The history of the Nice Matisse Museum is closely linked to successive donations made by Matisse and his heirs, as well as to his deep attachment to Nice, the city in which he produced the largest part of his work.
When the City of Nice acquired in 1950 the villa Garin de Cocconato, also called “Villa des Arènes” just a stone’s throw from the master’s residence at the Regina Hotel, the idea gained ground that it could be converted into an exhibition space for the donations made by the painter and his heir.
On January 5 1963, the Matisse Museum was thus inaugurated in the presence of many personalities from the art world and the culture sector. The works were presented on the first floor of the villa, the ground floor being occupied at the time by the Archaeological Museum.
In 1978, following the Jean Matisse donation, the City of Nice planned to refurbish the museum to better highlight the richness of its collections while maintaining the intimate quality of the first donation made by Madame Henri Matisse.
The complexity of the procedures, the excavation work carried out on the construction site and the appeals significantly slowed down the construction of the new Archaeological Museum, only completed in 1989. Its relocation on the neighbouring Roman site made it possible for the Matisse Museum to occupy the entire space of the villa.
After an architecture contest was organised in 1987, Jean-François Bodin was chosen to implement the refurbishment campaign and build the new wing. The enlarged and renovated museum reopened on 26 June 1993. In 2002, it was equipped with an educational workshop and in 2003 with a “Cabinet des dessins” devoted to the conservation and handling of graphic artworks.
In 2013, the ceramic mural La Piscine was displayed in the revamped underground floor (level – 2).
In 2017 a new museographic route was created as the collections were re-hung and the museum and its vicinity renovated.