NMNM residency programme gives 1950s African art collection a digital life

Artist Léna Durr’s residency at the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco took her lifelong love of collecting random items and combined it with a 1950s African art collection languishing in the museum to create an illustrated, audio story.  

In 2019, the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco (NMNM), alongside the Directorate of Cultural Affairs, initiated an artist residency in the Principality’s two colleges, Charles III and the François d’Assise-Nicolas Barré private institution.

After Oriol Vilanova and Guillaume Aubry, it was Léna Durr’s turn between September 2022 and May 2023, and she spent time with two sixth grade classes, inviting students to reflect on what collecting means and how this can be articulated in an artistic practice.


Since childhood, Léna Durr from Toulouse has been a collector of random objects and would use them in her own pieces. She has now parlayed her love of “things” into one of the NMNM’s collections, that of industrialist Georges Jessula’s African Art gathered after World War II.  

Photo via NMNM
Image via NMNM

Pieces such as bronze and silver slave bracelets and scales for weighing gold are amongst the 120 objects that are being used as the basis of the exhibit.  

“During her digital creation residency, the artist Léna Durr looked at the collection of African art, established in the 1950s by Georges Jessula and donated to the NMNM in 2006… She wanted to reveal it to the public in the form of an audio and illustrated story online,” the NMNM’s website explains. “In her photographs, videos and installations, Léna Durr presents her collection in its most intimate way. Accumulations, repetitions, the worthless objects that she has bought since childhood have constituted the body of her work until now, and that interest (has shifted) to other people’s collections.” 


The collection was displayed as part of European Heritage Days event at the NMNM, giving a wide audience a chance to see this fascinating collection.  

The exhibition was announced on Friday 22nd September, and was also a chance for the government to highlight digital creation workshops in schools, a mediation and creation program offered to students and teachers in the Principality in collaboration with Extended Monaco. 


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Photo credit: Monaco Communications Department / Frédéric Nebinger