Artistic reunion in Céret
About the reopening of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Céret.
The most important art museum in the Eastern Pyrenees has reopened its doors! After two years of work, the Museum of Modern Art in Céret, enlarged and renovated, has been welcoming an enthusiastic public since 5 March, at the idea of rediscovering its collection of masterpieces born of the friendships forged here between artists since 1910. That year, the sculptor Manolo, the composer Déodat de Séverac and the painter Frank Burty Haviland settled in Céret, creating an artistic centre that would mark the history of art.
After the visit of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Juan Gris and Auguste Herbin, the small southern town was dubbed "the Mecca of Cubism" in 1912! Michel Aribaud, a jovial and generous patron of the arts, wine merchant and landowner, was there to welcome them in good conditions. Encouraged to migrate to the South for health reasons, the painter Pierre Brune also settled there in 1916, and had "le Castellas" built on the remains of the feudal castle, a house where he would gladly welcome his Parisian studio neighbours such as Chaïm Soutine, André Masson, Pinchus Krémègne and Maurice Lautreuil. Thus, Montparnasse regularly came to Céret...
It was only a short step from there to the idea of creating a museum, which the mayor of the time happily took by entrusting the mission to Pierre Brune and Frank Burty Haviland. They took up the challenge, even though it was not until the end of the two world wars that the work began in 1948. Between the walls of a former convent, which had been transformed into a police station and a court in the 19th century, the Céret Museum of Modern Art opened in 1950. A museum that can claim to owe everything to the artists who adorn its walls! Picasso donated 53 works, Matisse 14 preparatory drawings for his Fauvist paintings, and Michel Aribaud, who died in 1932, did everything he could to donate to the future museum the works he had bought in great numbers. Paintings and sculptures by Juan Gris, Auguste Herbin, André Masson, Kisling and Manolo thus complete those of the two "locomotives" of the project.
"The first asset of this museum is to preserve a body of work anchored in the region," says Nathalie Galissot, chief curator and director of the establishment since 2012. Even if it is not the only one, it is still very moving to be able to go and discover in the town of Céret and its surroundings the sites represented by the artists in their paintings. They were there, we feel them, we imagine them. We can see with our own eyes what they had under their belts and which they immortalised with the tip of their brush. This is also where, in 1965, Salvador Dali arrived in a horse-drawn carriage with a lot of fanfare to announce his marriage to Gala, in one of the grandiloquent stagings that we know him for. It was just one year before, under the impetus of its new curator, the Céret Museum of Modern Art opened up to contemporary art, this time welcoming the whole gang from the Supports/Surfaces group. Artists such as Ben, Arman, Vincent Bioulès and Claude Viallat formed the basis of a new collection: the Céret museum remained true to its vocation of housing the artists of its time.
After a first expansion, which was essential to meet the requirements for the presentation and conservation of works of art, entrusted to Jaume Freixa and inaugurated in 1993, the collections have continued to grow and the temporary exhibitions have expanded. Hence a second extension project undertaken in 2010 and led by the architectural firm Pierre-Louis Faloci: a new area of 1,300 m2 now makes it possible to benefit not only from a belvedere on the first floor, which offers a panoramic view of the natural subjects of the paintings, but also from a room specially dedicated to temporary exhibitions. Starting with the one currently on display until 10 June, devoted to the Catalan artist Jaume Plensa on the theme of faces.