A timeless and emerging collection Institut Culturel Bernard Magrez

“Une collection c’est un chemin, un parcours, un voyage dans l’histoire d’un homme

qui a passé parfois une vie à chercher la pièce manquante.”

Aurélien Desailloud, Artistic Director


Bernard Magrez’s Collection is renowned for contemporary, French and international artistic creation. The collector is also a committed patron who philanthropically supports artistic creation. This exhibition centre is in Bordeaux, in an institute with a year-round programme. As stated by the artistic director Aurélien Desailloud, the highlight is the largest exhibition of contemporary artists ever organised in this French city. Relevant Magrez acquisitions are shown, totalling eighty works from the collection, to be seen until next October 2.

The Bernard Magrez Institute is housed in the Château Labottière, a charming neoclassical building, a historic monument since 1935. Built in 1773 to serve as the residence of the Labottière family, it was years later a performance venue, known as Tivoli, and then a hall for “fêtes champêtres”. Although the Bordeaux municipality wanted to have it become a Musée des Arts Décoratifs, it was abandoned until it was restored as Hôtel Labottière. It then went on to function as an annex of the current Lycée Montesquieu. In 2011, it was acquired and restored by Bernard Magrez, who reopened it as it is today.

In the current exhibition, which opened on March 19, each room has an atmosphere dictated by the works of art and the characteristics of the venue, the luminosity, the decorative motifs and the hues of the walls and ceilings. The exhibition route, defined by dynamic and sensorial aesthetic experiences, results from the union between the art on show, architecture and design. This is visible in the beautiful entrance hall, occupied by several of the most valuable pieces of the Magrez collection, in particular the iconic Afghan Girl (1984) by photographer Steve McCurry, which was on the cover of National Geographic UK in 1985. Since then, it has been considered a symbol of refugees from all over the world.

The recommendation is to continue visiting the library, where its serenity is challenged by vibrant works, such as the colourful acrylic Divinités by French Free Figuration pioneer Robert Combas, placed on the wall’s warm brown tone. Also disruptive, we find several pieces in the penumbra of the great hall and the room decorated by Dutch paintings. In both, most are by French artists, such as Martial Raysse, one of the founders of Nouveau Réalisme, and Jules Dedet Granel – aka L’Atlas -, known for his bold, geometric style, inspired by street culture and graffiti.

On the first floor, there are artists of other nationalities. For example, the Ukrainian and Soviet Boris Mikhailov. In the small hall, two of his copies of the series Case History (1977) are exhibited. It is a documentary work and illustrative of the social disintegration in Ukraine during the Soviet Union occupation. The atmosphere and the individual in the photographs reveal the precarity, poverty and social oppression experienced during that period. Photographic accuracy and detail are accentuated by the print with an almost human scale, further underlining the images’ content. Given the current tragic context, the two photographs are among the most striking in the exhibition.

In the small room on this floor, with a similar profile, we find two portraits of Ethiopian refugees, photographed by Sebastião Salgado between 1984 and 1985, at the peak of the African famine crisis. The images, at the time spread as photojournalism, contributed to a strong international solidarity movement. Photography is a relevant technique and its predominance in Magrez’s collection reveals this. Although with a distinct content, there are two images of Steve McCurry and one of Cécilia Armellin in the office. And, also, fashion productions with figures such as the model Milla Jovovitch, by Peter Lindbergh for Vogue Italia. In the two oval salons, there is also the portrait of the singer Françoise Hardy, signed by Jean-Marie Périer. In the boudoir, photography joins painting with the inescapable Pierre & Gilles, in Le deséspéré (2013).

But this last venue is dominated by two three-dimensional pieces, standing out on the visual, formal and aesthetic side. The first, Cadre Caldera (2016) by Junior Fritz Jacquet, is a magnificent example of a work inspired by the Japanese art of origami. The work, conceived with paper, comes from the convergence of lines, culminating in an imposing centre of organic forms. Although presented as a “sleeping volcano concealing its fire”, it is also harmonious and delicate. Its pure, luminous white contrasts with the strong blue pigment of a centre panel, outlined by white gold leaf in resin. This last work by Lita Albuquerque challenges the field of perception, seeming to move forward and backwards depending on the perspective and distance of the eye. Other names enhance Magrez’s collection, such as the photographer and director Sam Taylor Wood, Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol.

“Ne jamais renoncer” is Bernard Magrez’s life philosophy. It is the foundation of a show with new artists, in a castle annex. Never Give Up shows the magnate’s patronage, with works by street artists, visual artists and photographers, such as Charles Foussard, Renaud Chambon and David Siodos, respectively. Magrez likes different practices and disciplines, the plurality of contemporary artistic creation. And he also considers socio-political issues important. One example is Escape by Thomas Sappe, a photograph of a young Moroccan who, wanting to emigrate, crosses the wall of the last African base located just before the Mediterranean crossing to Spain. This exhibition ends on September 25.

In the coming months, there are two exhibitions which together show examples of works of great contemporary artistic creation and new emerging forms. A visit to the Bernard Magrez Institute is a unique and enriching opportunity.

The exhibition is at the Bernard Magrez Institute until October 2.

Constança Babo (Porto, 1992) has a PhD in Media Art and Communication from Universidade Lusófona. Her research focuses on new media arts and curatorship. She has a master's degree in Art Studies - Art Theory and Criticism from the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Porto and a degree in Visual Arts - Photography from the Porto School of Art. She has published scientific articles and critical texts. She was a research fellow in the international project Beyond Matter, at the Zentrum für Kunst und Medien Karlsruhe, and was a researcher at Tallinn University, in the MODINA project.

Signup for our newsletter!

I accept the Privacy Policy

Subscribe Umbigo

4 issues > €34

(free shipping to Portugal)