'Art and Material' is on display in the Richier Atrium on the museum's ground floor. This is the former interior courtyard of the Massilian private town house which held the first Musée Fabre in its original form just after the donation by François-Xavier Fabre (1824).
This exhibition space has been designed to awaken the sense of touch. The sighted-visitor is put into a situation of cognitive and sensory discovery, notably with the cast of the bust of François-Xavier Fabre who founded the museum. Using several activities (visual, sound and tactile) the visitor will become aware of other forms of perception. Beyond the visitor's personal experience the museum hopes to heighten awareness of alternative perceptions.
Our eyes are constantly solicited in daily life and this leads us to neglect our other senses, particularly the tactile sense. This first space, where darkness reigns, is designed to awaken the sense of touch and to prepare the visitor for a unique experience discovering art and beauty. There are three specially created activities.
• 'My sculpture, your sculpture, her sculpture': in this series of interviews children, visitors, artists, art historians, visually impaired and sighted people give their perceptions of sculpture.
• A tactile wall solicits the sense of touch. It is composed of basic materials and gives a first contact before examining the more subtle contours of a work of art
• Following the audio guide directions discover the first sculpture in order to learn to 'see' with your hands.
There is a display of seven casts in the centre of the gallery for visitors to freely explore.
This selection of casts, several of which come from The Louvre, offers visitors a different view of the history of sculpture. Pride of place is given to Houdon and Barye. Audio descriptions enable visitors to have a new museum visit experience. After discovering the sculptures in a tactile visit, visitors can see the original works in the museum galleries. The tactile exhibition is themed around the history of forms and materials, ensuring the coherence of the curatorial message in this gallery. Under the visitor's fingers the gallery becomes a veritable laboratory for experimentation
This space is specially designed for young visitors, as an introduction to the sense of touch. It offers an experience to help them become aware of what can be touched and felt using the whole body. Using the sculpture 'Summer' by Jean-Antoine Houdon the two notions of scale and sense of touch are addressed, enabling young visitors to take full advantage of everything which the tactile sculpture gallery can offer.
The hand accompanies the senses in the discovery of the world, developing knowledge and learning capacity. From a very young age the hand conveys unique sensations which produce emotions such as pleasure, fear or sensuality.
It is an incredible device which has a wide range of actions thanks to the five fingers. A hand lets us grasp and hold objects and perceive their physical characteristics. It is the main vector for the sense of touch, even though the entire skin is the organ of touch.
This space for young people is a place for exploration and dialogue. By touching the different materials on the wall and plunging hands into the holes young visitors can experiment with their tactile sensitivity.
A few guidelines for visitors:
• Action: stroke, squeeze, rub, scratch, touch with just fingertips, take it in your hand
• Sensation: is it hot, cold, soft, hard, rough, light?
• Emotion: Does it provoke pleasure, disgust, attraction or repulsion?
The aim is to encourage our children to explore their senses, as advocated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 'L'Emile', 1762: "The first faculties which we develop and perfect are our senses. They are thus the first which must be cultivated, as they are the ones which we most often forget or neglect
This space invites you to use your senses to become immersed in a sculptor's studio. Visitors can discover how the sculptor works and become familiar with the tools, materials and the sensory world of a studio. This space explores the history and techniques of sculpture as well as the stages in the creation of a sculpture, from model to finished work. Our senses of Hear, Smell, Touch, and See are the tools used for a full immersion in this unique world.