Jean-Louis Andral, Michael Baumgartner, Catherine Chevillot, Dominique de Font-Réaulx, Camille Frasca, Bénédicte Garnier, Danièle Giraudy, Catherine Grenier, Pascal Griener, Malén Gual, Stein Olav Henrichsen, Hank Hine, Christine Lancestremère, Laurent Le Bon (organiser), José Lebrero Stals, Maarten Liefooghe, Véronique Mattiussi, Stéphanie Molins, Emilia Philippot, Hélène Pinet, Axel Rüger, Nicholas Tromans, Godfrey Worsdale, Coline Zellal
by Laurent Le Bon and Stéphanie Molins
27 – 30 November, 2017
Thanks to the exceptional support of the Fondation des Treilles, a seminar devoted to the monographic museum – museum that places an artist at the heart of its activities – was held from 27 to 30 November 2017. On the initiative of the National Picasso Museum Paris and Rodin Museum, it gathered 24 people, including 22 directors and museum professionals and two researchers at the university respectively specialists in history of art and museology and history of architecture. The institutional participants came from nineteenth- and twentieth-century fine art monographic museums, from legal statutes and varied scales in France, Europe, and the United States.
The purpose of the seminar was to think about the definition of the monographic museum and its particularities in comparison with other fine arts museums. Organized in the form of round tables in order to encourage interactions between all the participants, the exchanges concerned:
* The collections, the legal status and the architectural aspects of the monographic museum;
* The issues of programming and the influence of the monographic museum.
These study days ended up in the writing of a manifesto showing that monographic museums have specific identities, stories, issues and challenges. The issue of creating a network of monographic museums was also discussed and is still under discussion for future meetings.
The Artist’s Museum – Manifesto
- An artist’s museum is an ideal place for the preservation and the profound and holistic examination of an artist’s work.
- An artist’s museum provides a unique perspective on an artist and on art in general. It is an ideal place in which to investigate the materiality and arc of the artist’s production. It is a laboratory that enables us to experience a new vision of art history and, as such, proposes a challenge and alternative to the usual canon of art.
- An artist’s museum offers the public an in-depth initiation to the creative process. It provides new possibilities to contextualize the artistic creation, and to make any artistic production of the past relevant to our times.
A new vision. Opportunities for the future
- A Holistic examination. Most artist’s museums preserve what seems to be a heterogeneous collection of objects (archives, art works, personal collections). Far from being the unavoidable consequence of a hybrid?) institution, this diversity bears witness to the rich contents of the artist’s museum, as well to its great unity. Any archival material reinforces our ability to construct new images of the artist; it should even be understood as a component of the artist’s corpus; this material may not be as conspicuous as an art work, but it documents the artistic production and warrants its unity as well as its coherence. For most artists, past creations also form an archive upon which they draw while creating a new art work. Therefore, the boundaries between the different categories of objects within the artist’s museum often shift over the course of time; as a consequence, we should not draw up an absolute categorization of objects, emphasizing the distinct status of, for example, art works, letters, drawings, manuscript and published texts.
- A laboratory for art history. The artist’s museum offers an ideal opportunity to work at the junction between art, the humanities (in their broadest understanding) and even the pure sciences. Our ambition is that of providing a laboratory that will be suitable for the exploration of new visions of art and new models of art history, whenever we endeavour to explore the corpus of an artist. We hope to take an active part in the “Copernican revolution” that has had an impact on the artist’s museum in our time. When artist’s museums were created, from the beginning of the 19th century onwards, they played a leading role in the genesis, in the dissemination and in the survival of the artist’s myth. The creator himself occupied the centre of an all-encompassing vision of art and of the world. Today, our task is no longer that of furthering the life of these mythologies, but on the contrary, that of connecting the artist and his/her creations to a much broader context. Paradoxically, the very institutions which were founded in order to support an artistic myth now provide us with the best material with which to subject these myths to the most rigorous analysis possible and to disentangle the artist’s myth from the actual context of the artist’s production. The artist’s archives thereby play a capital role by documenting our critical outlook on past artistic mythologies; thanks to them, we can the better understand how these mythologies were constructed. At the same time, such artistic myths form an integral part of the artist’s persona, and they have therefore left their mark on many art works – this phenomenon can only be analysed in depth in the artist’s museum. The role of the monographic museum is to place the artistic myth into a historical perspective.
- A laboratory for public. The public’s access to the creative process and the artist’s presence. The artist’s museum offers its visitors a very special experience; it highlights the human dimension of art. Since they were founded, the artist’s museums aimed at arousing the visitor’s empathy – the visitor could almost enter into the body and mind of the artist, by dint of entering his or her abode or studio, or by seeing at close hand some objects that had belonged to the creator. Empathy and immersion have always been powerful tools; they are still highly adapted to the task of bringing the artist’s history back to life – employed with skill, knowledge and discernment, they remain remarkably effective. In the artist’s museum, the distinction between private and public space is suddenly blurred. An experience of this kind is unique.
Definitions and missions
The heads of international artist’s museums who met at the Fondation des Treilles (Provence, France, November 27-30 2017, 15 institutions), share the belief that the artist’s museums, whatever their size, share:
- Unique stories: all the museums address the issue of memory
- Unique identities
- Unique opportunities
- Unique challenges.
An artist’s museum is a museum that places the artist at the centre of its activities.
Its major missions are:
- To present and to curate a collection that is representative of one artist in his/her full complexity, and which allows for a clear insight into his/her creative process.
- To carry out research and to increase knowledge about him/her in context.
- To further the widest recognition, the greatest outreach of the artist; to promote the value of the artist and his/her creation; to connect a creation to the work’s historical location, and the museum; to render the artist accessible to the greater public, both physically and digitally.
An artist’s museum may or may not
- have been created by the artist
- be housed in a building historically linked to the artist (house, studio, etc.)
- remain connected with the artist’s descendants
- own the intellectual property of the artist, carry out expertises on his/her art works, and control the image of the artist.
An artist’s museum may
- curate works of an artist, as well as items from his/her collection, by (or from) his friends, students, and even works of other creators that bear witness to the appeal of the artist’s work.