A Q&A with Centre Pompidou President Alain Seban

蓬皮杜艺术中心Centre Pompidou主席Alain Seban专访

By Andrew M. Goldstein 顾灵编译

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下个月将迎来蓬皮杜-梅兹艺术中心(Centre Pompidou-Metz,下文简称梅兹馆)开馆的大好日子,这将成为除巴黎之外法国国内最大的一座艺术空间。然而更为重要的是,她将成为传统法国艺术复兴的文化重镇与主要阵地。ARTINFO与蓬皮杜艺术中心主席Alain Seban 就由日本建筑师Shigeru Ban 与 Jean de Gastines共同设计的蓬皮杜-梅兹新馆及其对这家巨型艺术机构的设立动机及发展规划进行了专访。此外,蓬皮杜的移动美术馆项目(mobile museum program)旨在将艺术以剧院巡回演出 (itinerant theatrical production)的形式带向法国乡村郊野。谈话还涉及了法国绘画的复苏,以及Seban对亲身近距离欣赏艺术之不可替代的执着信念。

下文为专访全文,粗体为Artinfo,普通字体为Alain Seban。

我还没能有这份荣幸亲眼看到蓬皮杜梅兹新馆,在照片里她看上去妙极了,就好像一顶典型的中国农民草帽降落悬浮在法国乡村郊野里。

其实中国草帽正是新馆设计灵感的来源。建筑师Shigeru设计了六芒星晶格形的中央立柱结构支撑起巨大穹顶。所以最初的想法是中国草帽和六芒星晶格,后者可称是法国的象征符号——其图案形状其实恰与法国国土之形貌相符。

新馆完工了吗?

已经完工并将于今年5月12日正式开馆。开幕的第一场展览正在紧张布展中,800件艺术品已从蓬皮杜运往新馆,此外我们还从其他艺术机构借了100件艺术品充实新馆的开馆展览内容,其中大部分都是20世纪大师们的杰作。同时,这也是一次难得的机会来展示我们的核心藏品:马蒂斯Matisse, 毕加索Picasso, 康定斯基Kandinsky,杜布菲特(Jean)Dubuffet, 苏拉日(Pierre)Soulages, 以及路易斯 布尔乔亚Louise Bourgeois

那这些大师杰作都用法国高铁TGV快运?(译者注:这个问题应该是提问者的一个笑话,因为法国高铁系统的罢工问题与从不准点是出了名的,用这系统来运送大师杰作无疑是莫大的冒险。)

我们定了卡车来运这些艺术品。

梅兹馆将作为蓬皮杜艺术中心的分馆与某种延续和补充,对吗?

我必须强调梅兹不是蓬皮杜的附属,也不是说我们利用梅兹馆来作为蓬皮杜空间上的延展以利于筹划更多展览。她是一座独立自主的艺术空间,相对来说是地方性的,正如蓬皮杜是国家性的一样。她是一座艺术馆(kunsthalle)——她没有永久馆藏品,她只有维持一定期限的暂时性展览,而蓬皮杜的丰富资源可供其借用,甚至可利用我们的威信起到杠杆作用来获得其他艺术机构的帮助。就是这么一回事。

所以她不会完全依靠蓬皮杜的馆藏。

不,她是一个独立自主的艺术机构,有自己的委员会。我虽然依然是这个委员会的主席,但我们并不占有绝大多数的决策权。当地的董事们在委员会中同样占有席位。梅兹馆有自己的馆长、艺术总监、策展人,他们都来自蓬皮杜没错,但如今他们已经不再为蓬皮杜工作,而是为梅兹馆工作。我认为理解这一点非常重要,因为蓬皮杜-梅兹艺术中心(the Centre Pompidou-Metz)正是出于振兴经济枯竭地区的初衷来设立的,正如古根海姆Guggenheim 的毕尔巴鄂馆Bilbao(译者注:古根海姆毕尔巴鄂分馆的设立从某种程度上来说对毕尔巴鄂这个一度潦倒困窘的重工业城市的复兴起到了决定性的作用,尤其是Frank Gehry的建筑更是让其每年吸引了成千上万的游客,从而带动了该城市旅游业的发展), 或美国纽约当代艺术馆的MASS分馆MASS MoCA甚至像迪亚艺术中心的灯塔馆Dia:Beacon。梅兹地区先前主要以矿业为支柱产业,而由于采矿业的逐渐消退,地区财政状况进入了赤贫状态,大多数人因为失业而远走他乡,我们与当地政府共同面对的问题是如何振兴当地民生。因此梅兹馆必须是一个独立自主的地方性艺术机构,从而可以与当地人民建立非常紧密的关系,并完全由当地机关、企事业单位与文化工作者进行管理、组织与参与。因此一座巴黎的分馆远远满足不了这些实际需求,不会达到预期效果。

迄今为止,梅兹馆的委员会与梅兹当代政府申请了哪类艺术?我觉得他们应该会比巴黎保守很多吧? 他们都和您讨论什么样的展览?你们之间进行着怎样的对话?

当然实话实说,他们对现当代艺术并不熟悉。我们正在面对一些蓬皮杜在30年前就解决了的问题与挑战,即将原本主要受众是杰出精英人物的当代艺术调谐为大众与主流人群可接受、甚而喜爱的效果。这是我们长久以来一直扮演的角色。要想梅兹当地人民为梅兹艺术中心感到骄傲与自豪,前提必须是他们意识到了她的重要性。梅兹馆将是除巴黎之外在法国境内最大型的当代艺术机构,正如你看到的她的空间非常庞大。我认为她的开馆展览将会令举世惊艳,我们也坚信梅兹馆将不仅为当地人所热衷,更会吸引法国其他地区甚至世界其他国家的艺术从业者、爱好者前来参观、交流。地理上,梅兹毗邻比利时、卢森堡与德国,这就意味着梅兹馆拥有超过1100万的潜在观众。此外,乘坐高铁从巴黎到达梅兹仅需1小时20分钟。

近些年蓬皮杜在全球各地举行了多场拍卖,尤其是在亚洲。在这种全球化扩张的背景中,梅兹馆的前景对象似乎更多只是偏重于法国乡郊。我记得您是用“省”(provinces)这个词来形容的。那把艺术推广至法国偏远省市的这一发展目标在蓬皮杜的规划中又占据着怎样的地位呢?

我认为全球化与本土推广是互相关联的,任何一家当代艺术机构必须考虑其全球化发展战略,因为当代艺术本身就是全球化的。唯一的区别在于,你可能是从民族的眼光来看待自身的全球化,所以我认为只有植根于自身的民族文化并对其有着充分深刻的认识,才有可能将一些有价值、有意思的东西带到全球化的艺术视野中去。与此同时,作为一个国际性的玩家,你也有必要让本国艺术界、艺术从业者、爱好者、乃至普罗大众看到、认识并了解你的国际性。这也就是我们为什么我们决定将新馆选址在法国的偏远省市——在我们深化全球化的同时发展本土的新观众。

在蓬皮杜的最新媒体统发稿中,有一篇与贵方的移动美术馆项目“旅行中的蓬皮杜艺术中心”(Travelling Centre Pompidou)有关,文中提到:“不管视觉技术如何先进,都无法同与艺术的直接近距离接触同日而语。”这让我很感兴趣。

这是美术馆的核心观。

话是没错。但当下正是互联网的时代,当图像可以随时随地地传送至任一计算机使用者眼前时,艺术原件本身似乎演变成了某种特定文化意念的媒介。从这点出发,对艺术原件的这种执着甚至与信仰有了某种程度的相似,其表象在于通过艺术创作本身的实体存在。来确立并符号化其不可复制的某种属性。美术馆们显然都赞成这种看法。但艺术原件对于并非专家的一般艺术观众又意味着什么呢?那些不具备足够专业知识与艺术观感的人群并不会去着意欣赏艺术本身的物质性、作品著作保护权或艺术创作的技巧细节, 比如在艺术复制品中消失了的原画笔触等。

首先,我们重视的原作价值在于其唯一性。我认为这是界定资本主义的新的限定:独一无二。其次,我相信即时是最“亵渎”艺术的观众也会在一定时间的理性指导后逐渐了解艺术创作的价值与美。但问题在于,绝大多数情况下人们不知道他们得花时间和艺术品待在一起,他们没有掌握正确的节拍。我看过有些人在博物馆里从一幅画急匆匆地挪步向另一幅画,就好像有人在后面赶着他们快点结束一样。并且更悲哀的是,他们根本就没在看画,只不过是把脸放到画面前搁一会儿,再转向另一幅罢了。如果这样,那你还不如去看树蛙,于这些人这两件事没什么两样。这也就是为什么我们在不断尝试,进行“移动蓬皮杜”(The mobile Pompidou)的项目,我们将搭建一个可移动的展览空间架构,展出我们的核心藏品,比如我们的现代艺术馆藏——毕加索 Picasso, 马蒂斯Matisse, 杜布菲特Dubuffet,莱热(Fernand)Leger——将在法国乡村、城市边郊进行巡回展出,当地的居民绝大多数都与美术馆、博物馆等文化机构绝缘,甚至在他们一生中从未踏入博物馆一步。我们意识到,让这些新观众掌握良好的艺术欣赏节奏是至关重要的。因此我们正尝试着创造一种新的媒介,可能会邀请一些喜剧演员或舞者来引导观众掌握欣赏艺术作品的恰当节奏,并让其花时间来走进这些艺术作品。这就是我们当下在进行的主要工作,如果最终效果达到获得成功,可能它也会发展为博物馆将长期使用的一种新媒介。

游走的马戏团、喜剧团与戏剧团是法国文化不可或缺、甚具代表性的组成,摄于1945年的法国经典影片《天堂的孩子》(Les Enfants du Paradis生动记录了这一点。借用这些生动有趣的传统形式来将艺术带向大众文化是多么美妙的主意。这些走马团是否依然还在法国存在呢?

还有一些,但我相信他们的数目正越来越少。从某种意义上来说,我们也希望借助“移动美术馆”的项目来复兴这种文化形式。如今我们正在筹集资金,进展得很快,相信在明年整套计划就会启动了。

近年来,法国政府组织了很多以文学为主要聚焦的类似文化福音传播的活动,在全国范围内铺开推进,比如将一艘游船改建为一座水上移动电影院,在影院进行一些歌剧影片的放映,以及其他众多文化普及项目。总之,政府通过方方面面地努力将艺术带入人们的生活,尤其是对艺术本土化、地方化的植根式发展。请问如今在法国,艺术界的情况如何?这诸多努力是否已有结成硕果?

我相信法国艺术一直在进步,巴黎近些年也有诸多国际性的展出,其在国际艺术界的地位无疑是超前的,尤其是在凡尔赛宫Versailles、大皇宫Grand Palais 举行的诸如FIAC这样的大型艺术博览会,为众多优秀的艺术家提供了杰出的展示平台。并且他们面向的绝不仅仅是法国本土的艺术家,巴黎立足于国际性文化之都,在像全球艺术家放开怀抱的同时也是为法国艺术家提供了良好的发展契机。昨天我们去高古轩画廊Gagosian Gallery参观了当前的Tatiana Trouvé个展。她是一名非常杰出的法国艺术家,2008年在卢浮宫举行过大规模的个展。此外,如Laurent Grasso,去年在蓬皮杜做了个展,今年年底他也将在纽约举办最新个展。所以,我们对法国艺术的发展前景非常乐观,不断有优秀的艺术家、艺术创作涌现,大家都在忙乎着,都在重新关注绘画艺术,尤其是新生代的艺术群体。

那给我们详细讲讲法国绘画界的近况?

有一些新的法国绘画家出现。曾经一度有言论说法国绘画已经不复存在了。我相信你知道一些青年法国绘画艺术家,他们可能才20多岁,顶多30出头,而他们的创作都很不赖。而凡事总赶不上变化来得快。艺术家们如今更自由地往来于巴黎、柏林、纽约——地球村日益便捷的交通网络让他们的全球化观念根深蒂固。我们接下来的个展是Saâdane Afif,他就是一名常驻柏林的法国艺术家,三个月前我跑去柏林看他。看着他周遭的一切让我很兴奋——而实际上他也很成功——像他这样勇往直前的青年艺术家越来越多,这是非常振奋人心的情境。

对法国绘画的这番言论非常有意思,因为你知道作为法国当代艺术最重要的画廊之一、某种程度上来说甚至成为国际艺术舞台上法国艺术界的使者角色Emanuel Perrotin画廊,其主推的艺术形式恰恰是雕塑。

更准确的说是装置。是的,当代法国绘画并不那么为人所知,尤其在法国。理查德基金会Ricard Foundation每年都会设立一个专门颁发给法国艺术家的奖项,如今已是该奖项的第十个年头了。而在去年,还是头一遭它颁给了一对生活工作的第戎Dijon的绘画家:Ida Tursic 与 Wilfried Mille.上周我们向他们订购了一幅画。此外,年仅32岁的青年艺术家 Marlène Mocquet也是才华横溢。像这样的青年才俊正越来越多。

请问蓬皮杜是不是有计划延展至国外,即在法国之外开设分馆? 

我们必须慢慢来,从这次的“移动蓬皮杜”与我们的“视觉蓬皮杜项目”(virtual Pompidou project)出发,逐渐摸索到恰当的方式来接近我们的新受众,而且正如之前我所说的,全球化并不一定非要在地理上扩展版图才能达成效果。我们必须很灵活,才有可能将艺术文化充分植根在本土,并带向世界其他地方。每天都不断涌现着新的艺术,你不可能在全球每个角落都设一个分部来面面俱到。用小小的蓬皮杜中心“们”来涵盖整个艺术界的想法是不可能存在的。更切实的做法是与法国文化机构、组织、网络来合作,针对性地对新兴艺术进行跟踪调查,组建支持团队来协助新兴艺术的成长。这也正是我们如今在中国开展的“中法文化之春”的运行方式,而不是在那里开设一个分馆。

确实,很多类似开分馆的大型艺术机构似乎近来都面临着一些反对之音,比如古根海姆与卢浮宫在阿布扎比艺博会试图做出的一些动作。

其实这些所有合作方都很看重你能贡献、分享出多少手中的资源;如果你在某个项目上投入的资源、精力太多,那其他或许值得、可能成为你发展计划中重要对象的项目、地方就会被忽略,从而丧失了好机会。“鸡蛋不放在一个篮子里”。

Thomas Krens(古根海姆前任主席)最主要的批评集中在他削弱了古根海姆在纽约本部的馆藏。如今蓬皮杜的诸多原创主张似乎都与法国文化复兴的意图脱不了关系,而国际化战略又常常被民族主义者的民主、威望言论所主导。因此,事情变得有那么些复杂。

你说的没错,因为当代艺术的现状与人们之前所想的有很大出入——艺术是全球的、无国界的,馆藏视野也是一样。用手头有限的预算,你如何来判断挑选购买哪些艺术家的作品?什么时候收购?怎样获得购买渠道?而在目不暇接的新艺术涌现的当前,你如何来认定给出的是个好价位?蓬皮杜不像卢浮宫,她没有承载那么多民族主义者的民主言论与爱国情怀,因此也少了这些困扰。对我们来说,我们的职责很大一部分是让馆藏的生命力继续延续,并不断壮大。这是件与众不同的差事。卢浮宫现任主席Henri Loyrette曾说过“卢浮宫是法国民主的一部分”这样的话。而因为我的定位不同,我永远也不会就蓬皮杜说类似那样的话。我认为蓬皮杜就是纯粹的一家国际性的当代艺术机构,它就是国际性的因为艺术是国际性的。

这次你来纽约看到了杰夫 昆斯(Jeff Koons)为宝马BMW设计的最新款艺术车,似乎近来美国艺术界的诸多事件、话题都延展向更宽泛的文化领域,当代艺术跨平台的深度发展正越来越引人注目,不论是在好莱坞(电影业)、音乐产业或其他大众娱乐圈。在法国是不是也有类似的情形?

有,而且很严重。过去三年,我们的当代艺术展览活动同比增长了93%,我们在去年九月办了第一届自己的当代艺术博览会,非常前沿。展会吸引了160名跨领域艺术家,他们或是在视觉艺术方面卓有建树,或是在艺术影像表演与新媒体方面大放异彩。在当代艺术节的五周里,总计11万参观者无疑印证了这种当代运作的人气。这是闻所未闻的。The Soulages个展刚刚闭幕,吸引了50余万参观者,这是蓬皮杜历史上第四大展览。

而且是个绘画展。

是绘画展没错,抽象画——非常静止、极简的画面。Soulages的参观者是50万, Kandinsky 是70万。所以事实证明了一个在世的当代艺术家可以与一名现代艺术大师的影响力同日而语了。这完全是新现象。同时也赋予了美术馆新的期许与愿景,你只要勇于尝试、敢于冒险,公众们自然会跟随着这股新的潮流。我们确实做了些有意思的事。我们深切感受到了一股对当代艺术非常强有力的呼声——公众们想要理解、想要知道更多艺术。从某种层面上来说,当我们确实做了什么的时候,他们会相信我们,而我们也会竭尽所能地达到完美,让这些内容内涵更平易近人。至少我们依然有着无限充足的动力来鼓舞我们不断在当代艺术中前进,而这也正是我们在不断努力投入着的。

When the Centre Pompidou-Metz opens in northern France next month, it will be the largest art space in France outside of Paris — but more importantly, it will be the product of a new cultural outlook in the country that is intent on revivifying the French artistic tradition. ARTINFOspoke to Pompidou president Alain Seban about the new museum, designed by the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines, and about the new initiatives he is overseeing at the hugely-influential institution, which include a mobile museum program meant to bring art to the French countryside in the form of an itinerant theatrical production. The conversation also touched on the resurgence of French painting, and why Seban feels nothing can replace the experience of communing directly with an artwork.

I haven’t been able to see it in person, but the new building looks extraordinary in photographs. It almost looks like a Chinese peasant hat that has floated down onto the French countryside.

That was the inspiration actually, a Chinese hat. Shigeru designed a lattice of hexagon shapes to hold up the membrane of that roof. So, it all starts from the Chinese hat and the hexagon, which of course is a symbol ofFrance—Franceis roughly the shape of a hexagon.

Is the building fully completed?

It is completely finished and will open on the 12th of May. The first show is currently in the process of being installed. We’re sending 800 works, plus about 100 pieces borrowed from other institutions, to discuss the place of masterpieces in the 20th century. It’s an occasion for us to show the core of the collection: MatissePicassoKandinsky,DubuffetSoulagesLouise Bourgeois.

And these masterpieces are sent on the TGV?

They are sent by truck.

The exhibitions in Metz are going to be furnished by the Pompidou as part of a continuous exchange, is that right?

I insist very much on the fact thatMetzis not going to be a subsidiary of the Pompidou. It is not a mere extension of a museum gallery so we can show more of the collection. It is an institution in its own right, which is autonomous, which is operating on a local level as much as the Pompidou operates on a national level. This institution will be like a kunsthalle — it doesn’t have a permanent collection, it only does temporary exhibitions, and to do these temporary exhibitions it can draw upon our collection and borrow works for the exhibitions, or it can use our collection as leverage to borrow works from other institutions. So that’s the idea.

So it won’t have to rely entirely on the Pompidou’s collection.

No. It’s an autonomous institution, it’s got its own board. I chair the board, but we don’t have a majority presence. The local authorities that fund it are part of the majority. It’s got it’s own director, who comes from the Centre Pompidou but doesn’t belong anymore to our staff, he belongs to Metz. I think it’s very important to understand that, because the purpose of the Centre Pompidou-Metz comes from this idea of museums having the possibility to revitalize economically depleted areas, as exemplified by the Guggenheim in Bilbao, or MASS MoCA or even Dia:Beacon.Metz and its region were a mining area, and the region was impoverished when the mining industry disappeared. Many people left, and there is a very high unemployment rate. The challenge we’re trying to face with the local government is how to revitalize this area. So for that you need to create an institution in its own right that is going to work very closely with the population, with the local authorities, with every institution around, and I think you couldn’t just create a mere subsidiary of a Parisian institution. It just wouldn’t work.

So far, what kind of art has the Metz board and the city of Metz requested? I would assume they’re more conservative than Paris. Is that the case? What kind of shows are they discussing with you? How does that dialogue work?

They are not familiar with modern and contemporary art, of course. The challenge we’re facing is how do we solve the same equation that the Centre Pompidou has been solving for over 30 years, which is to reconcile contemporary art, which is supposed to be elitist, with the interests of very large audiences and the mainstream population. So, that’s what we’re working on. I think there is a lot of pride, there’s a growing pride within the population about this new museum, and its only going to grow as people realize how important it is. It’s going to be the largest temporary exhibition space inFrance, outsideParis. So it’s huge. I think the opening exhibition is going to be stunning, and I believe we’re going to develop a very strong program that will attract people not only fromMetzbut from the other surrounding countries, becauseMetzis in close relation toBelgium,Luxembourg, andGermany. That makes for about 11 million people who are potential visitors to the Centre Pompidou-Metz, including Parisians.Metzis only 1 hour and 20 minutes fromParisby high-speed train.

In recent years the Pompidou has been venturing abroad, most notably by producing shows in Asia and around the world. While Metz sits at this international crossroads, it still seems that most of the Pompidou’s efforts in this project are aimed at reaching out to the French countryside. I believe “provinces” is the word that you’ve used. How does bringing art to the French provinces play into the mission of the Pompidou?

I think those issues are linked. Now a contemporary art museum has to think and act globally because art is global. You can only act globally from a national viewpoint, so I think you need to be rooted in your national culture to be able to bring anything of significance globally. I think you need, at the same time, to develop the institution into a global player and to pay attention to your national artistic scene and to the national public. So that’s why we tried to root the institution even more in the French soil, the French provinces — to reach out towards new audiences at the same time as we’re going global. Glocalization.

In the Pompidou’s press materials relating to the Travelling Centre Pompidou, it states that “no virtual technology, however advanced, can ever replace direct contact with the original work of art.” This strikes me as interesting.

That’s the core principle of museums.

Exactly. And in this Internet age, when images are instantaneously available for anyone who has a computer, the original object seems to be a conduit for a certain idea of culture. At this point, it’s almost like a religious belief in the art object, in the icon that, through its physical presence, confers something that you couldn’t get from a reproduction. Museums have to endorse this idea, obviously. But what value does the original object convey to somebody who is not an expert, who isn’t equipped to appreciate the materiality, the conservation, or details of craft, like the individual brushstrokes that you wouldn’t be able to see in a reproduction.

First, it’s the value of something that’s unique. I think this is really the new frontier of capitalism: the unique. Second, I think that even the most profane of visitors can relate to that if they are taught to give some time to the work. The problem arises from the fact that most of the time people don’t know that they need to give time to the works, they don’t have the right tempo. I see people in museums, racing from one label to another, and they aren’t looking at the works. You could as well be looking at tree frogs, and it wouldn’t make any difference. That’s why we are experimenting. The mobile Pompidou, which will be a mobile exhibition structure designed to send the core of our collection, our modern art collection — PicassoMatisseDubuffet,Leger — to areas in rural France, or suburbs of big cities, towards audiences who are very remote from culture and museums in general, who have probably never been to a museum. We believe that, with these audiences, what is crucial is to use the right tempo. So we’re trying to design a new kind of mediation, which will be led by comedians or maybe choreographers, which will give people the right tempo and make them give time to the works so that they can relate to the original works. That’s what we are working on right now. If this is successful, it might lead to other new mediation tools for the museum.

The traveling comedic or theatrical troupe is a quintessential French cultural artifact, immortalized in Les Enfants du Paradis. Harnessing this tradition that is built into French popular culture as a way to bring people closer to artworks is a fascinating concept. Do these troupes still actually exist in France?

There are a few, but fewer and fewer, I believe. We’re kind of relaunching that with our new concept of a traveling museum. We are in the process of raising funds, we’ve almost completed the fundraising, so it should start running next year.

In recent years the French government has launched a series of novel initiatives that seem intended to evangelize culture throughout the country, creating a traveling film school on a boat, showing operas in movie theaters, and developing other accessible programs. In particular, there has been a great effort to revitalize the art scene, with government stimulus packages that have been at work for years to strengthen the local art scene. What is the state the art scene in France right now? Are there more artists appearing? Is the campaign bearing fruit?

I believe French art is getting stronger. I think Parishas gone a long way in recent shows, initiatives such as Versailles, and the commissions the Grand Palais has been giving to great artists. These are not all specific to French artists, but it gives visibility to Paris on the international art scene and it benefits French artists. We were inGagosian Gallery yesterday, and there was an exhibition of Tatiana Trouvé, an excellent French artist who was shown in the Pompidou in 2008. She had quite a large exhibition. And Laurent Grasso, who we showed last year, is having an exhibition inNew York at the end of this year. So yes, I think something is happening. If you look at the newer generation, you see the same phenomenon that you can observe here, which is a coming back to painting.

What is the state of French painting today?

There are a few new French painters. It used to be said that there are no French painters, that French painting didn’t exist anymore. I think if you look at artists which are now in their 20s or very early 30s, there are some painters appearing. So things are changing, I believe, and they’re changing quite quickly. Artists are moving between Paris, Berlin, New York— they are very internationally minded. We are going to show Saâdane Afif, who’s a French artist living inBerlin. I went to visit him three months ago inBerlin. It’s fascinating to see how around him – and he’s very successful – there is quite a cluster of younger artists like him that he’s helping and that he’s pushing forward. It’s quite a vibrant scene.

It’s interesting what you say about French painting, because Emanuel Perrotin, the most prominent of the French contemporary-art gallerists and something of an emissary of the French art scene at art fairs and international events, mostly promotes sculpture.

Installations. Yes, contemporary French painting is not very well known, even in France. The Ricard Foundation has a prize they give every year to a French artist. It’s in its tenth year, and for the first time last year it was given to a painter, or actually a pair of painters working in Dijon, Ida Tursic and Wilfried Mille. So we acquired a painting by them last week. You’ve got a young painter like Marlène Mocquet, she’s maybe 32 and she’s very, very talented. And there are more coming.

Is the Pompidou planning to expand beyond the borders of France? Is there any plan for a physical foreign expansion?  

You know, we have to figure this out, beginning with this idea of the mobile Pompidou and also our virtual Pompidou project. We’re looking for ways to reach out to new audiences, to different parts of the world that don’t involve necessarily adding more square meters. We need to be extremely mobile if we want to root into the country or if we want to be global. You have to cover so many new art scenes that you cannot think of buying subsidiaries everywhere. You cannot think of covering the entire world with small Pompidou centers. It’s more about networking within French society, doing research programs in emerging art scenes, creating support groups. So that’s what we’re working on right now, rather than thinking in terms of creating a subsidiary inChina.

A lot of these efforts to broaden beyond an institution’s home country, like the Guggenheim’s efforts and the Louvre’s efforts in Abu Dhabi, have been met with opposition.

Also they are very demanding in terms of the resources you need to allocate for these projects. If you allocate so many resources to just one project in one country then you might neglect other areas that should be the rest of your mission too.

One of the main criticisms of Thomas Krens was that he was diluting the Guggenheim’s collection in New York. The initiatives that the Pompidou is doing seem relatively enlightened in the way that they’re intended to revitalize French culture, whereas most international expansions seem more concerned with diplomacy, prestige, and declarations of nationalist power. Because of that, they’re much more complicated.

You’re right, but for a contemporary art museum it ought to be a different issue — the issue that the art scene is global, the scope of the collection is global. With an acquisition budget that is set, how do you know which artists to buy, when to buy them? How do you find the means to buy them, and how do you buy them at a good price when you have to look at so many emerging art scenes? With the Pompidou, it cannot be as much a question of diplomacy and national prestige as it can be for the Louvre, which does not have the same problem. For us, it’s about keeping the collection alive. I think it’s a different issue. Henri Loyrette, when he talks of the Louvre, says the Louvre is part of the French cultural diplomacy. Because of my position, I would never say that about the Pompidou. I think the Pompidou is just a universal contemporary art museum that has to think global because art is global.

The Jeff Koons BMW Art Car, the designs of which you saw on your trip to New York, seem to be one of many recent instances of contemporary art entering the broader culture in the United States, where there’s this great growing interest in contemporary art across platforms, from Hollywood to music and other popular entertainment. Is this something that you see happening in France?

Very much so. In three years, we have increased the attendance of our contemporary exhibitions by 93 percent. We did a contemporary art festival in the fall, the first edition, which was quite cutting edge. We had 160 artists working on cross-fertilization between the visual arts and the performing arts and video. We had 110,000 visitors in five weeks, and I think for a very contemporary proposition, this is unheard of. The Soulages show, which just finished, attracted half a million visitors. It’s number four in the history of the Centre Pompidou.

And that was painting.

It was painting, abstract painting — the pictures are very still, minimalist. If you look at the attendance figures, you see Soulages did 500,000, while Kandinsky did 700,000. So now it means that with a show of a living artist, you can have attendance figures that match up with the big names of modern art. This is completely new. It brings a completely different perspective to the museum, it means you can be more daring and the public is ready to follow. So, that is really something. There is a very strong yearning for contemporary art — the public wants to understand, wants to see more art. They kind of trust us, when we do something, to try to do the best we can and try to make it accessible. At least in our institution there is a really a very strong momentum moving toward contemporary art, so that’s what we are trying to develop.

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