The Musée d'art moderne André Malraux (or MuMa, as it is popularly known) is Le Havre's fine arts museum. It is not a huge museum in size but its collection of Impressionist works is one of the largest outside of Paris. In addition, it has important collections of Pre-Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works.
Le Havre's first Musée des Beaux-Arts opened in 1845. It encompassed all forms of art and even natural history. It was also the city library. As the various collections grew, the museum moved to different locations and parts of the museum such as the library were split off. As a result, by the early 20th century the museum's focus became fine art.
During World War II, the museum was destroyed in the bombing of Le Havre prior to the D-Day landings. Much of the sculpture collection was lost. However, the paintings had been moved to other locations for safekeeping.
In 1951, the City of Le Havre decided to build a new museum. Although the project took a decade to complete, the new museum was the first museum built in France after World War II. It was inaugurated by France's Cultural Minister Andre Malraux in June, 1961.
The new museum was conceived of as a cultural center. It was to have concerts, lectures and performances as well as exhibitions. This proved unmanageable and by the 1970s, the museum had assumed a more traditional role.
Inasmuch as the museum is located by the sea, its building must cope with a sometimes harsh marine environment. From 1995 to 1999, the building underwent a major restructuring both to address such issues and to revitalize the interior.
Marking its 50th anniversary in 2011, the museum changed its name to the Musée d'art moderne André Malraux. At the same time, the focus broadened once again so as to recall its 1960s role as a cultural center. In addition to exhibition space, MuMa has a library and art studios for children and young people. It also has a restaurant and a shop.
MuMa is located by the entrance to the port of Le Havre. Indeed, the port's control tower is a neighbor. Its building is done in a modern style. However, unlike the modernist architecture of Andre Perret, who was responsible for re-building much of Le Havre after the war, this building is not made primarily of reinforced concrete but rather glass, steel and aluminum. It was designed so as to allow in natural light and so as to provide views of the sea and the surrounding area. Built with only a few supporting pillars, much of the interior space is open. Partitions are used to create the exhibition space.
Through a series of donations, MuMa has built an outstanding collection of Impressionist works. These include works by Claude Monet, who grew up in Le Havre and later lived in nearby Giverny, Pissaro, Sisley, Degas and Renoir. There are also works by some of the less famous Impressionists.
Another donation resulted in a large number of Pre-Impressionist works. Eugene Boudin, who worked in nearby Honfleur, was one of young Monet's mentors and in MuMa's array of Boudin's works the connection is very apparent.
Raoul Duffy was born In Le Havre and his widow donated 70 of his works to the museum. MuMa has also acquired works by Matisse, Bonnard and other early 20th century masters.
Although the museum's name states that it is a museum of modern art, the collection has works dating back to the 15th century. While overshadowed by the 19th and 20th century collections, a small number of these older paintings are on display.
MuMa displays its permanent collection on a rotating basis. It also hosts themed temporary exhibitions.
For information on visiting, see MuMa's website.
For more places to see art
See our Places to See Art index
For information about traveling in Le Havre and Northern France
See our Le Havre home page
See our Northern France index page
Above: The mezzanine level.
Below: Movable partitions enable MuMa to re-arrange exhibit space for temporary exhibitions.
Outside the museum is Henri-Georges Adam's monumental sculpture "The Signal."
Places to see art - - Le Havre, France - - Musée d'art moderne André Malraux (MuMa)