Part of the Cité Internationale congress centre, it was designed by celebrated Italian architect Renzo Piano, and sports a bi-polar identity. On the park side, its façade is beautifully white and 30s in style, incorporating the former palaces of the Lyon Trade Fair. On the Cité Internationale side, there’s a modern red brick effect, made airy with huge panels of glass.
The museum opened in 1995 and boasts three floors, with a total surface of 2.800 square metres. Thanks to its shiftable interior, the exhibition space can be totally transformed when each new project comes along, creating a unique environment for each guest. No permanence here, just room for the fleeting. Thierry Raspail, the moustache-wearing director, is thus able to welcome a spectacular variety of temporary exhibitions, elevating the Museum of Contemporary Art to the only museum in the world in perpetual movement. It’s a unique philosophy, giving the sort of freedom most artists can only dream of.
The crème de la crème of international artists
The museum showcases both national and international artists, from Robert Combas and La Monte Young, to John Cage, Andy Warhol, Sophie Calle Jan Fabre, Robert Morris, Yoko Ono and Abramovic.
Be it sound, installation, choreography, painting, video, or performance, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Lyon focusses on modernity from all angles, and, since its creation, privileges an intense and close collaboration between artist and exhibition. Every two years, the museum welcomes the Lyon Biennial of Contemporary Art, the eclectic mix of artistic wonder which permeates the entire city.
On top of this, every two or three years the museum devotes all three floors of exhibition space to a single artist. Thus the works of Andy Warhol, Keith Harring, Ben, Robert Combas and Erro have all set up shop to create a unique universe within.
Keith Haring comes to the MAC Lyon
Back in 2008, the Museum of Contemporary Art paid homage to the works of Keith Haring, emblematic artist and political activist from 80s New York, who left this life at the early age of 31.
There was bit of a hoo-ha in the city of Lyon with the arrival of such a name, as 200 of his dashingly flashy works were scattered over the three floors, taken from American and European collections, both public and private.
As avid art lovers wandered around, they saw how classical art met African, Asian and South American influences, and stood stunned by the variety of materials Haring used, from cement-covered tarpaulin to BMWs, in his quest to make art universal.
If you’re after chin-scratching contemplation, something a bit different, in the greenest and funkiest of settings, head in the direction of the Museum of Contemporary Art. New neural pathways guaranteed, as well a huge dose of colour.
Check out the outside works. On the roof, you’ll spot a gold-leaf pagoda by Huang Yong Ping. To the right of the building, on the Tête d’Or side, a crumpled newspaper of stainless steel by Chinese artist Wang Du. Oh and there’s also the truck on the Cité Internationale side that looks like it has smashed into the museum wall. Very cool.
With the UGC cinema opposite, a mouth-watering Thai restaurant and the dreamy Tête d’Or park, why not bring a blanket, a book, even a bow tie, and make a day of it?
Guided tours are available. 1h, 1h30, in French and English, tours for kids and families, a Sunday visit with free coffee. Book in advance on their website to avoid the queues. Accessible to people with reduced mobility
The Café du Musée, has a lovely little terrasse overlooking the park Tete d’Or. It’s open during museum opening hours. Snacks and sweet stuff aplenty. (Phone +33 4 37 42 61 09).
The museum’s documentation centre is situated in the basement, and is open to students, researchers and professionals by appointment. The bookshop is open during museum opening hours.