Université Paris 8
2 Rue de la Liberté, 93526 Saint-Denis

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A governmental art? Public procurements by plastic artists (1945-1965)


March 31st - July 13th, 2017

Archives Nationales
59 rue Guynemer
93380 Pierrefitte-sur-Seine

Metro: Saint-Denis Université (line 13)

"The State cannot possibly have good taste. It would be a miracle if people handling funds that help painters had good taste", art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler declared in 1961. These words, a little provocative, echo common criticisms aimed at artworks promoted and subsidised by the State as soon as the 19th century, at a time when the Beaux-Arts administration seemed to support artistic practices considered too "academic", as well as impervious to the formal innovations of the time. In fact, this "art of State" has always been much more complex and versatile that it seemed at first, particularly at the end of World War II.

What initiated this exhibition of a new kind is precisely a wish to take a closer look at this prolific period of art history. Created in partnership with the CNAP (National Center for Plastic Arts), this exhibition aims to create a dialogue between administrative documents and artworks of study elements (models, sketches, ...) that preceded their realization.

Between 1945 and 1965, which marks the beginning of the new era of artistic decentralization and the end of the very old office of Art Works, more than 4 000 artworks were commissioned by the government to plastic artists and more than 11 000 were bought. This exhibition thus presents a selection from this good crop: the visitor will encounter famous painters and sculptors as well as less known or even forgotten ones.

The files exhibited present documents essential to the understanding of the different steps of the commissioning process : reports from beaux-arts inspectors, sketches, photographs of artworks completed or in progress. Thanks to a loan of artworks from the FNAC by the CNAP but also other institutions and lenders, the visitor will be able to appreciate the full extent of the administrative work.

Labex Arts-H2H

The Laboratory of Excellence in Arts and Human Mediations is part of the “Investments for the future” program since 2011. As part of this program, its members conduct research following three main lines: situations, technologies, hybridization.

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