DUNKIRK.- A historic former shipyard in the port of Dunkirk, France, opened as a spectacular new contemporary art gallery for the Pas de Calais region. Architects Lacaton & Vassal have taken the original ship-building workshop and built an exact twin alongside it, but with a lighter, more contemporary feel. While the original building is completely empty, the new structure has six floors of exhibition spaces, a cinema, offices and a café. The top floor has panoramic views over the North Sea.
The new 9,000 sq m gallery houses the Nord Pas de Calais region's publicly-owned contemporary art collection, the Fonds Régional d'Art Contemporain (FRAC). The building has been conceived as a luminous twin of the historic AP2 ship-building workshop, a local landmark known as "the cathedral" that for 40 years built some four ships a year but was closed in 1988.
Anne Lacaton, of Lacaton & Vassal, said that when the architects visited the original workshop they were immediately struck by its similarity to Tate Modern in London.
The gallery's opening exhibition, Le Futur Commence Ici (The Future Starts Here), presents an emblematic selection of works by established and emerging artists including Andy Warhol, Fabrice Hyber, Lorena Zilleruelo, Mathieu Mercier, Gerhard Richter, Anne Collier, Latifa Echakhch and Walead Beshty.
Dunkirk, a ferry destination for tens of thousands of British tourists, is the regional capital of culture 2013. The gallery's opening is the latest in a host of cultural events in the city.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the FRAC movement, in which the French government set up 23 regional contemporary art centres to decentralise the state's art holdings.
Lacaton & Vassal, the French architects, also renovated the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, which reopened last year.