Marseille European Capital of Culture 2013

27.03.2012 By: Transfer Latin Business Consultancy based on Spiegel

Things are changing fast in Marseille. The southern city, known as the "City of the Phoenicians" and for its Mediterranean flair and football team, is undergoing a major transformation in order to be prepared for the title European Capital of Culture 2013. The oldest city in France, founded in 600 BC by the Greeks, is a melting pot of cultures and has an extensive list of cultural and entertainment attractions like the opera house, historical museums, art galleries, Expos’ organizations, cinemas and restaurants. “Among all the French cities that applied to be European Capital of Culture, Marseille was the one which needed it most,” said Bernard Latarjet, the former director of Marseille-Provence 2013 (the organization in charge of the event). For Marseille the cultural aspect represents an important vector for development, both in regard to the city’s image as to its economy.

All throughout the year 2013, hundreds of cultural and artistic events will be staged across the Provence region, from Arles to Toulon. Artistic and cultural disciplines of all kinds will be present for this major event, ranging from contemporary dance to gastronomy, visual and performing arts, and scholarly conferences. Art will also be on display in public areas and four major festive events will be held in honour of the four seasons of the Capital year. In keeping with its unique millennial culture, "Marseille-Provence 2013" will be celebrating European and Mediterranean cultures all year long and has already prepared 400 projects including exhibits, performances, commissioned artwork, conferences and workshops, for a total budget of € 98 million.

Beside the expected behemoth exhibitions, in situ art commissions and street interventions taking place throughout 2013 — loosely articulated around the theme of the Mediterranean Sea — several key venues are to be unveiled. For the contemporary visual arts alone, these will include a € 25 million building project designed by the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma for the Fond Régional d’Art Contemporain Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur — the regional art centre known as the FRAC — and a € 23 million renovation and extension of the Friche de La Belle de Mai, a former tobacco factory dedicated to the creative industries and not-for-profit cultural associations since 1993. Local politicians in the "City of a Thousand Faces" have used the title of Cultural Capital of Europe as an opportunity and pretext for giving Marseille a comprehensive overhaul. Millions of Euros have flowed into renovating neglected museums, crumbling industrial structures, run-down residential areas, waterfront areas and docks. The Fort Saint Jean, the buildings surrounding the city's famous Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica, theaters, cinemas and pedestrian zones have or will all receive facelifts, upgrading the entire region of Provence. According to the city's longstanding mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin, 50 new cultural poles throughout Marseille and Provence are being created with a cost in the region of € 600 million.

It is obvious that France has its eye on Marseille. Already in the nineties the Euro Mediterranean Project started a program for economic development of an area of 310 hectares between the centre of Marseille, the commercial port and the TGV mainline railway station, in order to establish new business and to attract foreign investments in the region. Today Marseille is also a major city for the services industry, focusing on new technologies combined with intense, multi-faceted business activity and cross-Mediterranean freight traffic. With food processing, biotechnologies, offshore, genetics, IT and immunology, Marseille boasts a wide range of industries. From next year on also the cultural tourism industry can be proudly added. Air France already understood this importance and, as part of its ambition to promote culture in France and worldwide, it has chosen to team up with Marseille-Provence Capital of Culture in 2013 by becoming the Official Air Transport Carrier for the event.

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