French art foundation unveils plans for mobile museum on board a €32m catamaran

Art Explora, set up by the tech entrepreneur Frédéric Jousset, will launch the vessel in 2023 with a tour around the Mediterranean

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One of the world's largest catamarans will set sail as a mobile digital museum in autumn 2023, backed by the French entrepreneur and arts patron Frédéric Jousset Rendering: courtesy of Art Explora

One of the world's largest catamarans will set sail as a mobile digital museum in autumn 2023, backed by the French entrepreneur and arts patron Frédéric Jousset Rendering: courtesy of Art Explora

Launched in 2019 with a mission to broaden access to art, the French non-profit Art Explora has presented its latest venture: a €32m catamaran that doubles as a mobile museum. Known as Artexplorer, the boat is currently under construction in La Spezia, Italy, and is scheduled to set sail around the Mediterranean basin from Marseille in September 2023. It is billed as one of the largest catamarans in the world.

“The sea was instrumental in waging wars and trading goods—why not use it as a conveyor of culture?”, says Art Explora’s founder, the tech entrepreneur and Musée du Louvre administrator Frédéric Jousset. “The idea was to create a museum which would not be tied down to a single location, could go almost anywhere, and could reinvent itself permanently [because it has no] permanent collections.”

In addition to Artexplorer, Jousset is currently overseeing the conversion of a former airship warehouse near Paris, Hangar Y, into a vast exhibition hall, and the construction of the MuMo, a travelling museum truck developed with the Centre Pompidou. Continuing the theme, he adds: “In the future we may even turn a train into a touring museum.”

The 46m-long, 300-ton boat will have capacity for 2,000 visitors. On board, a documentary about Art Explora will be screened in the Flybridge welcome space. The central gallery will house an inaugural digital exhibition about the representation of women in the Mediterranean, titled Icons and led by Noëmi Daucé, an archaeology curator at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. The project room will be reserved for digital art responding to the main exhibition.

Admission will be free and visitors will be encouraged to sign up in advance via Art Explora Academy, a new digital platform devoted to art history courses in French and English, with educational videos developed in close collaboration with Paris-Sorbonne University.

There are also five cabins for guests to stay on the boat. “It is not a production studio but artists could be invited to find inspiration on board,” Jousset says.

He is still on the lookout for destinations. Among the 15 or so stops to be confirmed, some will last longer and be accompanied by an events programme housed in pop-up pavilions on shore, co-organised with local cultural institutions. “Our goal is not to export Western culture only,” Jousset says. “We want to be instrumental in promoting local artists as well.”

Two models of the ship are currently on view, the smaller at the Louvre in Paris and the larger at Expo 2020 in Dubai, where Art Explora was selected to exhibit in the France Pavilion. The Expo is forecast to attract around 25 million visitors over six months. “What better exposure could we hope for to grow our brand?”, Jousset says.

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