The "Inexpensive" Beaubourg Circus Is finally... too Expensive

Outside View of the "Centre Pompidou Mobile"
Cambrai, march
Photo : Didier Rykner

The Beaubourg Circus is finally over. Alain Seban had once stated that "the structure of the ’Centre Pompidou mobile’ which he [had] set up [was] ’not expensive’". Today he explains that the experiment is ending "for lack of funding needed to pursue the activity" ! We have a hard time understanding how an "inexpensive" project can fail due to budget restrictions...

The logic used by our cultural leaders is just as difficult to fathom. Alain Seban has announced that from now on, he will install " provisional Centres Pompidou" in France and abroad, occupying "various locations" (meaning, not museums). Outside France, visitors will pay and this "will contribute to a financial balance since it will raise revenus" [1]. And yet, at almost the same time [2], the French Minister of Culture, in answer to a question from a parliamentary deputy [3] concerning the establishment of an ethical code for museums, "reminded" us : "that national museums do not follow the practice of "renting out works" or "charging for loans". Renting out our works while saying we are not renting them is an exercice particularly dear to our Cultural Ministers since Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres !
It is true - the epitome of hypocrisy - that Aurélie Filippetti then added that "Only global operations of cultural engineering and loans - such as the conception of turnkey exhibitions - might if needed, warrant payment.", thus basically justifying the Beaubourg exports which fall under this category. In short, the minister states one thing and its exact opposite in the same breath. This is of course very convenient [4].
We met Alain Seban recently when he wished to speak with us concerning a mission entrusted to him by the French Ministry of Culture on "the circulation of works from national museums". This is like Attila the Hun carrying out a study about replanting grass after the passing of his hordes... Both sides courteously observed our fundamental disagreement on the subject.

This obsession with seeing works circulate presents an absurd character. According to these humanists, it expresses the wish to bring art to those who never set foot in a museum. We hope our readers will forgive us for not believing in the sincerity of their purpose. The long list of museums in France which have closed or display a fraction of their collections continues to grow. How can the French Ministry of Culture claim it wants to show works to persons who are deprived of art when it allows - these are only two examples - the Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence to send government deposits to storage facilities or the one in Saint Etienne to relegate all of its old master collections - here again many of which are deposits from the Louvre - to storage ? How can we believe that the French Ministry of Culture wishes to render art more democratic when it does not stand up to cities which close their museums with no hope of seeing them reopen in the short term ?

The museums in our provinces are full of deposits from national establishments. This policy should be pursued but not just under any condition. The Centre Pompidou which, unlike the Louvre, owns very important reserves which it cannot display for lack of space, often with an extensive number of works by the same artist, obviously has certain responsibilities. It can (and does) deposit these pieces generously in other institutions. However, this policy should be considered carefully, helping only conscientious museums and in a manner coherent with the collections. But in fact our cultural leaders are more interested in the money which is generated, or else the event itself and the media coverage accompanying it. This is why the trend is now - becoming more pronounced every day - to exhibit in locations which are not museums. Creating reinforced and air conditioned chambers [5] - at great expense - to house the paintings and thus display them anywhere is not only absurd economically (the cost of these chambers is prohibitive) but also a cultural and aesthetic folly. Anyone who loves art would never dare to present it in such conditions.

The report which Alain Seban just handed over to the French Minister of Culture is, for the moment, only a provisional version, not for press release. We would find it unacceptable that it not be made public as soon as possible. We will no doubt be discussing it again shortly.

Version française

Didier Rykner, mardi 21 mai 2013


[1] The first "Centre Pompidou mobile" will take place in Saudi Arabia.

[2] Our thanks to Bernard Hasquenoph from the Louvre for pointing this out to us.

[3] Thierry Lazaro, deputy from the Nord.

[4] We would like to point out, as quite obvious, that renting out its works is not exclusive to the Centre Pompidou. Orsay also pursues this policy though the renovation work it had undergone is now finished, the Musée Picasso does the same thing...

[5] This is what Alain Seban is going to do, like for the Centre Pompidou mobile.

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