“Citizen of Nîmes” wrapped in its own toga

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Last weekend, the new Musée de la Romanité opened in Nîmes. Almost 10,000 visitors arrived to see the new €59.5m complex. Nine years after the beginning of the construction, it finally opened to rave reviews.

The facade was conceived as a huge mosaic by Brazilian-born architect Elizabeth de Portzamparc, who has incorporated waxed concrete, aluminium, wood and glass into the three giant rectangular buildings, the largest of which is swathed in a toga of glass tiles and is in front of the 2000 year old Roman amphitheatre.

Portzamparc sees the museum as a “Citizen of Nîmes” wrapped in its own toga. The folds and gaps in the “fabric”, formed by 7,000 angled, silkscreened glass tiles, are a dramatic visual motif.

An aluminium, central staircase leads up towards the centrepiece of the museum, a mosaic depicting Pentheus (a king of Thebes) being murdered by his mother. The mosaic was unearthed during building works in 2006. In near-perfect condition, it was subsequently reconstructed, tile by tile, on the museum’s first floor.

Inside, 3,500 m² of space, successfully combines past and present. “It’s very airy, unlike the old museum which was rather dark and where the works were too crowded,” said a visitor.

The Mayor of Nîmes, Jean-Paul Fournier said “Revealing the roots of the identity of Nîmes in its Roman past, the Musée de la Romanité is resolutely contemporary and forms an exceptional showcase for the archaeological collections…”

“The temporary exhibition downstairs has stunning pieces that come from Pompei and Rome … They are very well presented,” said another visitor.

The temporary exhibition on the theme of gladiators lasts until September 24. You can find more details here.

As for the museum, it is open every day from 10am to 7pm and until 8pm in July and August.

Source museedelaromanite.fr, France 3, The Guardian,