The deposit of the Planque Collection spells disaster for the Musée Granet

Edgar Degas
Two Women in Bath, 1895
Jean and Suzanne Planque’s fondation
Photo : L. Chessex

The city of Aix-en-Provence is ecstatic about the deposit at the Musée Granet for a duration of fifteen years of 300 paintings and drawings belonging to the Fondation Jean et Suzanne Planque, formerly promised to the Musée in Lausanne. In fact, the news sounds the death knell for the museum and its permanent holdings, already suffering enough as it is (see our article in French).

We are not familiar with this collection which we have been told holds many masterpieces from the late 19th and the 20th centuries, including several Cézannes, Degas (ill.), Monets, Bonnards, Picassos, Klees, Dubuffets… The collection as such is therefore not the issue, but regardless of its exceptional qualities, the operation under way is far from justified.
Had this been a donation, we would gladly have withheld any criticism. On the contrary, we would have welcomed such an act of generosity while, once more, denouncing the manner in which the museum treats its permanent collection of sculptures and old masters. However, this is a deposit, thus temporary, even if long term and therein lies the problem, in that it will have to be exhibited somewhere. Eventually, it will be housed in the chapel of the Pénitents blancs, as soon as it receives the necessary restorations enabling it to present art works.

Unfortunately, this building was presented by the city as a future extension for the present museum providing additional exhibition space which would perhaps (everything was expressed in the conditional) allow the permanent collection to be put out once again. No specific date was mentioned.
If this chapel is now chosen to present the Planque collection, we can be pretty sure that the museum will not soon reconnect with its works, since the curator and the mayor have decided to transform it into an exhibition room which they repeatedly acclaim will be a major attraction for drawing more and more visitors. They even organized a study to publish the figures for the Picasso-Cézanne exhibition, which specialists unanimously found to be extremely mediocre [1]. Reporters were thus invited on Thursday, 23 September 2010 to learn the results of this study ! The discussion focused on entrance figures (371.936 visitors, please note the detailed numbers !) and money, not much on the art. It seems the exhibition cleared a profit of 917.780 € [2] and the study even claims it generated 63 million in related business [3]. In short, Cézanne and Picasso are reduced to their monetary value as market products which sell particularly well. In the same vein, a similar communications approach is applied to Alechinsky, who “this Tuesday, 31st August, topped the level of 50.000 visitors”, according to a new press release [4], adding further : “Besides the local interest surrounding this exhibition, created by its curator Daniel Abadie, it drew a large number of foreigners. They represent one third of the 50.000 tickets taken in throughout the summer. The English are first, ahead of Italians, Germans and Belgians but on a par with Americans, especially present during the month of July.” We will of course never know anything about those tourists who come to Aix-en-Province in vain in the hopes of seeing the permanent collection.

The whole world was anxiously awaiting this exhibition as proven by the stars who attended. We now know that : “The actors Michael Lonsdale, Sophie Marceau, Christophe Lambert and the designer Christian Lacroix, among others, also visited the exhibition this summer.” Come see Alechinsky, and if you’re lucky you’ll run into Alain Delon ! What to do in the face of such vacuity ? In Aix-en-Province temporary exhibitions (which will be the case for the Planque Collection) have caused the disappearance of the permanent holdings. What is the Service des Musées de France doing about it [5] ?

Didier Rykner, vendredi 15 octobre 2010


[1] Vincent Noce, “Aix s’emmêle les pinceaux”, Libération, 30/5/09 ; Philippe Dagen, “Picasso et Cézanne une confrontation en manqué d’oeuvres majeures”, Le monde, 26/5/09 ; many art historians who saw the exhibition confirmed its many weaknesses which we cannot ourselves judge as we did not see it.

[2] The news release states clearly : “On a financial level, the outcome of the exhibition is positive. The final balance indeed shows a profit of 917.780 € with 4.449.524 € in receipts and 3.531.744 € in expenses. These results can be explained by the figures which exceeded the projected visitor numbers along with lower insurance and transportation costs compared to the estimates stated in the initial budget. The expenses for the season come to 6.034.165 € with receipts of 4.494.983 €.

[3] Still in the news release : “In economic terms, the season generated 61M € in related business as opposed to 63M € for the Cézanne season, that is 69.4M € in constant euros. Furthermore, according to the study, 42% of business owners state they increased their sales as compared to 2009, despite the economic crisis. In the hotel industry, the number of additional nights related to the event is estimated to be between 24.000 and 30.000.

[4] Dated 31st August 2010.

[5] The new name of the former DMF after its reorganization by the Ministry of Culture.

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