Marseille Cements Its Status as Art Hub with Manifesta Biennial in 2020

The coastal city has a lot to offer.

View of the port of Marseille. Photo: Niels1974 via Wikimedia Commons.
View of the port of Marseille. Photo: Niels1974 via Wikimedia Commons.

A month before the opening of its 11th edition in Zurich, the Manifesta biennial has announced that its 13th edition, scheduled for 2020, will take place in Marseille, France. The over-arching theme for the 2020 biennial in Marseille will be announced in the autumn.

Meanwhile, the 12th edition of the European exhibition will take place in 2018 in Palermo, and will focus on the very pressing questions of migration and climate change.

According to Le Journal des Arts, the mayor of the coastal city has allocated €627,000 ($715,000) to fund the acquisition of the rights to host the roving art biennial.

The city itself will contribute €2.4 million ($2.74 million) to develop the art event in the next four years, a figure that constitutes a third of the biennial’s total budget.

“This is the culmination of two years of work with all the authorities,” Marie-Hélène Féraud-Gregori, Marseille’s councillor for contemporary art, told LJdA. “After Marseille-Provence 2013, this is excellent news for culture in Marseille and more generally for the city’s standing within Europe,” she added, referring to the year-long series of hundreds of cultural events that took place in Marseille to celebrate its distinction as European Capital of Culture in 2013.

In addition to the budget for exhibitions and events allocated by the European Union, the city also enjoyed a budget of €600 million to construct a new museum, the MuCEM, and a conference center. But this was only the beginning of a decade-long, multibillion dollar effort to develop and revitalize the Mediterranean city and the region.

And the development plans seem to be working. Over the last decade, the city has slowly but surely established itself as an exciting hub for the arts, with a growing number of artists relocating to its sunny (yet affordable) shores. Marseille and the Mediterranean region is also a magnet for French collectors, known for their knack for conceptual and minimalist artworks.

The art scene of the city was bolstered by the establishment of the boutique contemporary art fair Art-O-Rama, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in August.

Local museums, like the FRAC Marseille and the The Musée d’art contemporain, and local initiatives, such as the successful residency program run by Triangle France, have turned the southern port city into an attractive destination for artists and art lovers alike.

Meanwhile, the forthcoming edition of Manifesta in Zurich, curated by the artist Christian Jankowski, is centered on the theme “What people do for money. Some joint ventures,” and will explore the significance of one’s profession in defining one’s identity in contemporary culture.


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