Mougins Museum of Classical Art, France

The Mougins Museum of Classical Art (MACM) is an art museum located in the village of Mougins, in the Alpes-Maritimes region of France. It is 30 minutes from Nice airport and 15 minutes from the centre of Cannes. The museum has won several international awards and has loaned dozens of objects to other museums and university exhibitions all over the world.

Discover, at the entrance of the old village of Mougins, how the beauty of the ancient world has influenced neoclassical, modern and contemporary art. The museum’s large and diverse collection of antiquities includes Roman, Greek and Egyptian sculpture, vases, coins, and jewellery, and the world’s largest private collection of ancient arms and armour.

The museum’s large and diverse collection of antiquities includes Roman, Greek and Egyptian sculpture, vases, coins, and jewellery, and also the world’s largest private collection of ancient arms and armour. These ancient artworks are interspersed with classically inspired paintings, drawings, and sculptures by artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Dufy, Cézanne, Rodin, Dali, Andy Warhol, Marc Quinn, Antony Gormley, and Damien Hirst, to name but a few.

The ancient artworks are interspersed with paintings, drawings, and sculptures by artists such as Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Raoul Dufy, Paul Cézanne, Auguste Rodin, Salvador Dalí, Andy Warhol, Marc Quinn, Antony Gormley, and Damien Hirst, and others. The collection also includes works by artists who spent time in Mougins, such as Francis Picabia, Jean Cocteau, Man Ray, and Pablo Picasso (who spent the final 12 years of his life in Mougins village).

Concept
Although the majority of objects on display are antiquities, the museum embraces a concept of displaying ancient, neo-classical, modern and contemporary art side by side to show the pervasive and lasting influence of the ancient world. Thus works by Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Damien Hirst and others are included in the museum alongside their ancient inspirations.

This dialogue and fusion between ancient and modern is particularly clear in the museum where, for example, depictions of the Greek Goddess Aphrodite by Warhol, Dalí and Yves Klein accompany 1st and 2nd Century AD depictions of the Goddess, in marble and in bronze.

History
In 2008, Christian Levett, English trader and collector, had the idea of building a museum to share his art collection with the general public. It invests 8 million euros in project.

The founder of the museum is Christian Levett, a British investment manager with a passion for history and art. A fanatical, but highly ethical collector since childhood. In 2009 he decided to form a museum to place his antiquity and classical art collection on public display, and the Mougins Museum opened to the public in June 2011. Since then the museum has gone from strength to strength, winning international awards and loaning dozens of objects to other museums and university exhibitions all over the world.

Christian himself is a keen philanthropist in the field, sponsoring multiple exhibitions at The British Museum, Royal Academy, National Gallery, Sir John Soane’s Museum and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. He has funded archaeological works in the UK, Italy, Egypt and Spain.

He has sponsored academic scholarships at Wolfson College and The Ruskin School of Art in Oxford and has aided curatorial funding at The Ashmolean, The British Museum and The British School at Rome. He has funded renovation works at The Charterhouse Museum London, Charterhouse School Surrey, The National Gallery and Musée L’Eglise de Notre Dame de Vie Mougins, and has sponsored conferences at King’s College London, Senate House UCL and at The Mougins Museum.

He is a member of the Arms and Armour Committee at The Metropolitan Museum of New York and member of The Visitors Board of The Ashmolean Museum Oxford and is a past board member of The Hadrian’s Wall Trust. Christian is also an Honorary Fellow of The Ashmolean Museum, an honorary fellow of Wolfson College Oxford and a member of the Oxford University Chancellors Court of Benefactors.

Collection
The MACM is spread over four floors chronologically from the crypt to the second floor as follows: The Egyptian Gallery, in the crypt, depicts the theme of the afterlife with funerary masks, numerous other ancient artefacts and a sarcophagus, punctuated with works from Chagall, Calder, Rubens and Cocteau. The People and Personalities Gallery on the ground floor presents busts and statues of historical figures from ancient Greece and Rome, their influence highlighted by sculptures of Sosno, Arman, Quinn and Hirst. The Gods and Goddesses Gallery, on the first floor, displays Greek and Roman bronze and marble statues, heads and busts, pottery, glass and silverware, an extensive collection of coins and an antique jewellery display case. Works by neo-classical and modern artists such as Renoir, Rodin, Klein, Warhol, Picasso, Modigliani, Braque and Dalí are also exhibited in the museum. The Armoury, on the second floor, displays the largest private collection of Greek and Roman arms and armour in the world.

Permanent exhibition
The MACM is made up of four floors ordered chronologically from the basement to the second floor. The permanent collection at the MACM is constantly evolving. New pieces are acquired with a view to sustaining and developing the museum’s concept of the fusion of ancient and modern art and the influence that Antiquity has had on subsequent artistic creation. The Museum has also hosted and been otherwise involved in many temporary exhibitions:

Classical Art
Visibly inspired by the ancient worlds. Our splendid galleries of Egyptian, Greek and Roman material have had such a profound impact through history that these great civilisations have inspired countless generations of artists to record and reinterpret their ideas of the ancient world.

In the Egyptian gallery this is graphically demonstrated by the more recent paintings of Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Jean Cocteau, Henry Newman and Hubert Robert.

This complementary and thematic trend continues in the sense that ancient Greece has been recreated through the artistic skill of George Braques, Keith Haring, Andre Masson and Pablo Picasso.

The juxtaposition of ancient, neoclassical, modern and contemporary art is dramatically and elegantly expressed in a series of ingenious arrangements that combine ancient statues of Venus with Yves Klein’s Blue Venus, The Birth of Venus by Andy Warhol and Salvador Dalí’s sculpture of Venus as a giraffe; a Roman marble head of emperor Caracalla and a drawing of the ancient bust by Henri Matisse; mythological scenes and characters portrayed in artworks by Renoir, Rubens or Hirst to mention but a few, and many more novel arrangements in museology.

Basement: Egypt
Discover the crypt and its treasures in Mougins. In the basement is the Egyptian Gallery. Dedicated to the theme of the Beyond, it is designed in the form of a crypt. It includes reliefs of tombs, masks and funerary panels, statuettes of gods and goddesses dating from the Old Kingdom to the Ptolemaic period as well as modern works by Alexander Calder and Jean Cocteau.

MACM’s Egyptian gallery, ‘The Crypt’, is evocative of the Egyptian underworld and appropriately subterranean in the manner of a tomb to accommodate artefacts of special association with the afterlife.

These include a splendid range of tomb reliefs, funerary masks and panels, smaller gods and goddesses in bronze and wood, culminating in a spectacular painted wooden sarcophagus.

The material represents the complete span of Egyptology, from the Old Kingdom (2686 BC – 2181 BC) to the Ptolemaic period (332 – 330 BC), complemented by neoclassical and modern drawings and paintings.

Ground floor
On the ground floor, the museum presents the Celebrity Gallery and the art of portraiture. Antique marble and bronze busts of our elders such as Socrates, Alexander the Great, Neron and Augustus stand alongside works of art by Alessandro Turchi, Giovanni Paolo Panini, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso or even Henri Matisse.

First floor: Greece & Rome
The fountainhead of Western civilisation. The first floor is dedicated to the Greco-Roman gods and goddesses and to social customs. Marble and bronze sculptures from the Greek and Roman periods, gold coins, silver and glass tableware, and Greek and Roman jewelry occupy the space. Mythology, an inexhaustible source of inspiration for many artists, is also represented in modern and contemporary works that interact with the antiques that surround them in this gallery. The panels for Oedipus by Auguste Renoir, Leda and the Swan by Émile-Antoine Bourdelle or Persephone by Georges Braque are just a few examples.

The Ancient Greek and Roman worlds are viewed as the root of western civilisation, whose innovations included art, drama, literature, mathematics, philosophy, democratic government, law and technological warfare.

Housed on the ground and first floors, our Greek and Roman objects paint a broad picture of everyday life: from banqueting and mythology, as expressed in the exquisite red-and-black figure pottery, to our fine display of marble heads, busts, and life-size and over life-size sculpture, bronze figurines, mosaics, wall-paintings, gold jewellery and coins.

Second floor: Armoury
The largest private collection of ancient armour and helmets in the world. On the second floor, the armory gallery contains the largest private collection of Greco-Roman weapons and armor in the world: armor, battle and parade helmets, statuettes and antique busts are presented alongside works by Salvador Dali, Giorgio de Chirico, Man Ray and Elisabeth Frink.

Perhaps more than any other artefact, the historical interest of this extraordinary assemblage of Greek war helmets and armour – Chalcidian, Corinthian, Illyrian, Phrygian, and Pilos – is unparalleled: soldiers lived, fought, and died in this equipment, and much of it bears the scars of battle from some of the greatest military campaigns in history.

This sits alongside a head of the greatest military leader of all time: Alexander the Great, and a range of military themed art, including vases, wall-paintings; intermingled with more recent artworks depicting military subjects, such as Achille Sulle Sponde del Mare Egeo by Giorgio de Chirico and Alexander the Great by Frederick van Valkenborch.

Greek and Roman Coins
Discover the Mythology through currency. Style tended to be more fixed in the coinage of the Roman Empire, but the beautiful examples of gold aurei at Mougins are no less ideological in their pictorial and textual intent.

Myth, religion and symbolism. In the second half of the sixth century BC, almost all the minting cities of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) used silver coins and this currency rapidly spread across the Aegean, to the mainland, and to Southern Italy and Sicily.

The production of gold coins in the Greek world came later, especially in the Hellenistic period under Philip II and Alexander the Great. Greek coins vary greatly in character, but were commonly religious, representing patron deities of issuing cities as portraits, figures of gods and goddesses, or the characterising symbol or attribute associated with the deity, for instance: the owl of Athena or the eagle of Zeus.

Imagery was also mythological, linked to the foundation legends; for example Ajax on the coins of Lokris, Pegasos on the coins of Corinth, and Leukippos at Metapontion. Motifs could also be related to a local product or celebrate something the city was famous for. For example, the barley of Metapontum, renowned for its rich supply of grain, the shields on Boeotian coins.

Royal portraiture developed in the Hellenistic period after the death of Alexander, notably under the Ptolemies in Egypt. During the period of the Hellenistic kingdoms many Greek cities continued to strike their own civic coins. By the first century BC the expansion of Rome replaced recognisably Greek coinage.

On the accession of a new emperor, coinage was the most effective and rapid means of circulating his identity across the Empire. The reverse of the coin of Augustus provides an interesting statement in its own right, since depicted on its reverse is the culmination of the successful negotiation of the military standards lost to the Parthians. On the reverse of the coin of Trajan the image of the greatest forum every constructed is unambiguous equates with the gravitas of the emperor. Potent expressions of this nature were typical until the Christian emperors commonly supplanted this with images of the Globus Cruciger. This comprised an orb surmounted by a cross, essentially this granted divine rule to a Roman emperor, and created a universal ideology in this way.

Temporary exhibitions
Doric, Sean Scully. 12 July – 29 September 2013
Vessels, Gary Komarin. 1 May – 29 June 2014
Layers of Time, Alexander Mihaylovich. 10 April – 14 June 2015
Pompeii in pictures, Giorgio Sommer. 19 June – 2 August 2015
Animal, The Levett Bestiary collection. February – June 2016
Past is present, Léo Caillard. 16 March – 27 May 2018
Bleu-Topique, Johan Van Mullem. 16 November 2018 – 17 March 2019
Dufy dessine le Sud (Dufy depicts the South), Raoul Dufy. 23 March – 1 September 2019

Publications
The MACM has produced several publications, including:

Mougins Museum of Classical Art, 2011, edited by M. Merrony
La Collection Famille Levett, 2012, edited by M. Merrony and translated by C. Dauphin
Animals in the Ancient World, 2014, C. Dauphin
Pompeii in Pictures, 2015, K. Schörle
Les Animaux dans le Monde Antique, 2016, C. Dauphin
Dufy Dessine le Sud, 2019, F. Guillon Laffaille

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