Mont-de-Marsan, the renovation of the museum is behind schedule

The renovation and expansion project for the Despiau-Wlérick Museum is slow to come to fruition. Located in Mont-de-Marsan (30,000 inhabitants) in the Landes, the museum dedicated to figurative sculpture has been partially closed since 2021 for work which was to take place from 2022 to 2025, with a budget of 14.5 million euros. However, the project has still not started and its end is now scheduled for 2029. According to Mayor Charles Dayot, the program must be modified because of the increase in construction costs, which raises the cost of the project to nearly 18 million euros.

The project, designed by the Vurpas architectural firm, is now planned in two stages. The first phase, which will take place from 2024 to 2027, includes the renovation and creation of exhibition and documentation spaces, as well as the development of a restaurant and a shop. The museum should therefore partially reopen in 2027, then completely in 2029 when the second phase of work is completed. This focuses on the exterior, with the development of a new reception area facing the river and administrative premises in the Dubalen Museum.

In order to reduce the cost of the project, the museum’s collections will be kept in an exterior building and not in a space created in the basement, as initially planned. A new 2,000 m² building will be built for this purpose in the north of the city (Avenue David-Panay) in 2025. Outsourcing the storage location represents a saving of 800,000 euros. The auditorium project is being replaced by that of a less expensive conference room (at least 1.50 million euros in savings).

With these adjustments, Charles Dayot reassesses the total budget for the project at 14.9 million euros, or 400,000 euros more than planned. But funding still needs to be found. Mathieu Ara, elected by the municipal majority, expressed his indignation to the newspaper Sud Ouest: “We are wasting years and millions. This is going to cost a lot more than expected. For the moment, Charles Dayot has no commitment from any of the funders, whether the Region, the Department or the State. He still expects more than 60% of subsidies on this file”.

The mayor also attracted the wrath of the city’s hoteliers in June 2023, when they sent him a letter to complain about the lack of entertainment in Mont-de-Marsan. Charles Dayot was accused of leaving ” to decline “ the historical heritage of the city and to carry out certain projects with “dilettantism”including that of the restoration of the Despiau-Wlérick Museum.

Labeled Museum of France, the Despiau-Wlérick Museum is located in the Lacataye dungeon, a medieval building protected as a Historic Monument. Inaugurated in 1968, the museum is the only French establishment exclusively devoted to figurative sculpture from the first half of the 20th century. Its collections include 2,500 sculptures and nearly 12,000 graphic works. The museum also houses a significant collection of sculptures from the interwar period, built around the work of the two Mons artists Charles Despiau and Robert Wlérick who gave their name to the museum.

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