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    French Government’s E100m plan to boost failing art scene

    Date: 18 Dec 2006 | | Views: 5205

    PARIS - France has announced a e100m ($120m) plan to support French artists and boost the market for contemporary art in the country. According to the French Minister of Culture, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres , this is intended to “demonstrate the vivacity of French artistic creation”. The ambitious project includes funding for a new public art centre on the Ile Seguin, the island on the Seine which was to host a museum for the ­collection of billionaire Frenchman Franзois Pinault.

    The plan was unveiled just ahead of France’s main contemporary art fair, Fiac (Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain), which was relaunched in the Grand Palais on 27 October (p58).

    The state initiative includes several measures to stimulate the languorous French art market, the most generous being the government’s decision to fund 50% of construction costs for the new project on the Ile Seguin.

    A history of disappointment

    France was humbled when the luxury goods tycoon and art collector Franзois Pinault pulled the plug on a new contemporary art museum designed by architect Tadao Ando. “[This loss] was interpreted as a sign of French impotence and I regret Mr Pinault’s decision, but of course we are very happy Mr Arnault has decided to build a museum in the capital,” said Mr Donnedieu, referring to the recent announcement by LVMH owner Bernard Arnault to show his art collection in a new museum in the west of Paris (The Art Newspaper, November 2006, pp22-23). Showing the state’s strong support for the project, Mr Donnedieu was present at the press conference along with the mayor of Paris and the mayor for the 16th arrondissement (in the Bois de Boulogne), where the museum will be sited.

    Equally galling to French pride has been the country’s lagging position on the world art market and the low prices attained by its artists.

    Over the last few years, a number of art publications have been calling attention to this slump, and the leading French newspaper Le Figaro recently published an article pointing out that France only represents 13% of the world art market. Mr Donnedieu denies these criticisms play any part in the new initiatives.

    Revitalising French art

    The most important part of the plan concerns the 25,000 sq. m area on the tip of the Ile Seguin in western Paris. It will now be the site of a new “public art facility” dubbed the Contemporary European Creation Centre, and will include artists’ workshops and residences.

    Daniel Janicot, president of the contemporary art space Le Magasin in Grenoble, has been appointed to organise the museum’s exhibition programme and to hold an architectural competition for the new building, set to take place at the end of next year. The Ministry of Culture will contribute half of the e100m ($120m) construction budget with the rest to be raised by the local municipal government.

    The Ministry is also teaming up with local governments on various cultural building projects as well as planning the second Grand Palais triennial, to be held in 2009. The first edition, “La Force de l’Art”, held this spring, was panned by art critics as being hastily organised for political reasons and with as many curators as artists displayed.

    The Grand Palais will also host annual exhibitions of living artists, with future retrospectives planned for Anselm Kiefer (May-June 2007), Richard Serra (Spring 2008) and Christian Boltanski (Winter 2009).

    To support living artists further, the state is bolstering its contribution to regional art funds, which buy work by contemporary artists outside the capital.

    The state will also revive the “1% for art fund” scheme, by which public building projects must put aside this percentage to buy or commission works of art. The upper limit for such art purchases has been raised from E10,000 to E30,000 ($12,000 to $36,000).

    Non-contemporary art held by the national art fund (Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Fnac) will be moved to local museums, allowing the fund to concentrate on its original mission: buying work by living artists.

    As for the art market, the plan aims to encourage collecting through tax breaks. From this year on, inheritance and wealth taxes can be paid with works by living artists (whereas previously the artist had to be deceased). However, prominent collector Florence Guerlain told The Art Newspaper: “Apart from this, there is nothing to encourage collecting.” Artists who come to live and work in France will be given a 50% tax break for the first five years they spend in the country.

    Asked about droit de suite, the EU royalty rate paid on the resale of work by living and recently dead artists, widely thought to be a severe handicap to the European art market, Mr Donnedieu said that France was now supporting the British position and attempting to get the royalty applied only to living artists. He shrugged his shoulders when asked how easy it would be to persuade the European Commission to change the current law.

    Asked whether French contemporary art had been lagging behind because it was heavily supported by the state, leading to a situation of “official artists” with no international profile, Mr Donnedieu said: “This is not true. Only 6% of art sold in France goes into government and regional bodies.”

    The main objective of the plan, he concluded, “is to show the world the creative force of French artists, but so much the better if their prices rise as well”.

    By Georgina Adam, The Art Newspaper

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