Bordeaux Center for Contemporary Visual Arts, beacon of western art

The kilometers of cobalt blue ropes suspended between the arches recall the time when coffee and vanilla bales from all over the world were unloaded in the great hall. The soundtrack immerses itself in a maritime atmosphere, echoing the boats from the Antilles that sailed up the Garonne during the Triangular Trade.

“I saw a blue mist in a humid atmosphere between transparency and opacity” explains artist Kapwani Kiwanga to define his first impression of the city of Bordeaux. This vision is also a good summary of the history of the museum that exhibits a Canadian visual artist with distant Tanzanian roots: CAPC, Center for Contemporary Visual Arts, which for half a century was housed in a former Laine warehouse adjacent to the river.

Work, named Detention, created specifically for this place, was installed as part of the museum’s 50th anniversary, which will be celebrated on the weekend of September 23. Local authorities, led by environmentalist mayor Pierre Hurmick, will be present and the cultural world will flock to Bordeaux, two hours from Paris by TGV. In the early days of CAPC, it took five as the trains ran out of steam. But that didn’t stop anyone. The CAPC attracted the whole of France and far beyond. A museum experience not available in this country. On the Garonne there is a before and after CAPC.

Every opening was a performance

Bordeaux architect Olivier Brochet considers himself lucky to have spent 20 years in Bordeaux in the 1980s: Bordeaux has ceased to be a bourgeois provincial city. It wasn’t just a great museum. A converted Artbus visited schools and Arc en rêve, an outstanding center for architecture, was created in a warehouse… Since 1973, several generations of Bordeaux residents owe CAPC the ability to recognize a drawing by the American conceptual artist Sola Levitt. Seniors remember great moments.

Journalist and art critic Didier Arnaud attended all the openings and saved every catalog, invitation card or menu. He can, for example, trace the date of May 16, 1991, the opening day of Daniel Behren’s installation: 120 streaks of red paint spread across the nave. The 120 guests were served a varied menu of red mullet, rare Pauillac lamb, strawberry ice cream and excellent red Bordeaux vintages, all on a white tablecloth. Every opening was a performance.

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Georgie Collins

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