Amaury da Cunha, from the series After all, photography glued onto aluminium
Loaned by the artist
© Amaury da Cunha
“La Piscine by Matisse will be, from June 2013, presented to visitors to the Musée Matisse, located in the Villa des Arènes overlooking the site of Cimiez, the Cemenelum of Antiquity, near Nikaia, the ancient Greek origin of Nice. The Musée archéologique is situated on the site of the baths of ancient times with their swimming pools and on that of the paleo-Christian cathedral with its “spiritual pool”, the baptistery. It was this harmony which led me to support the project by Bertrand Roussel to design, in the Museum’s collections, a pathway presenting photographs and videos of contemporary artists interested in the theme of the swimming pool, water and the perception of bodies when they are immersed in water. He chose to enrich this pathway with ancient objects from the collections of his Museum which, by their decoration or function, lead us back to the theme of water.”
Marie-Paule Nègre, from the Water level series, photography glued onto aluminium.
Loaned by the artist
© Marie-Paule Nègre
The Musée d’archéologie de Nice, Cimiez site, is an on-site museum, set near the Roman baths where a group of paleo-Christian episcopal buildings were later constructed, including a cathedral and a baptistery. The theme of water is therefore omnipresent in this place, as much because of the vestiges of ancient swimming pools which suggest the effusion of pleasure in the hot springs as by the presence of the baptistery which emphasises spiritual delight.
In this year of 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of the Musée Matisse which is only a few dozen metres from the Musée d’archéologie, a new Matisse work, La Piscine, is going to be installed there.
These different circumstances have led the Musée d’archéologie to take part in the great cultural operation of Nice 2013. A Summer for Matisse, by presenting, together with its collections, works by contemporary artists who, like Matisse, explored the phenomena of the perception of bodies, their distortion and their movement in water, especially in that of swimming pools.
In order to emphasise these different relationships to the image of the body in the water, methods other than those of Matisse were required. This is why photography, video and cinema seemed essential and different artists were naturally invited.
The photographs of Franco Fontana, Edward Curtis, Lucien Clergue, Paul Louis, Lionel Bouffier, Michel François, or those of Amaury da Cunha enable us to access the variability of the view the artist may take of the “swimming pool” location
and its occupation by the human being, while the series by Marie-Paule Nègre or Catherine Larré tend to examine the fluidity, distortion and plasticity of bodies in the water. The video of the mythical nautical ballet Waterproof by Daniel Larrieu presents water as hypnotic, conceived as a space for dreaming where gravity loses its power over the body of the dancer to signify a connection with that element, without attempting to resist it. In her video Frontière : Bleu, blanc, rouge, Isabelle Lévénez presents us with the swimmer as an evanescent silhouette in order to better explore and examine the body conceived as a space to be discovered, whereas Suzanne Nessim and Teresa Wennberg offer a work on the sensations which the swimmer feels in the pool. Bill Viola, for his part, in his famous piece The Reflecting Pool, uses water and reflections magnificently to rethink notions of space and time as well as their perception. Finally, the cult images of the film by Jack Hazan devoted to David Hockney, A Bigger Splash, will implicitly provide a counterpoint to the swimming pool of Henri Matisse.
These numerous works are presented to view alongside archaeological objects related to water, from the museum’s collections, thus suggesting a two-way exchange between vestiges of Antiquity and the works of contemporary creators.
Catherine Larré, from the untitled series,
photograph glued onto aluminium.
Loaned by the artist
© Catherine Larré
Lionel Bouffier, Urbanité, 2009,
photograph glued onto aluminium
Loaned by the Théâtre de la Photographie et de l’Image
© Lionel Bouffier