1955, Fernand Léger in Biot
A few months before he died, in 1955, Fernand Léger bought the St André farmhouse, situated at the foot of Biot village. Nadia Léger, Léger’s widow, and Georges Bauquier, his close assistant, decided to found a museum on this horticultural plot of land to pay him tribute and promote his work. The building designs were drawn by the architect André Svetchine, and the grounds entrusted to the landscape gardener Henri Fisch. There is an immense mosaic on the museum’s façade, which Léger initially intended to decorate Hannover stadium, but which was never completed.
1960, the museum’s foundation
On the evening of 13th May 1960, an exceptional event inaugurated the Fernand Léger Museum in Biot. Over 5,000 guests flocked to the opening of the first monographic museum in the region. Under the patronage of Picasso, Braque and Chagall, the event was attended by celebrities from the world of literature and art, film stars and politicians. The museum made its mark on the cultural landscape of the time. Not far from Biot, other projects devoted to great modern artists followed soon afterwards: in Saint-Paul, the Maeght Foundation in 1964 and in Nice the Marc Chagall Museum in 1969.
1969, donation to the French State
In 1969, the founders donated the building, land and a rich collection of over 300 art works to the French State. André Malraux, the French Minister of Culture at the time, received the donation during an official event rounded off with a gala organised at the Festival of Cannes palace. The Léger Museum became a national museum and, according to the donation’s clauses, the founders remained directors for life.
1987-1990, extending the building
In 1987, an extension was added to the museum, the design and construction of which the French Minister of Culture entrusted to the architect Bernard Schoebel. A new wing doubled the amount of exhibition space available. On the East and West façades of the new wing, Georges Bauquier commissioned monumental mosaics from Heidi Melano after Légers’ plans for the Triennale di Milano (1951) and the decoration of Caracas University (1954).
Georges Bauquier stepped down as a director in 1994.
2004-2008, modernising the interior
Renovation works got under way in 2004. The architect Marc Barani was tasked with reorganising the exhibition areas and improving facilities for visitors. Eric Benqué was called on for the furniture and the landscape gardener Philippe Déliau for the garden layout. This new layout provided a better showcase for the permanent collection.
2010, the museum turns 50
Half a century after its creation, the National Fernand Léger Museum can confidently claim to be a place of reference on this artist’s work. All year round, an extensive programme of exhibitions, film showings and educational workshops are put on especially for visitors.