After 18 months of renovation works, Avignon's Lambert Collection is now ready to re-open its door with an ambitious exhibition on Patrice Chéreau and his work.
This inaugural exhibition will be the first art exhibition to be wholly dedicated to this giant of the theatre, opera and cinema, now a national icon since he passed away in October 2013.
Portrait of Patrice Chéreau by Richard Avedon
2015 will be a significant year in the history of the Lambert Collection. In 2012 Yvon Lambert generously donated 556 master-pieces from his private contemporary art collection to the French state for permanent presentation in an Avignon museum that would bear his name. This is the largest donation to the state since that made by Moreau-Nélaton to the Louvre in 1906.
A neighboring town house has now been adjoined to the historic Hôtel de Caumont to house the Lambert Collection. The extension project was entrusted to the Berger & Berger architects, and a new 5,000 square meter museum will now open right in the heart of the papal citadel, with spaces dedicated to the permanent collection, temporary exhibitions, educational activities, artwork restoration, a new auditorium, book shop and restaurant.
We will be inaugurating the new complex along with Yvon Lambert, in the presence of the public and our partners on the 3rd of July. An initial large exhibition of the permanent collection will share the complex with the sizeable exhibition dedicated to Patrice Chéreau, which I first dreamed of but a year ago.
Left, Photomatons of Patrice Chéreau from the IMEC collection
Right, Portrait of Patrice Chéreau by Nicolas Guérin
The exhibition has been conceived by Eric Mézil, the Director of the Lambert Collection, and will present itself as a journey through previously unseen archives, interviews, videos, and major master-pieces from the history of art…
A journey through previously unseen material from the Patrice Chéreau archives (held by the IMEC), drawing on his personal notes, filmed interviews and artworks from all of the major periods of art history; with a preference for the great masters of historical romanticism such as Delacroix, Géricault, Ingres, Chassériau and 20th century masters ranging from Giacometti to Anselm Kiefer, to evoke Richard Wagner, and from Bacon to Cy Twombly who, in much the same way as Chéreau himself, succeeded in evoking the very essence of Greek tragedy.
Left, Anselm Kiefer, Les Reines de France, 2001
Right, Cy Twombly, Nimphidia, 1982
The exhibition and its catalogue will cover the whole of Chéreau's artistic career, divided between the three major themes of theatre, cinema and opera.
However the main principal will be concentrated on "immersions" into his creative world, each room will be a distillation of his obsessions and passions; his three preferred artistic domains will be dealt with through his writings: political stands, AIDS, his relationship with the human form and love as well as his passion for classical and contemporary history...
This exhibition is very ambitious, due to its projected size, the breadth of the subject and the number and importance of the artworks to be presented. This exhibition is vitally important to us, but in order to put it together we will need support from patrons. We believe that his public have been as deeply touched by Patrice Chéreau as we have and therefore we would like to invite anyone who wishes to be involved to participate in the development of this exhibition. With just 10€ you can become a patron of the arts, this is not only a possibility but vital to the project.
The Lambert Collection first opened its doors to the public in June 2000. The gallery-owner and art-collector Yvon Lambert chose to present his personal collection in the Hôtel de Caumont, a historic 18th century town-house, after which he donated the collection to the French state in 2012.
Left, the exterior façade of the Hôtel de Caumont, in the foreground: Vincent Ganivet's Entrevous, 2010
Right, Sol LeWitt's in-situ work Wall Drawing # 538, 1984-88
Begun in the 1960s, the Lambert Collection represents the tastes, desires and passions of its unique collector: an art dealer since that time, Yvon Lambert battled academicisms and placed himself at the vanguard of those who promoted minimalism, conceptualism and land art during the 60s and 70s.
Left, Jean-Michel Basquiat, She Installs Confidence and Picks Up his Brain Like a Salad, 1988
Right, Cy Twombly, Pan II, 1980
The collection thus comprises quite coherent ensembles for each of its featured artists, to the extent that for some of them Avignon is the only location in France where one may admire so many of their major works: Jean-Michel Basquiat, (including large-format canvasses, drawings, sketch-books and previously unseen objects), Andy Warhol, Louise Bourgeois, Cy Twombly (more than 30 pieces), Robert Ryman (more than 10 canvasses), Andres Serrano (who donated 120 photographic works to the museum in 2006), Sol LeWitt (more than 35 sculptures, works on paper and wall drawings), Nan Goldin (70 photographic works).
The names of Douglas Gordon, Donald Judd, Brice Marden, Daniel Buren, Vincent Ganivet, Christian Boltanski, Anselm Kiefer, Miquel Barcelo, Bertrand Lavier, Lawrence Weiner can also be mentioned... amongst many others.
Left, Claude Lévêque, J'ai rêvé d'un autre monde, 2001
Right, Douglas Gordon, Never, Never (Black), 2000
The idea of opening the new Collection Lambert with an exhibition in homage to Patrice Chéreau first came about during discussions with friends from the world of art and culture over the Summer of 2014, almost a year after his passing away. Very quickly the idea became an absolute necessity for me.
The Lambert Collection had to be closed for a period of 18 months for the expansion works. I had no desire to halt the museum's programme for such a long period. I didn't want either our local public or the summer residents and festival-goers to turn up and find our doors locked.
Along with my staff we decided to make use of the historical and quite disturbing Sainte-Anne prison to convoke the Fireflies that were so precious to Pasolini, through a large exhibition of contemporary art-works from prestigious national and international collections, installing a dialogue with the site's profound history through a poetical voyage that sought to open up horizons.
With over 80,000 visitors, it was an enormous success!
Left, poster for the Disappearance of Fireflies, Sainte Anne Prison, Avignon, 2014
Right, Miroslaw Balka, Heaven, 2010
This confirmed my idea that a museum should not only present its collections but also seek new approaches to how art should be presented, confronting it with new cultural vistas, and placing it before a new public.
Thus was created the desire which then became a necessity; to invoke the universe of Patrice Chéreau for the inauguration of the new and expanded Lambert Collection.
Patrice Chéreau was always more or less involved with Lambert Collection. Like many others, I had known of his work for a long time, we had a lot of friends, collaborators and colleagues in common, and we shared certain artistic passions.
We, Yvon Lambert and myself, spent some time with him at the Villa Médicis in 2008. Richard Peduzzi his set-designer and close friend was in charge of the French Academy in Rome, and had invited us to present part of our collection there. Patrice Chéreau was also there carrying out research. He quickly showed an interest for our project, telling us that he regularly visited our collection in Avignon. He talked to us of his love for the work of Cy Twombly, the photographic work of Nan Goldin as well as the monumental works of Anselm Kiefer for which he helped us to translate certain titles with that attention to detail that we know so well, revealing the hidden references contained within the work.
Photograph by Pénélope Chauvelot: Patrice Chéreau, Richard Peduzzi and Daniel Delannoy, on the docks of New York researching locations for the theatre adaptation of Quai Ouest by Bernard-Marie Koltès, 1985 © Pénélope Chauvelot
We saw him again during one of his visits to Avignon, then saw him reading Guyotat in the Cour d’honneur of the Palais des Papes and finally saw his majestic Elektra in Aix-en-Provence, shortly before his death.
During the Summer of 2014, some of our mutual friends informed me that he had often talked of working on a project at the Lambert Collection, Nathalie Léger, Director of the IMEC where his personal archives are kept, had also proposed that we present them at the Lambert Collection.
I immediately thought of his exhibition at the Louvre — Faces and Bodies — organized during the presidency of Henri Loyrette, with Marie-Laure Bernadac. I thought of the classical master-pieces that he had assembled and presented as the inspirational sources for his cinema, theatre and opera projects.
Left, Edouard Bernard Debat-Ponsan, Une porte du Louvre le matin de la Saint Barthélémy, 1880
Right, Francesco Cairo, Saint Sébastien soigné par Irène, around 1635
I immediately thought of the parallels which could be drawn: the relationships between classical and contemporary art. I visited his archives at the Imec and looked through his notes, the post-cards of artworks that he collected, his press-cuttings and correspondence seeking to confront my intuition with the reality that I would find there, these turned out to be increasingly gratifying as each new element came to light.
Nan Goldin, Simon and Jessica in the swimming pool, at night, 2001
I found correspondence with Hervé Guibert and Bernard-Marie Koltes, letters from Bob Wilson, a script for a projected film on Napoléon, which was never made. I learnt that Al Pacino was to play the lead. I remembered then how Patrice Chéreau had played that same role in Adieu Bonaparte by Youssef Chahine… and thousands of other treasures to share with you.
Left, Patrice Chéreau as Napoléon in Youssef Chahine's film Adieu Bonaparte
Right, Douglas Gordon, Blind Al (mirror), 2002
Like everyone, when we learned of his passing away, we knew that we had lost a unique personality, as much for his qualities as a human being as for his qualities as an artist. Since the 1960s his theatre, opera and cinema productions, his commitments and political views placed him in the vanguard of French creativity. a man at the very fore-front of society and the art world.
His film-works have become part of our collective consciousness: from Hotel de France to Those who love me can take the train by way of Gabrielle and Queen Margot to name but a few.
His theatrical productions of Koltes, Shakespeare, Marivaux, Duras, his deep commitment to the Nanterre theatre. The opening act of the Ring in Bayreuth with Boulez and Peduzzi or Elektra where he left us in style at the Aix-en-Provence opera festival…
To talk of Chéreau is also to talk of a family, a family of famous actors, which he had discovered young and who stayed by his side:
Photograph by Pénélope Chauvelot: Thibault de Montalembert, Vincent Pérez, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Laurent Grévill, Théâtre des Amandiers, 1986 © Pénélope Chauvelot
Isabelle Huppert, Isabelle Adjani, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Daniel Auteuil, Charles Berling, Dominique Blanc, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Romain Duris, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Pascal Greggory, Vincent Perez, Michel Piccoli, Charlotte Rampling, Simone Signoret, Bruno Todeschini, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Jane Birkin, Maria Casares, Gerard Desarthe, Clotilde Hesme…
Left, poster for Patrice Chéreau's film L'Homme Blessé (1983)
Right, poster for Patrice Chéreau's film Queen Margot (1994)
During our travels abroad to prepare exhibitions, meet artists and art-collectors, we were often made aware of the extent to which he was seen as the foremost representative of French creative arts outside of our borders.
Roni Horn, Portrait of an image (with Isabelle Huppert) MAC sequence, 2005
Left, Douglas Gordon, Self-portrait of You + Me (Jane Birkin), 2008
Right, Douglas Gordon, Self-portrait of You + Me (Simone Signoret), 2008
Nan Goldin, Yvon at Notre-Dame de la Garde, Marseille, 1996
When I finalized the donation of 556 master-pieces from my collection to the French State in July 2012,
I made 2 stipulations:
Firstly, that the collection would be presented in Avignon, my place of residence since 2000. And that the exhibition spaces would be expanded. Along with Eric Mézil, who has been managing and successfully organizing the museum's artistic program since its foundation, we wanted to be sure that this new museum would not become a mausoleum built around its artworks but that it would be able to house both this unique and now public collection of art-works for which we have so much affection, and also that it could remain the dynamic venue that it has always been, through its annual program of temporary exhibitions. My idea is that a contemporary art museum can only come to life by renewing itself and proposing numerous sizeable projects to its visitors, some of which highlight its own heritage and others which should be cross-disciplinary exhibitions paying homage to the more innovative artistic scenes.
History has proved the pertinence of this approach to us through the success of "the Disappearance of Fireflies" last summer. Additionally dedicating the inaugural exhibition of our newly renovated museum to Chéreau, as an icon of modern theatre, cinema and opera was self-evident.