The restructuring of the Musée Fabre represents a major cultural challenge for the City of Montpellier, involving the full-scale remodelling of a complex, much-loved building, steeped in history.
The metamorphosis is taking place in full view of the public, and involves all of the City's principal departments and services. Chantiers/Publics ("Work in Progress") presents the current state of play, and current thinking as to the role and future of the Musée Fabre and the Old Municipal Library: a museum undergoing a whole-scale transformation, and a forgotten library, emptied of its contents, awaiting reconversion. While the museum undergoes a process of comprehensive change, the library space provides the setting for a series of cultural reflections on the work in progress, bringing together creative artists, architects, engineers, curators, and the end users themselves – the general public. At this moment of flux and uncertainty, two artists examine the future of the Musée Fabre and attempt to crystallise the building's indefinable sense of nostalgia. The nomadic artist Georges Rousse has spent the past 20 years living and working in built environments abandoned by their former users and occupants. His work painting and photographic techniques to interact with the surrounding architecture. In Montpellier, the atmosphere and geometry of the library's empty spaces provide the inspiration for two highly ambitious works – a powerful visual commentary on the vanity and transience of knowledge. Hugues Reip draws on a range of media and artistic vocabularies in his work, but has chosen to focus on video in the library building, creating an installation celebrating the creative power of language, based on one of Edgar Allen Poe's most philosophical texts, The Power of Words (1845).