Wednesday , July 28 2021

Chris Dercon, site manager at the Grand Palais

Chris Dercon, the new director of the Grand Palais, will take over the office in early January.
Chris Dercon, the new director of the Grand Palais, will take over the office in early January. CHRISTIAN SCHOPPE / LAIF-REA

What is wrong with him? Chris Dercon, the new Grand Manitou Grand Palais, who succeeded in becoming Enarca, Sylvie Hubac, who replaced another Enarque, Jean-Paul Cluzel, is a Belgian art historian, speaking French with a Flemish accent. After weeks of doubt, Elysée and Rue de Valois finally agreed to this atypical character, which had rolled bumps in New York, Rotterdam, Munich, London and Berlin, but not in France. Its mission, which will take effect in early January for five years, is not uncommon: managing a ship containing 900 employees, a collection-free cultural conglomerate that organizes exhibitions, parades and exhibitions, publishes catalogs and derivative products. A company that will close for three years, from 2020 to 2023, and which will drive a large and controversial construction site, 466 million euros.

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From 1990 to 2016, he directed several major artistic institutions in a transdisciplinary spirit. Better: he ensures physical transformation. Thus he created from the beginning Witte de With, in Rotterdam, was awakened, in the same city, the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum, whose success succeeded and increased its presence, reassembled the Haus Kunst hall, Munich, and was supervised in London an expensive extension of Tate Modern, designed by Herzog & de Meuron.

"The main quality is energy. He has the ability to unite people, but he can also disturb them because he takes up a lot of space." Diane Hennebert, former director of the Boghossian Foundation

Born in 1958 in Lier, near Antwerp, in a family of five, Chris Dercon studied the history of art and theater. With dreams, quickly forgotten, becoming an artist – legend says that he burned all elements of his art practice on the bridge at Leiden. Gallerists Albert Baronian and Yvon Lambert offered him his first job, "director-concierge" of their space in Ghent. After two years, he began journalism and exhibition curation, before being appointed as program director on PS1, an ultrapointu arts center in New York in 1988. The start of the skyrocketed. "He is a born leader"said Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, director of Castello di Rivoli in Turin, who had known him from the start. For Diane Hennebert, former director of the Boghossian Foundation, who also took his first step, "The main quality is energy. It has the ability to unite people, but it can also disturb them because it consumes a lot of space".

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The goal: decompress art. As proposed, recently, the Grand Palais. "He is one of the curators who thinks that art is not a sure practice, but a discourse, and it doesn't matter whether it's plastic, cinematography, architecture, music or dancing", summarizing the choreographer Jerome Bel. In Munich, he presented the XVII paintere century, Nicolas Poussin, as Martin Margiela's fashion house. Even large gaps between market locomotives, such as Damien Hirst, and unknown rulers from developing countries, such as Sudanese Ibrahim El-Salahi and Saloua Raouda Choucair Lebanon, which he programs at Tate. "This is not someone who opposes margins and the mainstream"said Rüdiger Schöttle, a former artist who became a gallery owner. "He's a smuggler," said Dirk Snauwaert, director of Wiels in Brussels. A provocateur too. Upon arriving at Boijmans, he invited artist and activist Hans Haacke, who was accustomed to showing conflicts of interest in patronage in the museum. In Haus der Kunst, a building commissioned by Hitler in 1933, he made a controversy by installing him, by Maurizio Cattelan, a Führer wax statue kneeling in a position of prayer.

"His charisma must work wonders. Programming will be an important problem after work. In this case, the profile is interesting." Alain Seban, enarch

But Chris Dercon also knows, in dialogues that are interested in those in power, put their impulses in parentheses. In an interview with a magazine Whe said frankly: "I like doing fundraising." To a certain point. "He is tired of Russian billionaires and the compromise that must be made to finance the extension of the Tate Modern", said Belgian collector Herman Daled. So he received a poisonous prize: to direct the Volksbühne Theater in Berlin.

This man whose smiles will know his biggest disappointment. His appointment at the head of the fortress of East German political theater aroused intense arousal: an open letter from 200 theater figures who opposed this choice, an online petition calling for reopening the application. For fifteen days, the landing was even stained with dirt. Cause or consequence, programming, open to international and dance rather than in speech and treasury, do not take. In April, six months after taking office, Dercon was pushed to the exit.

Suffice it to say that his appointment to the Grand Palais allowed him to save face. However, isn't the profile more suitable for museums or art centers than swamps on construction sites? Former director of the National Museum of Modern Art, Alfred Pacquement is convinced, "His charisma should work miraculously". "Programming will be an important problem after work, noted enarque Alain Seban, who is a candidate for this post. In this case, the profile is interesting. " Choreographer Boris Charmatz satisfied with the symbol: "In Berlin, Chris was treated abroad. France, in its name, showed that he did not look inside and that he saw Europe."

Roxana Azimi

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