French cultural life - September 2018
A round-up of news, and those creating ‘le buzz’ in French cultural life
1. Banking on a new museum
The Banque de France will open its new museum devoted to economics and the Mint in early 2019. The ‘Cité de l’Economie et de la Monnaie’, or ‘Citéco’ for short, will be housed across three refurbished hôtels particuliers, notably the neo-Renaissance Hotel Gaillard (below).
It was constructed in 1882 by banker Emile Gaillard to house his ever-expanding art collection. Gaillard died in 1902 and Banque de France bought the building for use as a branch in 1919 for 3.3 million francs. To deter theft, the bank’s vault was surrounded by a 2.5m deep, water-filled ditch that could only be crossed by a drawbridge-style floor.
The museum’s aim, said a Citéco spokesman, is to ‘break the ice between the French and economics.’ Among the highlights will be its extensive numismatic (currency) collection, art exhibition space and a café.
2. The bookworm that turned
The French Minister for Culture, Françoise Nyssen, who previously had a successful career in book publishing at her father’s business Actes Sud, has been stripped of some of her responsibilities over fears of a conflict of interest.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe withdrew her powers concerning “the supervision of the National Book Centre (CNL)” and “the economic regulation of the literary publishing sector”, declaring that she should not intervene in any case involving Actes Sud. The move was recommended by the High Authority for Transparency in Public Life (HATVP), and initiated by Nyssen herself.
Marianne magazine said Actes Sud received more than €100,000 in grants from the CNL (which promotes the creation and distribution of high quality books and supports writers and publishers) in 2017, when Nyssen still had a supervisory role at the publishers.
However, some commentators said it was nonsensical to reduce her authority over her main area of expertise.
3. Cultural honours
Last year, President Macron said he intended to hand out far fewer Légion d’Honneur awards to high-achieving French people. However, this year’s July 14 list still numbered 392, among which, in ascending order of prestige, 321 were made Chevaliers, 57 Officiers, eight Commandeurs, four Grands-Officiers and two Grand’Croix.
Among recipients from the cultural world were actress Marie-Christine Barrault, 72 (Commandeur), director Claude Lelouch, 80 (Officier, pictured) and Michel Bouquet, 92, who was elevated to the grandest Honneur level, Grand’ Croix. Olivier Py, director of the Avignon festival, was named a Chevalier, as was the director of news at France Inter, Catherine Nayl.
Noteworthy winners in other fields were the owner of Toulon Rugby Club, Mourad Boudjellal, and former politician, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet.
4. DIY BD
In a saturated market where only a handful of top – often much older – artists can make a proper living from writing bandes dessinées (BDs – comic books), many younger authors are turning to the internet and social media to find their audience, often posting entire comic strips for free in order to gain popularity (such as www.bouletcorp.com).
Crowdfunding is another proven route, as used by three volunteer professional illustrators working at Châteauroux’s (Indre) médiathèque.
For the last two years, the project L’Uzine has organised monthly training sessions, with BD ‘apprentices’ ranging in age from 12 to 77. The result, following a successful online appeal to cover the €2,200 printing costs, is a 120-page book of the course’s best results.