musée d'art contemporain
de Bordeaux

The CAPC in Bordeaux


Founded in 1973, the CAPC – short for Centre d’arts plastiques contemporains (Centre for Contemporary Visual Arts) – evolved into the Musée d’art contemporain de la Ville de Bordeaux (Museum of Contemporary Art of the City of Bordeaux) in 1984. In 2002, it received the label ‘Musée de France’, which acknowledges its status as a museum of outstanding public interest.

Since its inception, the CAPC has been housed in the Entrepôt Lainé, a heritage-listed building located in the Chartrons district, facing the quays of the Garonne. The former warehouse for colonial produce built in 1824 underwent several stages of renovation between 1984 and 1990, led by the architects Denis Valode and Jean Pistre in collaboration with the interior designer Andrée Putman, and now boasts nearly 3,500 sqm of exhibition space.

Throughout its history, the CAPC has served as a forum for artists and visitors who are keen to discover new forms and new ideas. Much of the art it has been showing over the past four decades has joined the museum’s collection, which holds around 1,600 works by more than 200 international artists, including Daniel Buren, Nan Goldin, Simon Hantaï, Sol LeWitt, Annette Messager and Richard Serra. Several works in the collection, among others by Christian Boltanski, Keith Haring and Richard Long, were made specifically for the site and are on permanent display.

As a key actor on the cultural scene of Bordeaux and the Nouvelle Aquitaine region, the CAPC aims to preserve and pass on this unique legacy. Through its exhibitions and its collection, it promotes a progressive vision of contemporary art, building a bridge between the main aesthetic developments of the second half of the twentieth century and the work of today’s artists.



In 1973, the Association CAPC founded by Jean-Louis Froment organised the first significant group exhibition of contemporary art in Bordeaux, Regarder ailleurs, which took place in the main hall of the Palais de la Bourse and included work by Jean Oth, Gina Pane, Gérard Titus-Carmel and Claude Viallat. The following year, the association started sharing the spaces on the ground floor of the Entrepôt Lainé with a collective of local cultural organisations working in various fields named Groupe d’Utilisateurs du Lieu (GUL). The first group exhibition held in the monumental central nave of the warehouse was entitled Pour mémoires (1974) and presented work by Christian Boltanski, Jean Le Gac and Jacques Monory, among others.

In this period, the Entrepôt Lainé also served as one of the main venues of Sigma, the multidisciplinary festival initiated by Roger Lafosse in 1965, as well as accommodating the Sigma Information Centre from 1972 to 1989. During its three decades of existence, this annual weeklong festival galvanized the cultural life of the city by presenting the best in independent and experimental performance, music and film.

The association arc en rêve centre d’architecture, founded in 1980, moved into the building in 1981. Its aim is to familiarise a wider audience with recent developments in architecture, city planning, landscaping and design, and to contribute to enhancing the quality of the living environment. To do so, it produces exhibitions, conferences, debates, editions, workshops for children and other initiatives encouraging visitors to learn more about contemporary architecture in Bordeaux and beyond, with a special focus on the profound urban transformation the city has been undergoing in recent years.


In 1984, the city council decided to broaden the scope of the CAPC, which had quickly established itself on the international scene, to become a museum for contemporary art. Along with the Centre Pompidou in Paris, it was then one of the few venues in France that were dedicated exclusively to contemporary art. Its collection was initially built on permanent loans, donations and acquisitions of works shown as part of its exhibitions. After the purchase of the building by the city in 1974, an extensive renovation project was launched, supervised by the architects Denis Valode and Jean Pistre in collaboration with the interior designer Andrée Putman, which was concluded in 1990.

Until the end of the 1980s, the CAPC presented thematic exhibitions of the main international movements of contemporary art as well as monographic exhibitions by artists associated with the avant-gardes of previous decades, such as Antiform, Arte povera, Conceptual Art, Minimal Art and Land Art.

The exhibitions also showcased the new generation of European painters including Anselm Kiefer, Jean-Charles Blais, Richard Combas, Boisrond, Hervé Di Rosa, Enzo Cucchi, Miquel Barceló and José María Sicilia, not to forget Keith Haring, who for his first solo show in Europe in 1985 created a series of original site-specific works, including a wall painting that is still visible from the elevator of the museum.


For the reopening of the CAPC in 1990 after the final phase of refurbishment works, Richard Serra’s monumental installation Threats of Hell occupied the vast central nave, and a special presentation gathered the most important ensembles of works from the collection (Christian Boltanski, Daniel Buren, Gilbert and George, Jannis Kounellis, Sol LeWitt, Richard Long, Mario Merz). The following year, Daniel Buren magnified the architecture of the former warehouse with his spectacular installation of mirrors titled Arguments topiques (Topical Arguments).

In 1992, Mike Kelley was invited to the CAPC for his first retrospective in France. In 1993, curator Harald Szeemann used the nave of the museum to present the work of eight emerging artists in the exhibition GAS, Grandiose Ambitieux Silencieux, and the same year, On Kawara was commissioned to produce an artist’s book for the twentieth anniversary of the CAPC, titled 247 mois/247 jours. In 1995 the British artists’ duo Gilbert & George performed The Singing Sculpture in the atrium as part of the collective exhibition Attitudes/Sculptures 1963-1972, while the nave hosted an interior version of Robert Morris’s iconic installation Steam from 1967, which filled the space with clouds of steam rising from a large bed of stones.

The 1990s saw the emergence of a new generation of artists, curators and critics who adopted a radically different approach to images and their dissemination via new media. ‘Relational aesthetics’ became the key word of the decade – a tendency epitomised by the group show Traffic, curated in 1996 by Nicolas Bourriaud, which became a landmark exhibition testifying to a renewal of curatorial practices.

In 1996, Jean-Louis Froment was succeeded as director of the CAPC by Henry-Claude Cousseau, who was simultaneously appointed head of the city’s museums. Marie-Laure Bernadac was named deputy director.

In 1998, Cities on the Move, curated by Hou Hanru and Hans Ulrich Obrist, marked the museum’s first collaboration with arc en rêve centre d’architecture and helped establish art from Asia on the international scene. The same year, the CAPC presented Louise Bourgeois’s first solo show in a French museum, and in 1999 it held the first retrospective in France of Cindy Sherman’s work, while Anish Kapoor conceived a site-specific project for the nave.

At the beginning of the new millennium, expanding on the monographic exhibitions of Sarkis (2000) and Jenny Holzer (OH, 2001), the CAPC’s thematic focus shifted to social issues. In 2000, in the exhibition Présumés Innocents, l’art contemporain et l’enfance (Presumed Innocent: Contemporary Art and Childhood), artists from several generations presented work around the universal theme of infancy.


In 2002, Henry-Claude Cousseau was succeeded by Maurice Fréchuret, whose inaugural exhibition, Les années 70, l’art en cause, looked back at the early years of contemporary art and the origins of the CAPC through the work of more than one hundred artists who had marked that decade. In 2004, Hors d’œuvre: ordre et désordres de la nourriture showed the work of forty artists around food as a biological necessity and cultural practice. Sleep was another theme addressed by the CAPC in Dormir, rêver… et autres nuits, which brought together forty international artists, including Francis Alÿs, Sophie Calle, Pascal Convert, Alicia Framis, Nan Goldin and Andy Warhol, to name but a few.

During this period, the CAPC furthermore presented a solo show by the Iranian artist Chohreh Feyzdjou and invited other emerging artists to make work for the nave, among whom Tatiana Trouvé, Jessica Stockholder and the Italian collective Stalker, who were also commissioned to produce work (Aux bords d’eaux, 2003) as part of the programme of public art along the recently built tramway line.

Fréchuret revisited the works from the museum’s collection in light of new artistic developments, notably in Dialogues: œuvres de la collection (with international artists such as Daniel Buren, Wim Delvoye, Peter Halley, Paul McCarthy, Richard Serra, José Maria Sicilia and Haim Steinbach), Collection Été-Automne 2005 (with Maurizio Cattelan, Gilbert & George, Jenny Holzer, Tony Oursler, Jack Pierson, Wolfgang Tillmans and Lawrence Weiner) and Collection Automne-Hiver 2005 (with works by Gilbert & George, Toni Grand, Fischli & Weiss, Anish Kapoor, On Kawara, Jannis Kounellis, Mario Merz and Annette Messager, among others).


In 2006, Charlotte Laubard became the first woman to head the CAPC. Throughout her seven-year tenure, she aimed to reposition the museum in the global artistic landscape and a wider cultural context including music, architecture, film and literature, but also mass media and popular culture.

In 2007, If Everybody Had An Ocean: Brian Wilson, une exposition initiated a series of exhibitions inspired by the music of the Pop Art years. Echoing the first retrospective exhibition of the Bordeaux-based collective Présence Panchounette in 2008, Less Is Less, More Is More, That’s All looked at acculturated objects. The exhibition IDO. Explorations psychédéliques en France, 1968 - ∞ (2009), which was accompanied by a musical festival, revisited the years of protest, while Insiders. Pratiques, usages, savoir-faire, a collaboration of the CAPC with arc en rêve centre d’architecture, explored contemporary folklore. Left Behind (2010) presented fifteen monumental paintings made by the artist Jim Shaw over the previous decade, the exhibition Dystopia (2011) was based on a screenplay by the American science-fiction writer and theoretician Mark von Schlegell, and Sociétés secrètes. Savoir, oser, vouloir, garder le silence (2011–2012) investigated the world of secret societies.

In 2012, the CAPC organised the first retrospective in France of the Luxembourgish artist Michel Majerus. On that occasion, the museum showed several large-scale installations and paintings in the nave, including the life-size skateboard ramp If You Are Dead… So It Is. In 2013, the mechanical theatre of Markus Schinwald occupied the nave, followed the same year by a restaging of Allan Kaprow’s spectacular installation Yard, which has been regularly reinterpreted since 1961. Finally, SIGMA (2013–2014), co-produced with the Archive of the City of Bordeaux, was the first comprehensive survey of the transdisciplinary festival of the same name. The last major monographic exhibition under the direction of Charlotte Laubard was an important retrospective of the German artist Franz Erhard Walther entitled Le corps décide (The Body Decides).


In 2014, it was another woman, the French-Colombian curator María Inés Rodríguez, who took over the reins of the institution. In 2015, the nave of the museum hosted the first major retrospective devoted to the singular and polysemic work of the French-Chilean artist Alejandro Jodorowsky, followed by Leonor Antunes’s monumental project Le plan flexible (The Flexible Plan, 2015–2016), which involved two of the artist’s favourite materials, cork and brass; Rosa Barba, whose filmic and musical installation De la source au poème (From the Source to the Poem, 2016–2017) took viewers on a fascinating journey into the sanctuaries of our collective audiovisual memory; and, lastly, the Guatemalan artist Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, whose site-specific installation Linnæus in Tenebris (2017) revisited the legacy of Enlightenment in times of major geopolitical and environmental upheavals. Between 2016 and 2017, and for the first time since the creation of the CAPC, more than thirty works from the collection travelled across the Atlantic to be included in an exhibition, Toujours, le musée comme témoin (Always, the Museum as a Witness), shown at MARCO Museo de arte contemporáneo in Monterrey and Museo Amparo in Puebla, both Mexico.

As part of the France-Colombia Year 2017, the CAPC staged the first major retrospective in Europe of the Colombian artist Beatriz González, whose work is strongly influenced by her country’s history. In 2018, the Bordeaux-born artist Benoît Maire, whose work sits at the crossroads of art and philosophy, presented Thèbes, a major solo exhibition accompanied by the first monographic publication devoted to his oeuvre. In the fall of the same year, the Danish artist Danh Vo presented a monumental installation designed specifically for the nave.


Since September 2019, Sandra Patron is the new director of the CAPC. The ongoing exhibition programme was developed, during the interim, under the artistic direction of chief curator Alice Motard. Her curatorial focus lies on the exhibition as a special moment that essentially eludes explanation and requires time and involvement on behalf of the spectator to be properly experienced.

The 2019 season opened in March with Rovesciamento, a site-specific installation in the nave of CAPC by the French-Italian artists’ duo Marie Cool Fabio Balducci, and the first monographic exhibition in France of Takako Saito, whose work is closely associated with the Fluxus movement.

In June, the CAPC showed three large-scale projects as part of the city’s cultural season Liberté! Bordeaux 2019. The nave was the setting for Back to the Fields by the Scottish artist Ruth Ewan, a life-size version of the French Republican calendar consisting of 360 different objects, including numerous plants and trees, each representing one day in the revolutionary year.

The group exhibition Histoire de l’art cherche personnages… in the CAPC’s second-floor galleries was devised in collaboration with the museum of the Cité internationale de la bande dessinée et de l’image (CIBDI) in Angoulême and Fondation Gandur pour l’Art in Geneva. It will survey the major trends and changes in figurative art since the 1960s through a selection of works from the collections of the three partnering institutions. Also within the framework of the city’s cultural season, the CAPC devised a special exhibition of key works of Jean-Pierre Raynaud from its collection, shown in three public locations in the city, namely, the Grand Théâtre, the Botanical Gardens and the former Saint-Rémi Church.

The programme will conclude in October with an exhibition by the 2017 Turner Prize winner Lubaina Himid, centered on the presentation of her seminal installation Naming the Money in the nave of the museum. A key work in the oeuvre of this leading figure of the British Black Art movement, it consists of 100 life-size painted cutout silhouettes that bring to life historic depictions of African servants in eighteenth-century European royal courts.

Coinciding with these programmatic highlights, the CAPC will show new video works commissioned as part of the Satellite Programme co-produced with Jeu de Paume in Paris and Museo Amparo in Puebla. The New Sanctuary, the series conceived by this edition’s winning curator Laura Herman, looks at the role of architecture as a shelter or refuge through works by Julie Béna, Ben Thorp Brown and Daisuke Kosugi.

Finally, the CAPC continues its popular series of art-history courses with guest curator Guillaume Désanges, who reiterated a series of performance-lectures he has developed over the past decade.
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