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With nearly forty thrilling events, Nantes reveals itself through a cultural itinerary
Visitors stand by the creation "The Nest" (Le Nid) by French graphic designer Jean Jullienin, displayed on top of the Tour de Bretagne (Tower of Brittany) on July 8, 2014, in western France, as part of the "A journey to Nantes" (Le Voyage a Nantes) art festival. The event will run from June 27 to August 31, 2014. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD.

NANTES.- Every year, Nantes reveals itself through a cultural itinerary where art meets landscape, and the architecturally old and new come together. A place where it is possible to confuse your own reflection with that of Laetitia Casta’s, to enjoy a panoramic view of the city from Le Nid , to feel the all 49 tonnes of a mechanical Grand Éléphant in movement during its stroll along the Loire, to fast-forward through centuries of history in the Château des ducs de Bretagne, or to try your hand at a new sport with the “Basketball Tree” ( L’Arbre à Basket )….

Nearly forty thrilling and poetic stops return for you to (re)discover. A line will guide you throughout the city, taking you from the remarkable examples of the city’s architectural heritage to exciting views of the landscape, from cultural spaces to an installation that might leap out at you down some random side street – or riverbank between Nantes and Saint-Nazaire!

With a new Voyage , from 27 June to 31 August 2014, the city is a little more electric than usual.



After Erwin Wurm and Felice Varini, the HAB Galerie is now displaying the work of Huang Yong Ping, another artist from the Estuaire permanent collection.

25 years after Les Magiciens de la Terre , the exhibition that introduced this Chinese artist to the Western world, the HAB Galerie exhibition is designed to be a physical and mental journey into Ping’s prolific body of work. In the same vein as his spectacular Serpent d’océan , which the artist grafted onto a beach in Saint-Brevin as part of Estuaire 2012 , this exhibition explores the universal themes that have always informed Huang Yong Ping’s work: mythology, power strategies, and man’s capacity for creation as well as destruction.

Through a selection of works from different periods, most of which have never been displayed in France, the exhibition expresses this major artist’s freedom of thought and the impressive new piece he has created for this occasion.

The internationally renowned American artist Patrick Dougherty has developed a singular set of skills constructing vegetal and ephemeral structures made up of branches, swirling in perpetual movement, and sometimes reaching monumental proportions. His sculptures create new spaces that visitors are invited to enter and explore, allowing them to rediscover a site that has suddenly been revealed and modified through these tangled-branch structures with their own passageways and windows.

After exhibiting more than 230 works over the past 30 years, Patrick Dougherty has been invited to create a structure in the heart of Nantes. In the castle moats garden, he offers a dialogue between the solid stone building that has marked the city’s history and a fragile, vibrant and ephemeral tower.

Also at the Château des ducs de Bretagne, the exhibition Samouraï as well as the Musée d’histoire de Nantes.

Across from the castle, new constructions have been installed to highlight the outer edges of the monument. Japanese artist Kinya Maruyama has created a sea monster that he has freed from the deep sands of a children’s playground.


Given its presence on the roof of the architecture school – 22 metres above ground-level – ON AIR is the extension of the soul within the Lacaton & Vassal building.

If the school’s architecture was designed to open onto the city, ON AIR fully gives it this dimension by being built 8 metres-high across from the Loire River. With its neon letters, ON AIR is a sign that acts like a signal in the city. A lively place in the daytime – where people relax, stroll and picnic – at night, this structure becomes the frame for an immense screen, allowing for an American drive-in style, open-air cinema. In the heart of the quartier de la création neighbourhood, next to the offices of major media outlets (Ouest France, Radio France…), ON AIR broadcasts the utopian idea that occupying the city can happen with your head in the clouds and a free mind!

Long ago, the municipal courthouse and “la prison de Nantes” stood here, which were later replaced by a covered market, and the Loire River once ran where the tramway now does.

After Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, Leandro Erlich and Isaac Cordal, it is now up to Vincent Mauger, the Nantes-based rising star of the French art scene, to take over this public square. Vincent Mauger explores the notions of space and landscape through different mediums: drawing, video, and especially sculpture. Starting with basic systems and construction materials, he creates objects or environments that play with mismatching scales, inviting visitors to constantly readjust their positions both physically and mentally. Since the methods used to build his works remain apparent, the spectator is allowed to take hold of them, imagine continuing their construction, or modify their configuration. The artist thus materializes what our mental space, our way of thinking, our physical presence in a given space and, by extension, our presence in the world might be. The strange object Mauger has designed for Place du Bouffay calls to mind the very idea of Nature itself through his choice of material: wood. Long stakes are attached to a central matrix, creating a kinetic effect when one walks around it. The mind then tries to find a use for it, thus revealing the object’s ambiguity. Like a medieval or antique war machine, its size and volume make it majestic – and just as equally frightening.


Quentin Faucompré, Pascal Lebrain and Olivier Texier have created an urban adventure with a flashy twist: a treasure hunt in the form of an imaginary city of lights, within-the-city. A series of unexpected apparitions disturb the continuum of signs normally characteristic of Nantes’ bustling streets.

Alternating between sculptures, inflatable elements, or three-dimensional puns, fanciful and fantastic details leap out from the city’s façades to surprise visitors and bring a smile to their faces. The streets become an allegory for a fairground, a cabinet of curiosity, a mini-Las Vegas, a surrealist painting, or a tiny erotic theatre… and sometimes all of the above!


Nantes is one of only four French cities that can boast conserving an 18th century theatre, and one of the few to be decorated in blue velvet. The building is the linchpin of the Graslin’s urban planning, and opens with a superb peristyle of eight Corinthian columns crowned with eight muses.

Thanks to recent public works, the Graslin neighbourhood, with its eponymous square and opera, have rediscovered their original radiance. After her arrival in Nantes in 2007, Elsa Tomkowiak quickly became one of the local art scene’s major figures. Her obsession with colour has led her to use it on every possible medium. First, on her body, through the daily vector of make-up and clothing, but also and especially on architecture, where she partitions off spaces that welcome her through a series of large swathes of colour. She also often uses plastics, painting over them with big brushstrokes to find degrees of transparency or opacity that ultimately redesign these volumes. Although she often uses deserted wasteland, for Le Voyage à Nantes, she will be working in an entirely different setting! This time, the entrance hall to the building has attracted Tomkowiak’s attention. As an intermediary space between the public square and the stage, this space serves as a mirror for the artist: the square takes the form of a stage when it is seen from inside the hall. She doubles this mirror thanks to a chromatic installation establishing a sort of promenade inside the theatre. Aside from the large tint areas, she has developed a series of as-yet- unexplored techniques for the occasion, creating the illusion that the colours are escaping to reach the square.


While the 2012 Summer Olympics were in full effect, Nantes was hosting an altogether different kind of Olympiad! Several teams of young architects were invited to work on creating a new, off-kilter breed of playground, offering the public a chance to enter fun competitions with revamped rules. Since then, the Arbre à basket (“Basketball Tree”) by the a/LTA agency has become a permanent fixture of the Parc des Chantiers.

This year, the experience is being renewed with two new teams for two new sites on Île de Nantes. The rules could not be more unique: create a “sports ground” for an entirely new sport, where the rules are definitely made to be broken, hybrids are desired and craziness required. Open to boys and girls of all ages, playable in any and every outfit, and without any moderation whatsoever, your body can run free in the heart of the city without any of the pressures of competition! A friendly match between two teams who go head-to-head to score the most goals remains the objective. The Détroit Architectes agency gives players the chance to stand up to this challenge with “Balapapa,” a 30-metre long ball pool, and the Guinée-Potin agency has created a football field of a new kind, the “Footcheball”, half-cottage, half-table-soccer.

Based on an original idea by Patricia Buck and Rafaël Magrou, for Le Voyage à Nantes 2012


Near the top of the Butte Sainte-Anne, the Manoir de la Hautière is an example of Medieval civil architecture, probably dating back to the 15 th century, with a large gable decorated with fleuron-adorned ogees. Despite its unique charm, very little is known about it, even by the inhabitants themselves, the manor was renovated in 1968 by the Union Compagnonnique, and has since exhibited the masterworks and tools belonging to the Compagnons du Tour de France.

Artist-duo Sarah Fauguet and David Cousinard love exploring the intrinsic qualities of a particular material, certain construction techniques, engineering, and skillsets belonging to different time periods. Intrigued by the myriad objects, scale-models, and tools present in this museum, they propose conjuring up the ghosts of the manor using material and immaterial sculptures directly inspired by the objects already present. By removing the elements from one room and placing them in another, they create a scenography of full and empty spaces. A sculptural work in itself.


The Samurai has been an endless source of fascination for over 150 years and still plays its part in the West’s imaginary view of Japan. But what in fact is a Samurai? What do we know about these warriors, when did they first appear in Japanese history and what was their place in Japanese society?

Can a warrior from the Middle Ages still have a place in the arts of the Japanese business world – while in the West, their code and stances invade the world of cinema and our imagination. More than just a simply presented story of a warrior class; discover the Japan from another age and understand a part of our own fascination for this other time and place.


Throughout its renovation and extension, the Musée des Beaux-Arts is taking advantage of Le Voyage to continue presenting its masterpieces to the public. The idea is to have the work on display maintain a unique relationship to its environment. This game of echoes allows for the (re)interpretation of a work and a discovery of Nantes’ architectural heritage in a whole new light.

The Musée des Beaux-Arts asked Anne & Patrick Poirier to imagine an itinerary with five different stops using their collection, as well as those of the Musée Dobrée and the Muséum d’histoire naturelle. They chose the Maison de l’Architecture, l’École d’architecture, le Passage Sainte-Croix, le lieu unique and the Temple du Goût.

For us, it was a question of creating an itinerary linked to different places that all have something in common. Different sorts of’ chambres de curiosités .’ For instance, there might be a space called’in the shadow of Gradiva’.”

Both sculptors, architects and archaeologists, Anne (born 1941, in Marseille) and Patrick Poirier (born 1942, in Nantes) explore the sites and vestiges of ancient civilizations, bringing them back to life through miniature reconstructions. Their work – made up of herbariums, drawings, photographs and scale-models – are a reinvention of the past, where the borders are blurred between real places and dreamscapes, imaginary ruins and archaeological fragments.


Tails have always been a source of fears and phobias, as its representation in legends and images can attest. This organ – at times a paddle, at others an umbrella, fifth hand, or fly swatter, one that is shared by all vertebrates and used differently by each species… what is it really all about?

Parce Queue is a scientific (and fun!) exhibition that will reveal all the mysteries of this appendix, in all its extraordinary shapes and sizes, through animal biodiversity and evolution.

Today's News

July 10, 2014

With nearly forty thrilling events, Nantes reveals itself through a cultural itinerary

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