Mr Japanese Foreign Minister, dear Taro KONO,
Ministers, ladies and gentlemen,
Mr President of the Japan Foundation,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to inaugurate with you this 2018 Japonism cultural season, one of the largest ever hosted by Japan abroad. I would like to begin by expressing France’s full support and solidarity with all the Japanese people, Mr. Minister, in the face of the trials your country has been going through in recent days, and our condolences to the families of the victims. We stand by you.
We hope to be able to welcome your Prime Minister Shinzo ABE soon, when things are back in order. You are, you will always be welcome here.
This cultural season is a new incarnation of the unique and ancient friendship that unites our two countries. We are pleased and honoured that your choice has been made in France. This season marks the 160th anniversary of our diplomatic relations, and it is a real pride.
We were looking forward to it, and that moment has finally arrived. We see it as a new expression of the affection your country has for us. An affection that is shared. Here in France, there has been an attraction, a love, an admiration, a fascination for Japan for a long time. More and more, my compatriots are learning your language, going to discover your country.
And I guess in advance the enthusiasm that this cultural season will arouse, with its selection of beauties. At the heart of this cultural season, and at the heart of our friendship, is the meeting of two imaginaries: the imaginaries that make up the identity and uniqueness of our countries.
Paul CLAUDEL’s formula, when he was ambassador to Japan, described better than any relationship between French and Japanese artists: he spoke of «souls in resonance», and this is the subtitle that was chosen for this season. This encounter of the imaginary was particularly fruitful, giving rise to many exchanges, collaborations, cross-influences; deeply nourishing the arts and culture in our two countries.
This meeting was permitted by Japan’s opening to the world in the Meiji era, and then by the establishment of our diplomatic relations 160 years ago, on October 9, 1858. It has never ceased since, in all areas of creation.
It first manifested itself in painting. By the second half of the 19th century, Japanese influence was reflected in one of the most innovative currents of French art: impressionism. When Edouard MANET painted the portrait of Emile ZOLA in front of his work table, a Japanese print was hung on the wall, echoing this inspiration.
When the first impressionist exhibition is held in Japan, it is to a Japanese collector friend of Claude MONET, Edmond de GONCOURT, Edgar DEGAS that we owe it: Tadamasa HAYASHI. Great names in our history were great admirers, great collectors of Japanese art, and smugglers of culture between our two countries, like Georges CLEMENCEAU.
The meeting of the imaginary has taken place in all areas of art. It has nourished our respective cinemas.
It is to a businessman from Kyoto, Inabata KATSUTARO, that we owe the first demonstration of the Lumière brothers' cinematography on the archipelago, on February 15, 1897, in Osaka. A few years later, it is a French film that will be the first speaking film ever shown in Japan: Sous les toits de Paris, by René CLAIR.
It is a true film love story that has developed between our two countries and will be passed on from generation to generation. The Cannes Film Festival has never ceased to salute Japanese seventh art, again this year with the film A Family Affair by Hirokazu KORE EDA.
In the opening of this season «Japonismes», a director is in the spotlight, Naomi KAWASE, with the world premiere of Visions, starring French actress Juliette BINOCHE. The meeting of the imaginary also took place in the theatre.
I am thinking of the very first translations of classical Japanese works by the French missionary Noël PÉRI. I am thinking of the creation of the play La femme et son ombre by Paul CLAUDEL, at the Imperial Theatre in Tokyo …
The «nô» has always amazed France. The meeting of imagination took place in architecture and design.
Tadao ANDO, who will be in the spotlight at the Centre Georges Pompidou this autumn, himself says how inspired he was by Le Corbusier – who also had as a disciple SAKAKURA, the architect who designed the French Institute of Japan.
And conversely, France has been passionate since the 19th centurye century for architecture, objects, design, decorative arts of Japan. Art historian Louis GONSE wrote in 1883: «The Japanese are the first decorators of the world». The meeting of the imaginaries obviously crosses the gastronomy, which is a pillar of the identity of our two countries, and which has not ceased to be enriched by reciprocal influences.
The encounter of the imaginary has continued in manga, fashion, digital arts, etc. France is the largest manga reader in the world, outside of Japan. Generations of young French people have grown up with these books in their hands.
The links with our comic strip are woven every day, as evidenced by the collaboration between Moebius and the late Jirô Taniguchi, whose disappearance left thousands of readers orphaned in France. So many domains that are gathered every year in France within the Japan Expo festival, launched in 2000, and which has since become increasingly successful, gathering tens of thousands of visitors – the 2018 edition took place a few days ago. In all these areas, Japanese creation is generating an ever-increasing interest in our country.
The richness and diversity of «Japonismes» programming will extend all these links. She turns to youth: I think of the works of TeamLab, which we visited together, or the show «Tôken Ranbu», from the video game of the same name. These creations challenge the boundaries of art, science and technology.
This season also opens a window to the many treasures of the Japanese heritage, through exhibitions dedicated to the works of Jakuchu, Rinpa or objects of the Jômon era. The thirty rolls of Jakuchu’s work had only left Japan once in history before this trip to France. We measure our luck: I want to thank you for it, and I know that the French public will answer the appointment. I cannot mention all the events that will be offered in a program of exceptional richness, thanks to the work conducted by the Japan Foundation, which I salute here.
They show two countries that are constantly striving to innovate and to be at the forefront. All our cultural institutions, starting with La Villette, which welcomes us this evening, as well as the Louvre, the Petit Palais, the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Cinémathèque française, not to mention our national scenes, have opened their doors to you, in Paris and in the region, to contribute to this unique meeting of the Franco-Japanese relationship. Let them be thanked here.
The infinity of our cultural ties – which shaped the history, tastes and projections of our two countries – was born of a common desire for openness. As our two countries prepare, in troubled times, to play a major role in defining global balances, with the G7 and G20 Presidencies, culture must take its full place in our relationship and in our presence in the world. So that we never forget the essential. The deep friendship between peoples, the common projects carried by our artists, researchers, students and entrepreneurs will always be stronger than the spirit of division.
This is also the message of this “Japonism” cultural season.
Long live Japan!
Long live Japonisms!
Long live the friendship between our two countries!