LAB Behind the scenes of Monaco’s art museum

26.11.2015 - 20.03.2016 / Villa Sauber

The Nouveau Musée National de Monaco presents LAB, Behind the scenes of Monaco’s art museum, a laboratory designed as a platform for exchanges and encounters, to try and answer the ambitious question: “What will the museum of tomorrow be like?”

For four months the Villa Sauber will be open free of charge to the public free of charge from Thursday to Sunday, offering visitors a chance to examine more closely what paces the life of a museum: study and restoration programmes, production and exhibition set design, as well as workshops and encounters. The LAB thus triggers the museum’s different roles, trying to shed new light on them by inviting artists, critics, art historians, philosophers, museum restorers and directors, who will exchange and propose new paths of reflection around architecture, artist’s residencies, as well as the museum’s accessibility and identity.
As part of the LAB, different functions of the museum will thus be dealt with and re-appraised by way of studios, workshops and project rooms:

Inventorying, organizing, documenting

Difficult access to the objects in the collection, as much for the museum team as for researchers, artists and the public, has given rise to the presentation of a part of the museum’s heritage collections not in the form of an exhibition, but based on a model of open storage.

To mark the long-term loan to the NMNM of Serge Lifar’s archives, acquired by the Palais Princier, the curatorial team, backed up by restorers with differing specialities, is putting together the inventory of a collection of objects relating to the ballets created and performed by Lifar. Among them are the costumes and props of the ballets Zéphyr and FloreGiselle and Après-midi d’un faune, and several drawings by Leon Bakst, Jean Cocteau, Georges Barbier, Christian Bérard, and Bernard Buffet, as well as many lots of posters, books and manuscripts, personal archives and souvenirs.

A library of the performing and moving arts made up of reference books which belonged to Serge Lifar, as well as the archives brought together by Giovanni Lista for his book La scène moderne / The Modern Stage, and NMNM acquisitions has been installed at the Villa Sauber for the benefit of the museum’s team as well as for restorers and researchers. It is also accessible to the public by appointment.
Conserving and restoring
After six years spent “resting” in different storage spaces, the collection of automata and mechanical toys put together by Madeleine de Galéa – including more than a hundred historical pieces – is once again being presented on the first floor of Villa Sauber, as part of a very extensive conservation study and restoration programme.

Some electrical replicas of the models of the most famous automata, made by the Monaco watchmaker André Soriano in the 1980s, will be activated while the museum is open to the public.


“Le Boudoir de Joséphine” is an experimental curatorial project, devised by a guest curator who is a graduate of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, in London. The costumes and accessories worn by Josephine Baker during her last performances in Monaco in 1974 – on loan to the NMNM from the Société des Bains de Mer – are presented in a context set at a distance from museographical standards, in the spirit of a fictitious boudoir. These spectacular outfits, which have become relics over time, dialogue with the video documents made available by the Archives Audiovisuelles de Monaco and the maquettes of sets and costumes produced by André Levasseur, author of the variety show “Joséphine.”

Vito Acconci, “I have to know you’re there facing me”As part of a collaboration between the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco and the Pavillon Bosio, Art&Scénographie, École Supérieure d’Arts Plastiques de la Ville de Monaco, fourth year students have devised the sets and scenery for an exhibition of videos selected by the artist, who has been internationally recognized since the 1960s. The exhibition space made up of mazes and “lanes” and “culs de sac” invites visitors to enjoy a physical experience, involving him in a close relationship with Vito Acconci. The American artist has been forever questioning our relation to the other, hence the space will lay claim to be related to something living, a place which you move across and share. A form of public space which questions the idea of the museum.


The Villa Sauber garage presents a video work by British artist Martin Creed, titled Work #1701. With an overhead projection on the garage window, this video is visible directly from the Avenue Princesse Grace. It is thus, in a reflective relation, that the spectator watches a procession of pedestrians crossing a Manhattan street, each one with their own motion, taking part in a kind of dance of everyday movements, set to music by the artist.


The LAB is inviting everyone to come and discover the museum’s backstage. Mediators will be present every day to guide the public.

The NMNM will be regularly inviting a personality to come and broach numerous subjects which are exercising us as part of the short residencies and during conversations with the public.

For schoolchildren this will also be a chance to try out the workshops which are designed to fit in the best possible way with the pupils’ programmes, and in collaboration with teachers : “Art and Philosophy” with two classes from the Lycée Albert 1er, “Building a Landscape” with the preparatory class for the landscape schools of the Lycée Horticole in Antibes, and “Design me a Museum” with classes from the Charles III and FANB colleges.

The LAB is strengthening and weaving many links with specific kinds of public, the visually impaired, people in hospital environments, and handicapped persons. We continue to offer workshops to those involved in the Mobile Psychiatric Unit [Unité de psychiatrie mobile] and the Association Monégasque pour l’Aide et la Protection de l’Enfance Inadaptée (AMAPEI) in collaboration with the Ballets de Monte-Carlo.
Existing and communicating

The Nouveau Musée National de Monaco is also keen to introduce a line of thinking about the image, the one being perceived by the public, or passer-by, before passing through the Museum’s doors. The LAB will thus invite architects and designers to devise a new way of visually communicating, within the immediate geographical context of the Villa Sauber.

This research period will be punctuated by short residencies and meetings with artists such as Martin Creed, Latifa Echakhch, Jochen Gerner, Nick Mauss, Christodoulos Panayiotou, Michel Paysant, and Celia Pym, as well as Nathalie Anglès (Founder of Residency unlimited, NYC), Christian Bernard (Director of Mamco, Geneva), Laurent Busine (Director of Mac’s Grand Hornu, Belgium) , Marie-Charlotte Calafat (Mucem, Marseille), Jean-Louis Déotte (professor of philosophy the Université Paris VII), Audrey Illouz (art critic and exhibition curator), Christophe Laforge and Daniel Jarry (landscape architects), Klaus Lorenz (automata restorer), Philippe Rahm (architect)… (list to be completed)

Get the latest news from the NMNM