In the formidable historic fortress on the tiny island of If, just off the coast of Marseille, installations by contemporary artists interact with ancient graffiti until November 4, 2018.
The former prison has, over the centuries, acted as a repository for testimonies, etched into the walls, ceilings and floors, recording lost freedoms and messages for loved ones far away. These inscriptions, engraved in stone, have inspired the Centre des Monuments Nationaux to create an unusual visit to one of the most mysterious sites of Marseille.
The fortress was built during the reign of French King François 1 in the16th century, to protect the city. It became a public prison until 1880, and is where Edmond Dantès, the hero of Alexander Dumas’ novel, The Count of Monte-Cristo, was detained.
Visitors have left their mark, highlighted in the exhibition "A love of graffiti" which focuses on the traces of the past, the ancestors of modern graffiti. Most date from the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. It’s a unique and original way to discover the history of this magnificent monument which you can reach by boat from the Old Port of Marseille.
Taking this documentary approach to graffiti is cleverly complemented by interpolations by contemporary artists who aim to give the ancient walls a voice. Madame, a street artist, performs two installations on the themes of love and time, building on the legacy of the ancient inscriptions.
Visual artists Marie Chéné and David Poullard play with words and the architecture of the castle with creations using the angle of the walls to break words in half. Lionel Briot’s creation "D'If-formes" emphasises details of the graffiti with photographs, using light and shadow to show the link between past, present and future.
The exhibition is part of a wider season of events showcasing the heritage of graffiti, led by the Centre des Monuments Nationaux in eight other historic sites across France. It is also part of the cultural season "MP 2018, What Love!” 450 cultural events in Provence until September 1, 2018.