British-born Christian Levett has possessed a passion for history, art and collecting since childhood. As an adult, he quickly became hugely successful in the finance sector and work took him to Paris, where his passions developed and he began to collect 18th and 19th century furniture, ancient coins, antiques, neo-classical, modern and contemporary art, also scouting the antiquities market to add Roman marbles and ancient militaria to the mix. By 2008, Christian had built up an impressive collection and explored the idea of founding a museum in Mougins, where he owned a home, not just to share his passion with others but also to allow the academic community the opportunity to study his finds.
The idea for the museum was a good fit for Mougins, an area with a rich tradition of art which is proud of its Greco-Roman lineage. Over the course of three years, a suitable building was selected and Christian added a further wide range of art and artefacts to his collection, which includes the largest private array of ancient armour and helmets in the world. The result of Christian’s endeavours were recognised when the Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins (MACM) was jointly awarded the Ken d’Or for Best Museum 2012, alongside the Louvre, and received a nomination for the prestigious European Museum of the Year Award 2013.
The museum’s collection allows visitors to discover history and art through objects in their context. It also provides a link to how the classics have influenced the present with a hundred classically-inspired paintings, drawings and sculptures by such artists as Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Dufy, Cézanne, Rodin, Dali, Andy Warhol, Marc Quinn, Antony Gormley and Damien Hirst.
Judging by visitors’ comments, the MACM is really connecting with its audience. “The presentation was very professional as well as the use of multimedia to complement the information,” said one, while another found that, “The juxtaposition of modern art in relation to the classical pieces creates really interesting associations.” France Today Editor-in- Chief Guy Hibbert visited recently and said it was “quite extraordinary to find such a high-standard museum with an amazing collection, all privately owned, in a small albeit well-known village”.
The particular charm of the MACM is that, although it is intimate in scale – a visit takes around two hours – its original and substantive collection delivers much more than could be expected from a museum of this size. Its director and curator, Dr Mark Merrony, has engineered an intelligent bridge between old and new, with respect for the viewer, and also a sense of humour. It is well worth a detour on any trip to Provence and the Côte d’Azur – Mougins is located just a 15-minute drive from Cannes.
Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins, 32 rue Commandeur, 06250 Mougins. Open 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. Closed Mondays. Entry 12 euros. Tel: +33 4 93 75 18 65.
Originally published in the December-January 2014 issue of France Today