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Jean Cocteau visited the town of Menton in southeastern France for the first time in 1955. He returned there many times and became an honorary citizen after completing the redecoration of the Salle des Mariages in the City Hall. When Séverin Wunderman, avid art collector and owner of Swiss luxury watch manufacturer Corum, decided to look for a city to house
his Jean Cocteau collection, Menton was a natural fit. In June 2008, Rudy Ricciotti won the architectural competition for the design of the museum, and construction took place from December 2008 until November 2011, when the museum opened to the public as the Musée Jean Cocteau.
With a total area of 2 700 square meters, the museum includes 700 square meters of permanent exhibition space with drawings, photographs, slideshows, and film screenings, as well as 275 square meters for temporary exhibitions, allowing the works of Jean Cocteau to be displayed while highlighting the diversity of the creative process between drawing, painting, sculpture, and video. The museum also includes an educational workshop area to promote the arts to school groups, a print room visitors can use by appointment to view the works of artists not on display, a documentation center, and a café.
Menton, located in the French Riviera between Monaco and the Italian border, is a well-known tourist destination, so the new building had to demonstrate an important relationship with the urban fabric and the seafront. The building, exterior spaces, and green areas are enjoyed by pedestrians, providing a semi-transparency between interior and exterior. As Ricciotti states, the design reflects the shadows and lights of Cocteau’s imagination. “The choice of architectural materials for this project, and especially its black and white aesthetic, was unavoidable,” says Ricciotti. “The realm of dreams and mystery, the starkness of contrasts and the interweaving of shadows ultimately reflect the contradictions in Cocteau’s life and work. Black and white no longer serve as colors here. Rather, they create an interplay of structural forces, calling to mind Cocteau’s artistic works on paper and his literary personality, his zones of light and darkness, and his enigmatic self-mythology fueled by contrasts.”
Rudy Ricciotti photograph and image © Agence Rudy Ricciotti, all other photographs © Olivier Amsellem
Musée Cocteau

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