The contemporary visual arts center of Bordeaux, the western beacon of art

The kilometers of cobalt blue ropes suspended between the arches evoke the time when bales of coffee and vanilla from all over the world were unloaded in the great hall. A soundtrack plunges into a marine atmosphere, echoing the boats from the West Indies that sailed up the Garonne in the time of the triangular trade.

“I saw a blue fog, in a humid atmosphere, between transparency and opacity”, explain the artist Kapwani Kiwanga to define his first impression of the city of Bordeaux. This vision is also a good summary of the history of the museum where the Canadian plastic artist with distant Tanzanian roots exhibits: the CAPC, the Center for Contemporary Plastic Arts, located for half a century in the former Lainé warehouse, which adjoins the river.

The work, named Detention, created specifically for this place, was installed as part of the museum’s 50th anniversary, which will be celebrated on the weekend of September 23. The local authorities, the ecologist mayor Pierre Hurmic in the lead, will be present, and the world of culture will rush to Bordeaux, two hours from Paris by TGV. In the early days of the CAPC, it took five, in trains running out of steam. But that didn’t stop anyone. The CAPC attracted all of France, and well beyond. A museum adventure like no other in the country. On the Garonne, there is a before and after-CAPC.

Each opening was a performance

Bordeaux architect Olivier Brochet considers his luck in having had 20 years in Bordeaux in the 1980s: Bordeaux has ceased to be a bourgeois provincial city. It wasn’t just a great museum. A fitted out bus, the Artbus, traveled around the schools, and Arc en rêve, an exceptional center of architecture, had settled in the Warehouse…” Since 1973, generations of Bordeaux residents have owed the CAPC the ability to recognize a drawing by the American conceptual artist Sol LeWitt. The oldest remember great moments.

Journalist and art critic, Didier Arnaudet attended all the openings and kept every catalog, invitation card or menu. He is able, for example, to trace the day of May 16, 1991, the day of the inauguration of an installation by Daniel Buren: 120 stripes of red paint spread in the nave. An orted menu was served to the 120 guests: red mullet, rare Pauillac lamb, strawberry ice cream and excellent vintages of red Bordeaux, all on white tablecloths. Each opening was a performance.

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