Jean Cocteau Museum – Menton
The Musée Cocteau | collection Séverin Wunderman in Menton, southern France, is a museum dedicated to French artist and writer Jean Cocteau, housed in an iconic building designed by renowned architect Rudy Ricciotti.
Site and architecture
The museum is located on the waterfront of Menton, a small town on the French Riviera just 3 kilometers from the Franco-Italian border. The building is situated in a beautiful site overlooking the Mediterranean coastline, close to the historical heart of Menton.
Opened to the public in November 2011, the 20,000-square-foot building of the Musée Cocteau was designed by French architect Rudy Ricciotti, also author of the MUCEM museum in Marseille, as a two-story trapezoidal structure marked by a concrete colonnade on all its four sides.
Along with making the building easily recognizable, the colonnade also protects the internal spaces of the museum from the intense sun of southern France.
On its edges, the roof slab is “eroded” by a sequence of cuts, whose shape is inspired by that of sea waves, which become narrow skylights inside the building.
Collection and exhibitions
As anticipated, the museum is dedicated to the French visual artist, writer, filmmaker and playwright Jean Cocteau (1889-1963), for decades one of the most influential figures in the European cultural scene, who had an enduring relationship with Menton and the French Riviera.
The museum’s permanent collection is largely based on a donation by Belgian-born American entrepreneur and collector Séverin Wunderman encompassing about 1,800 pieces related to Cocteau and his cultural circle. Pieces from the collection are displayed on a rotating basis in a permanent exhibition on the museum basement level.
The ground level of the building is a large column-free space aimed to accommodate temporary exhibitions focused on artists who were friends of, collaborated with, or have been inspired by Cocteau, a group which included major figures such as Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Raoul Dufy, Marcel Proust, Guillaume Apollinaire, Sergei Diaghilev, Jean Marais, Gertrude Stein, Coco Chanel, Erik Satie, Igor Stravinsky, and Édith Piaf, to name just a few.
For example, at the time of our visit to the Musée Cocteau in July 2017, the museum was hosting a large exhibition of paintings, drawings, applied art objects, textiles, and dresses by French artist Raoul Dufy (1877- 1953).
The Cocteau Museum, which is fully accessible to physically impaired people, includes also a library, an educational space and a creative workshop for children, a cafe, and a bookshop. An underground car parking is located at short distance from the museum entrance.
Jean Cocteau Museum, Menton; exterior views; photos © Inexhibit, 2017
Jean Cocteau Museum; aerial view; photos © Lisa Ricciotti; courtesy of Agence Rudy Ricciotti
Jean Cocteau Museum; site plan and sections; images courtesy of Agence Rudy Ricciotti
Jean Cocteau Museum; exterior views; photos © Inexhibit
Jean Cocteau Museum; views of the colonnade; photos © Inexhibit
Jean Cocteau Museum; the entrance lobby; photos © Inexhibit
Jean Cocteau Museum; main exhibition hall on the ground floor with the exhibition “Raoul Dufy, les couleurs du bonheur” (May to December, 2017) photos © Inexhibit
Jean Cocteau Museum; the permanent exhibition dedicated to Cocteau on view on the basement level; photos © Inexhibit
Cover image: Jean Cocteau Museum, Menton, detail of the colonnade; photo © Inexhibit, 2017