L’Art contre l’État ? : la trajectoire architecturale du Musée du Luxembourg dans la construction de l’illégitimité de l’action artistique publique, 1848-1920

Julien Bastoen 1
1 IPRAUS - Institut Parisien de Recherche Architecture Urbanistique Société
UMR AUSser - Architecture Urbanisme Société : Savoir Enseignement Recherche
Abstract : This dissertation in architectural history argues that the architectural trajectory of the Luxembourg Museum in Paris was one of the main reasons why the French public art policy was considered as unwarranted and illegitimate. The Luxembourg Museum, whose collections are now scattered in various Parisian and provincial institutions, became in 1818 the world's first museum of contemporary art, by the will of King Louis XVIII. From the beginning, its aim was to feed the Louvre with recent and national art. The symbiotic relationship between these two museums, which was based on the principle of communicating vessels, was a paradigm for new museums in Europe and North America, until the first third of the twentieth century. Although the main mission of the Luxembourg Museum was to assert the superiority of French art face to that of other European nations, it was long criticized not only because it did not reflect the diversity of artistic trends, but also because the conditions under which its collections were stored and exhibited were unworthy of Paris' attractiveness and influence. Through the analysis of primary sources, press reviews and parliamentary papers, we wanted to test the hypothesis that the mobilization of different categories of stakeholders within and outside the artistic field led to an increasing distrust of public art policy. Leading artists represented in the museum, influential journalists from daily and art newspapers, art and patrons societies, citizens and merchant associations, promoted mobilization against through speeches, petitions, surveys or media campaigns. Even the museum professionals themselves were powerless against complicated bureaucratic procedures, shoestring budgets for national museums, and unsuitable storage and exhibition spaces, and ended up questioning the role of the French state in art policy. The negative image of the role of the French state was shaped at key moments and recurring events: the re-hanging of the collection, the display of a new gift or bequest, discussions about the annual budget of the ministry of Fine-Arts, World Fairs, preventive conservation matters, and rumors. However, the most critical moments coincided with the questioning of the very existence of the museum, with the threat of its uprooting, or the formalization and implementation of resettlement, extension or reconstruction schemes. Each of these events crystallized themes and issues that polarized most of the criticisms aired at the public art policy. We identified four major topics in this debate: the shameful absence of a purpose-built museum of contemporary art in Paris; the Governement's inability to raise funds to finally resolve the architectural issue; the lack of consensus on the future museum's location issue; the contradiction between the recognition of the curators' skills in architectural design and the inability of their administration to give them the opportunity to apply them. The main paradox is that although the public art policy was more and more considered as inaccurate and illegitimate, most of the artistic field helped the Government to resolve the ‘Luxembourg issue' and build a monument worthy of the nation
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Julien Bastoen. L’Art contre l’État ? : la trajectoire architecturale du Musée du Luxembourg dans la construction de l’illégitimité de l’action artistique publique, 1848-1920. Architecture, aménagement de l'espace. Université Paris-Est, 2015. Français. ⟨NNT : 2015PESC1075⟩. ⟨tel-01219438⟩

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