Openings Museums France

Dunkirk shipbuilding yard gets ghostly museum twin

The new Frac Nord-Pas de Calais opens this month in a glass replica of the historic building next door

The new Frac Nord-Pas de Calais art centre, designed by the Paris-based architects Lacaton & Vassal. Photo: Maxime Dufour photographies

A striking new contemporary art centre located in the former shipbuilding yards of Dunkirk in northern France is due to be unveiled on 16 November. The six-storey, 9,000 sq. m building is the base for the Nord-Pas de Calais branch of the French Regional Contemporary Art Funds (Frac) initiated in 1982 by the then culture minister Jack Lang as part of his decentralisation initiative.

The art centre, designed by the Paris-based architects Lacaton & Vassal, is a replica of an existing, disused shipbuilding hangar, built in 1945, which is situated alongside the new building. “By building a translucent twin to the historic Prefabrication Workshop no. 2 (AP2), the architects have designed a unique site for the Frac,” a press release states. The new €15m venue is funded by regional and government bodies including the Communauté urbaine de Dunkerque and the French Culture Ministry. Frac Nord-Pas de Calais has been based in a central Dunkirk venue since 1996.

The inaugural exhibition in the new space, “The Future Begins Here” (16 November-27 April 2014), consists of works drawn from the Frac Nord-Pas de Calais collection by artists including Andy Warhol, Fabrice Hyber, Latifa Echakhch and Anne Collier.

Now numbering 23, Frac museums are present in every French region, with more than 25,000 works in total by 4,900 French and international artists comprising the third largest public collection of contemporary art in France (behind the Paris-based Centre national des arts plastiques (Cnap), and the Centre Pompidou’s Musée national d’art moderne). Each of the Frac regional collections can be accessed online at

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