In Roubaix, La Piscine is a temple for sculpture and local art

Ferdinand Gueldry, Sorting the wool, 1913

When you travel to Lille and its adjacent city of Roubaix, in the north of France, you enter a world of past huge wealth (the wool industry) which has been drastically erased in the 1970’s. Since, unemployment and desertification have been the mottos. A former swimming pool, La Piscine,  was transformed in 2001 into a museum of modern art with extended collections of sculpture and ceramics. It has just been enlarged by architect Jean-Paul Philippon and rooms dedicated to local history have been developed. It is spectacular!

The swimming pool was built in 1927-1932 by Albert Baert

You get to Roubaix very easily by tube or train from Lille, an hour form Paris. The city counts 95 000 inhabitants from 100 different countries who settled all along the 20 th century. It has also recently welcomed many immigrants. Therefore, the politics of Bruno Gaudichon, director of La Piscine, and a specialist of Camille Claudel, is to open the space to very international exhibitions. Out of 250 000 visitors a year, 50 000 are children in school visits and this affluence of young people gives the space a lively and dynamic feel. There are six workshops where they can learn ceramics, textile and museography.

This sheep represents the past textile wealth of the city. It stands in front of a 13 m long panorama of the Hôtel de Ville’s inauguration in 1911

Around the large painting of Roubaix’s Hôtel de Ville, hang a number of paintings and portraits of all key actors of the 19 th and 20 th century industrial city. Including the stained glass portrait of a Senegalese healer, Monsieur Mamadou, who was a boxer and spent his life curing the poor.

Monsieur Mamadou, the healer

The new focus of the museum is on three major departments: contemporary ceramics with fabulous vases by Hélène Solète, Brigitte Pénicaud, Simon Carroll…, XX th century sculpture with the atelier of Henri Bouchard (1875-1960) which was acquired and recently moved from Paris (and until January 20, a little Giacometti show) as well as a sculpture gallery, and the history of Roubaix which is far richer than most French cities.

Atelier Henri Bouchard has been transported from Paris. It holds historical treasures of an early 20 th century sculptor

The museum started as an industrial collection in 1835. It was added on by many gifts, including wool magnate Henri Selosse‘s art collection and more recently it acquired a number of paintings from the Prouvost collection (1946-1970) which form the Groupe de Roubaix.

Bruno Gaudichon is a sculpture expert and there are numerous, Bourdelle, Camille Claudel, Henri Bouchard pieces including turn of the century exotic works. But what struck me the most is the wall of ceramics facing the swimming pool with fabulous designers who were unknown to me. Many of these pieces were acquired by the Friends of the Museum.

Brigitte Pénicaud, Vase, 2004

There are large sculptures along the pool and in the corridor leading to the changing rooms, portraits of notable Roubaix men as well as smaller works kept in cabinets. Over 70 000 works are exhibited there with numerous small thematic shows taking place.

The past splendor has not been erased from the building

Hervé di Rosa, a famous French artist from Sète, was present at the inauguration of his show which is a development of an exhibition he had at La Maison Rouge in Paris two years ago. This painter who flew for the first time in 1982, to attend a show at Holly Solomon in New York, has subsequently travelled around the world for ten years, from 1993 to 2003,  emulating local artistic tehnics.

Hervé di Rosa in front of “Plaza de la Maestranza”, 2013,

In Mexico and Miami Beach, in Africa, in Vietnam, in Portugal and Corsica. From each country he borrowed techniques such as azulejos or painting on leather (in Addis Abbeba), textile weaving, mosaics in volcano scories in La Réunion. the show is called “Hervé di Rosa, L’oeuvre au monde” . Simultaneously, Le Touquet is presenting a retrospective of  his paintings.

Hervé di Rosa, Feria, 2002, collection of the artist

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