The four letter word is not LOVE but FRAC. I don't know how I have been able to ignore those letters for so long but until recently I had no idea what they meant: Fonds Régional d'Art Contemporains (Regional Modern Art Foundations). Jacques Lang, the Minister of Culture in 1982, created these foundations in 23 regions of France with financing from the state and the regions.
The idea was to buy modern art in all forms and shapes without creating a permanent place of exhibition. The art was to travel to reach different groups of the population who did not have access to modern art because of geographical, social and cultural constraints. Thus the collections would be exhibited in e.g. schools and prisons. There must have been something similar in Denmark because all through my childhood I recall these travelling exhibitions of modern art in my primary and secondary school.
The modern art collections held by the regional FRACs are now the third largest in France with some 25,000 art works only exceeded in number by the collections of the Centre National des Arts Plastiques (CNAP) and the Musée National d'Art Moderne (also known as Centre Georges Pompidou). The art works are from everywhere, and when I searched the national collection online I found one installation by Danish artist Jeppe Hein.
In the mid 1990ies six regions decided to establish more permanent places to exhibit the collections, which were to continue to travel, and thus on 22 March 2013, whilst I was living in Paris, the permament seat of the FRAC Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur was inaugurated near La Joliette in Marseille. It was back in 2007 that a commitee had chosen the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma & Associates to design the FRAC on a narrow plot of land where a low non-descript building had once stood.
In the context of a workshop about modern architecture in the area around La Joliette I found myself with a group of people interested in architecture in the FRAC on a December Saturday afternoon. It was a stimulating afternoon where I was probably the one who knew the least about modern architects and their works though I had a slight advantage when it came to a picture of the Sydney Opera House as it was designed by the Dane Jorn Utzon.
After a visit of the FRAC (from an architectural point of view) we went for a walk in the area and talked about the new buildings we passed: Collège Izzo, Ecole Chevallier Paul, Hôpital Européen, Gymnase Ruffi and Ilot 5A. It had been the plan to talk about the Archives Departemantales, the CMA CGM Tower and the Silo, but the early December darkness put a stop to our discussions. It was wildly interesting to see the urban changes in the company of people passionate about architecture, and I defintely have to criss-cross the area again in order to have a closer look at the buildings which - like most people in Marseille - I see without really seeing.
Once a month the FRAC stays open on a Friday night for a special, free evening. Next time it will be on 16 January 2015 when I intend to have a look at the exhibitions. Who is joining me?