Jean Cocteau Museum

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Jean Cocteau Museum
Musée Jean Cocteau/Collection Séverin Wunderman
Vieille ville de Menton.jpg
The Jean Cocteau Museum on the beach at Menton
Established November 6, 2011 (2011-11-06)
Location Menton, Alpes-Maritimes, France
Coordinates 43°46′29″N 7°30′21″E / 43.77472°N 7.50583°E / 43.77472; 7.50583Coordinates: 43°46′29″N 7°30′21″E / 43.77472°N 7.50583°E / 43.77472; 7.50583
Type Modern art
Director Célia Bernasconi

The Jean Cocteau Museum/Séverin Wunderman Collection is a museum in Menton, on the French Riviera, in the Alpes-Maritimes department. Dedicated to the French artist Jean Cocteau, it incorporates the collection of American businessman and Cocteau enthusiast Séverin Wunderman.[1]


The decision to create the museum was made by the Menton city council in December 2003. An international competition was held by the council in 2007, with a winner for the design of the museum announced in June 2008.[2] The foundation stone was laid in December 2008, with the shell completed in January 2011.[3] The competition to design the museum building was won by French architect Rudy Ricciotti, an exponent of 'hedonist architecture' in the 1980s.[1] Ricciotti had previously designed the new Islamic art wing at the Louvre, among other cultural commissions.[4] Ricciotti's design was directly inspired by Cocteau's life and work, he has said of the museum's design that "Black and white no longer serve as colours here...they create an interplay of structural forces calling to mind both the artist’s works on paper and the poet’s personality, his zones of light and darkness, his enigmatic self-mythology fueled by contrasts."[1] The distinctive facade of the building has been variously described as " a fierce set of teeth or a string of alabaster forearms holding up the sky"[1] and " a spider, with jagged black pillars sprawling leg-like over the building".[5]

Among the financial backers of the museum was Pierre Bergé, partner of the late Yves Saint Laurent.[1] The museum took eight years to create, and is 29,000 sq ft in size.[5]


Divided into seven parts, the museum contains almost 1000 graphic works by Cocteau, with the majority of the collection from collector Severin Wunderman.[1] Wunderman was 19 when he began collecting works by Cocteau. He had offered his collection to the University of Texas, but later withdrew the offer, keeping his collection in his own Cocteau museum in Irvine, California, which he dedicated in 1985. He would frequently lend pieces to exhibitions and shows.[1]

The seven parts of the collection are "Red and Gold Evil", "Toward a Poetry Theatre", "New Superstars", "Tragedy Revisited", "Staging the Invisible", "Movie Theatre", and "The Route in the City".[6] As well as Cocteau's work, the museum contains a collection of 240 prints by Lucien Clergue relating to the work of Cocteau.[7] The scope of the collection spans early avant-garde graphic works with pencil, pastel, and watercolours on paper, to his films, with extensive clips from his "Orphic Trilogy".[1]

The work Cocteau left upon his death in 1963 was catalogued by Annie Guédras, who identified at least three dozen fakes and copies among the pieces, some of which were destined for Wunderman's donation to the museum. The museum did eventually withdraw the works in question.[1] Guédras later felt that she was excluded from the Cocteau Committee that created the museum in the early 2000s because of her discovery.[1]

A documentation centre for Cocteau's work is based at the museum, which contains books, magazines, journals, catalogues, and monographs on Cocteau.[8] An Office of Graphic Art at the museum conserves the collection when not on display.[9] The museum also features a cafe, shop, and spaces to hire.[10]

Cocteau and Menton[edit]

Cocteau first visited Menton in 1955, and later dubbed the city the "Pearl of France". Menton declared him an honorary citizen in 1958.[5] Near the museum is the small Bastion Museum, inside a stone bastion in the Menton harbour wall. The bastion is decorated by Cocteau, and opened to the public in 1966, three years after his death.[11] Cocteau also decorated the Marriage Salon in Menton's town hall, in the late 1950s. It remains a popular venue for marriages in the city.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Browning, Frank (19 January 2012). "MUSEUMS; France's Memorial to Jean Cocteau". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ "The Architectural Project". Musée Jean Cocteau/Collection Séverin Wunderman. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  3. ^ "Donation Wunderman". Musée Jean Cocteau/Collection Séverin Wunderman. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  4. ^ Gareth Harris (13 September 2012), Islamic art, covered Financial Times.
  5. ^ a b c Jedrzejczak, Antonina. "Art: The Jean Cocteau Museum Opens in France". Vogue. 
  6. ^ "The Museum Route". Musée Jean Cocteau/Collection Séverin Wunderman. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  7. ^ "DonLucien Clerque". Musée Jean Cocteau/Collection Séverin Wunderman. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  8. ^ "Documentation Centre". Musée Jean Cocteau/Collection Séverin Wunderman. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  9. ^ "Office of Graphic Art". Musée Jean Cocteau/Collection Séverin Wunderman. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  10. ^ "The Museum". Musée Jean Cocteau/Collection Séverin Wunderman. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Edwards, Natasha (16 October 2012). "Menton, France: On the Jean Cocteau museum trail". The Daily Telegraph. 

External links[edit]