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Musée Yves Saint Laurent, an ode to culture

Published on 28 September 2018

Since it opened next to the Jardin Majorelle in October 2017, the Musée Yves Saint Laurent has become Marrakesh’s must-see museum, an artistic epicentre, where culture is accessible to all.

In one darkened room, 50 pieces of exquisite jewellery highlight the themes that inspired Yves Saint Laurent’s designs, like ‘Africa’ and ‘imaginary journeys’. In others, famous pieces line the walls, like Le Smoking tuxedo and the Bougainvillea cape, inspired by the Majorelle gardens next-door. But this is no ordinary museum. This is a cultural centre that wants to give something back to the city that became Yves Saint Laurent’s second home and muse. And to do it, it has created a space that is accessible to everyone regardless of their social status or wealth. “A living space,” says museum director Bjorn Dahlstrom, “a bridge between two worlds; an immersion in serenity and emotion. Not a mausoleum to his visionary style.”

Free entry to “Les Marocains”, an exhibition by the late Leila Alaoui

Set in a stunning 4 000 m2 building, everyone is welcome here, from culture curious neophytes to die-hard museum goers. The museum houses a 400 m2 space (signed Christophe Martin) for the permanent collection. (Early in his career Yves Saint Laurent understood the importance of transmission and conservation, marking the pieces he intended for his museums with an ‘m’.) There’s also a temporary exhibition space, a vast library, a 150-seater auditorium, a bookshop, and a cafe with a terrace.

The museum doesn’t just want to celebrate the heritage of a specific work, but of culture in general; it’s openness to the world; its plurality. And it wants to ensure that culture is available to anyone who seeks it, offering free, art-focused conferences and cinema cycles. For the first time, the Fondation Jardin Majorelle is also offering complimentary access to its temporary exhibition space for the show, “Les Marocains” (30 September to 5 February 2019), which highlights portraits by the Franco-Moroccan photographer Leila Alaoui, tragically killed in the 2016 Ouagadougou terrorist attack.

Images that stay with you a long time

“Nothing in her work makes you think of stolen images. The mobile studio she took with her on her Moroccan road trip was a giveaway as to what she expected from her models: that they pose for the camera, and in an almost secular way. As you work your way through, you remember mostly the faces, the way they look back at you. They’re images that stay with you for a long time afterwards,” says writer-photographer Guillaume de Sardes, curator of the exhibition.