the gardens of the Mucem.
Le Môle, Cooking School, is presented inside the Fort Saint-Jean. Limited to 10 participants, Chef Gérald Passedat has scheduled cooking classes. Of course, reservations are required.
Some photos courtesy of Mucem
Story by Daniel Dachille and Laine Page