Dear Jean Jack Queyranne,
Dear Gérard Collomb, President of the Metropolis of Lyon,
Dear Sylvie Burgat, Director of the Biennales de Lyon,
Artistic Director, dear Thierry Raspail,
Ladies and gentlemen,
“We live in a fractured world. I’ve always seen it as my role as an artist to try to bring it together.” Those words are from Anish Kapoor.
Whether it seduces or shocks, reinforces or challenges, art is always a dialogue. A dialogue between the artist and the world, between the works and those who contemplate them, between the past – the past – and the present.
In Versailles, Anish Kapoor talks with André le Nôtre and Jules Hardouin-Mansart, with the park and the castle. In Eveux, Anish Kapoor talks with Le Corbusier and the Tourette convent.
It is from this dialogue that the unity of the world emerges, in other words a way of meaning, as a figure emerges little by little when one draws a line between different points. This unity forms a narrative, always fragile, never definitive. It is open, precarious, and this is undoubtedly what makes it sincere, authentic, in other words human.
Art is a dialogue, culture a conversation, but some people refuse it. They refuse it by ransacking, vandalizing, smearing a work of ignominious words.
They refuse it on the pretext that the work itself undermines the unity and beauty of the place, because that is how they justify their destruction.
It is because they have understood nothing. Their unity is totalitarian. Their vision of the world is monolithic and univocal. Their reading of beauty, mythified, frozen. Their culture is only closed.
Anish Kapoor understood this very well. By asking us not to erase these horrors, he is restoring the conditions for dialogue. It opens a new space for questioning, a new conversation, this time about the freedom of creation. And in doing so, it simply means to its ransackers that they have lost.
And here again, after Hayange, after Mc Carthy, the project to inscribe the freedom of creation in the marble of the law takes all its meaning.
We can never defend creative freedom enough. We can never defend artists enough. For the dialogue, the openness, the reflection, of which they are the artisans and which we need so much today will never be defended enough.
Precisely because our world is fractured. Precisely because it needs unity.
That is what I will say at the end of the month, before Parliamentarians, when I introduce my bill.
There is no better time or place than the opening of the Biennale d'Art contemporain de Lyon to reaffirm this principle. For what is «modern life», the theme of this new edition, if not first a dialogue? Doesn’t Ralph Rugoff write that this title evokes for him not so much what is modern today as a question «about the nature of our time, and the different dialogues that it has with the past»?
And what is a Biennial if not a dialogue? Between exhibited works that meet, between artists from different horizons and cultural areas who confront and feed each other, on the art playground? Between artists and inhabitants, thanks to the Veduta platform, initiated by Abdelkader Damani – whose appointment to the management of the FRAC Centre Pays de Loire?
Welcoming works by Simon Denny, Ed Rusha, Magdi Mostafa, Andra Ursuta, Nina Canell, among sixty artists from 25 different countries, is a source of pride for us all. It is also proof of the recognition enjoyed by the Biennale de Lyon. It is the great French biennial of contemporary art. I can only rejoice in its success: the influence and attractiveness of French culture is one of the priorities I have set for my Ministry. Thank you to all those who work there. Thank you to the City and the Metropolis of Lyon, the Rhône-Alpes Region. Special thanks to the private partners without whom this event would not have this necessary magnitude.
This biennial is our pride, not only because we are a welcoming place for artists from around the world, but because we show the world that great artists are trained in France.
I am thinking, among many others, of Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, which represents France at the Venice Biennale, and which, after the Palais de Tokyo, presents a new piece here at La Sucrière; Camille Henrot, Lyon d'Argent in 2013, Cyprien Gaillard or Julien Prévieux, both recipients of the Marcel Duchamp Award, who are also here. I apologize for not quoting all of you.
It is with the artists, and first of all with them, that I wanted to engage the Ministry of Culture and Communication. Whether they are starting their training, seeing their work recognized or being the subject of an international reputation, artists are at the heart of my policy.
This is also the meaning that must be given to the appointment of Jean-Marc Bustamante as head of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Paris.
This is the interest that I have more broadly in their access to training, with the recognition of public preparatory classes for art school competitions, and therefore the possibility for students who attend them to receive scholarships.
This is the attention I pay to their early career, which I showed at the Assises de la Jeune Création I organized in the spring. Its participants have made proposals to me, several of which are already being implemented, such as strengthening residences. It is an essential tool to give artists good working conditions, and just as much, a public policy tool for an artistic presence in the territories.
Finally, I am concerned about their social protection. The government is committed to the social protection system for artist-authors. A consultation has been initiated with all professional stakeholder organizations to modernize it, where necessary, while respecting its identity.
With the Biennale, Lyon is today one of the capitals of contemporary art and Rhône-Alpes is one of its favorite lands. Gérard Collomb and Jean-Jack Queyranne have developed an ambitious policy alongside the State, which goes beyond the space and time of the event. I want to thank them. The Musée d'Art Contemporain de Lyon, the Magasin in Grenoble, the Institut d'Art Contemporain de Villeurbanne, to name but a few, are places of great quality.
Artists are never as well supported and recognized in their work as when the state and communities work together and form successful partnerships. FRAC has proven its importance. We will soon strengthen their missions by law, and we will legally secure their collections.
We need to work today to give a new form and a new impetus to partnerships with communities. I hope that, through concerted action, we will arrive at guidelines for the visual arts, which will make it possible in the regions to improve the living and working conditions of artists and the dissemination of their works.
Taking care of artists, giving them the means to work freely: this is the responsibility of my ministry. What is that of the artists, exhibited here and elsewhere – but more singularly here?
Ralph Rugoff tells us that “these artists don’t just want to show us what’s new; they want to show us what looks familiar from another angle, so that we can learn new meanings from it.”
To move our gaze, to weave again the thread of meaning, to give to the interpretation all the place that belongs to it: this is a resolutely modern gesture. It is also a resolutely modest gesture. A gesture of openness, a gesture of unity, a gesture that makes us, spectators, ever freer.