During the last part of 20th century, the city of Bordeaux lost the majority of its port qualities and prerogatives. Grocery businesses, warehouses of colonial food products, boathouses, cranes, pontoons, transporter bridges, seaborne exchange, and most of the buildings related to this economic and cultural activity, were used for different purposes or simply disappeared. Nowadays, the docks have been renovated and the right bank has benefited from urban redevelopment, the port was strategically built; and, so, consequently this part of the city became very attractive, emphasising the specificity of the architecture which was modified during the 18th century in order to impress the retailer, emissary, mariner, and traveler.
Throughout the exhibition, we discover the heritage of the docks trough the works of European art which focused on the port theme between the final decades of the 19th century and the beginning of the Second World War. Ports were places full of life, work, exchange, passing and artistic innovation; ports were also location of great economic change. Unsurprisingly, ports captured the attention of intellectual and artistic avant-gardes. Painting, photography and cinema constantly enriched the port’s imaginary which is honored in this exhibition.
The Fine Art museum of Bordeaux is associated with Havre’s Malraux museum. Havre is another very important port which is linked with Bordeaux thanks to seaborne trade and the very high distinction of UNESCO label.
The exhibition gathered around 150 works of art of varying forms: painting, sculpture, photography, and films, from the majority of prestigious European museums. All these precious documentaries offer a complete view of port culture and the influence of the subject in Europe. Besides Bordeaux and Havre, others large European trade ports are represented in this retrospective: from London to Marseilles and from Rotterdam to Hamburg.
This exhibition, held in the Fine Art Gallery and north wing of the Fine Art Museum, belongs to ambitious program of exhibitions hosted by the Fine Art Museum of Bordeaux. For example: the exhibitions of Venetian art or the Impressionists both gathered 47000 visitors. The exhibition, On the waterfront, reflects a grand patrimonial purpose and is particularly emblematic of a European cultural identity.