26 actualités Nouvelle-Aquitaine MECA: A NEW DYNAMIC and its biennial, Nantes and its Voyage festival, Rennes and its artists’ studio accommodation”, estimates a manager of a cultural institution. What does Bordeaux represent in 2020 on the map of contemporary art? We interviewed a dozen people; no-one can really say. The CAPC is looking for itself, the Frac is asserting itself. It moved in 2019 into the MÉCA building, a white arch erected near Saint-Jean Station. “The Frac now has a beautiful exhibition space. We feel a new regional dynamic, especially as the director, Claire Jacquet, knows the actors of the area well,” notes Anne Bosredon, member of the Amis du Frac. The artistic scene seems to be structured on a regional scale: the Astre network brings together professionals in the sector in New Aquitaine, the Artist Documents portal gives credit and visibility to the work of around forty Neo-Aquitaine visual artists (Muriel Rodolosse, Nicolas Milhé, Laurent le Deunff) ... “We’re in a much more horizontal, decentralized mode of operation, beyond Bordeaux, than in the 1990s, when things were more vertical, and closely bound to a few tools and actors, in particular Jean-Louis Froment, who directed the CAPC and played a decisive role in the acquisition policy of the Frac”, explains Claire Jacquet. A wider artistic field, in which a fragile but lively network of galleries and exhibition spaces participates. Eponymous, Silicone, La Réserve, 5un7, DX ... Could the FRAC and the CAPC someday work together? So far, their relationships seem to have been marked by mistrust. Everyone is quite jealous of their network of patrons ... A revolution is on its way though: these two flagships are preparing a joint exhibition for next year, as part of the summer biennial organized by the Town Hall at the submarine base, part of which is now devoted to digital arts and managed by the private organization Culturespaces. In addition to the CAPC and the Frac, a third point completes the triangle of contemporary art in Bordeaux: the POLA factory, opened in September 2019 in a former paint factory. A professional centre dedicated to the visual and plastic arts, and a very active suggestion box in the Bordeaux debate. Its director, Blaise Mercier, defends a mantra, “the creation of an ecosystem in which artists can work best. Standing will follow on naturally from this.” Jean-Pierre Foubet, president of the Amis du CAPC, joins him: “Let’s stop benchmarking, making comparison with other cities, thinking in terms of image ... Let’s make Bordeaux a breeding ground. The rest will follow!” What will the new municipal team’s policy on contemporary art be? Hard to say: the issue was hardly touched upon during the campaign. Clearly, Bordeaux is no longer an exception. And yes: Bordeaux and contemporary art have a history together, of course! The golden age of the CAPC was 1980-90. The magisterial skills of its founder Jean-Louis Froment, the man who, with the full support of Jacques Chaban-Delmas, turned a regional capital into an international benchmark: a legacy that has cast a spell over those who have succeeded one another at the helm of this institution, and have struggled to detach themselves from this cumbersome aura, especially as resources have gone down. The nave of the Lainé warehouse today calls to mind more a cathedral of contemporary art than an art centre: the tomb of a pharaoh. Directors have not been very happy there. Henry-Claude Cousseau in 2000, Maurice Fréchuret in 2006, Charlotte Laubard in 2013 bowed out over disagreements with the Council. In 2018 When María Inès Rodríguez was sacked, despite an exciting programme: Leonor Antunes, Judy Chicago, Danh Vo, Beatriz Gonzalez ... Management problems, says the Town Hall, which the director is contesting in the courts, proceedings are underway. CAPC has exceptional assets, however. The place, a former warehouse tactfully renovated by Valode and Pistre. “One of the most beautiful museums in the world”, it is said in Bordeaux, with a pride nuanced by melancholy, the CAPC not being what it used to be. Nor is the collection, 1,300 works often from founding exhibitions: Richard Long, Joseph Kosuth, Mario Merz, Jannis Kounellis, On Kawara… When María Inès Rodríguez was dismissed, 70 major players from the world of art signed a statement in support of her in Liberation, a text that deplored “the weakening of financial means” and “management in the corset of municipal bosses”. “People are always talking about the great era of the CAPC, forgetting that it was a collaboration, that the teams partied together .... Today, they’re civil servants, there’s lots of red tape, the smallest decision goes through the town hall,” explained an elder. The museum employs around fifty people. Its budget? According to municipal figures, 3 million euros per year, largely absorbed by wages (1). Around 250,000 euros to produce the exhibitions. What about acquisitions? Barely 50,000 euros. Appointed in 2019 as director, Sandra Patron hopes to turn a new leaf, write a new page (see opposite). (1) L’adjoint à la culture n’a pas donné suite à nos demandes d’interview. Sud Julien Rousset est journaliste reporter au quotidien Ouest. ——— On the map of contemporary art, the city has long lost its ascendancy. While CAPC continues to seek, the Frac gains, in its new building, in space and visibility. The regional network is being structured. It is a text full of contained anger. A manifesto published in February, on French News Website Rue89, to challenge candidates for the position of mayor of Bordeaux. “The city should be a hotbed of creativity, rather than a shop window,” is written in this opinion piece signed by 720 people working in the world of culture, including many visual artists. It berates municipal policy (“In Bordeaux, there is still a way to go”), but goes much further, asking questions that can be transposed to many cities: “A city of culture must be a biotope in which artists find the means – buildings, finance, training, production, distribution – to allow their work to exist. We expect our future municipality to have the humility to be a lever and a relay of initiatives. In short, less PR, event management, more of a policy refocused on the conditions of creation, such was the substance of this letter duplicated, according to its authors, in several other French municipalities. So goes Bordeaux on the chessboard of contemporary art: a city that was for a long time, in the heyday of the CAPC, an exception and which, having lost this ascendancy, is faced with the same questions as its peers. “We were at the forefront, today we are rather followers, secondary to Lyon Translation: Chloé Baker (1) The cultural assistant did not respond to our interview requests. Julien Rousset is a reporter for the daily Sud Ouest.
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