Press - The Maeght Foundation in a state of torpor

At a time of triumph for private art foundations in France, has the first of them, the heir to the Maeght family in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, become dormant? Since the departure in 2017 of its artistic director, Olivier Kaeppelin, the greatest mystery hangs over its editorial line and its future.

It was 13 years ahead of Beaubourg. Taking its cue from American examples, the Aimé and Marguerite Maeght Foundation created <em>"instinctively and through love a universe where modern art finds its place,"</em> in the words of André Malraux, who inaugurated it in July 1964. Great names have succeeded one another at its head, from Jean-Louis Prat (director from 1969 to 2004) to Olivier Kaeppelin (from 2011 to 2017), formerly of the Palais de Tokyo, and Michel Enrici (2006-2009), founder of the Pavillon Bosio in Monaco. It was a time of musical evenings with John Cage, readings by Yves Bonnefoy, Claude Esteban or Henri Michaux, invitations to Paul Rebeyrolle, Germaine Richier, Fabrice Hyber or Erik Dietman.
But since the celebrations of its half-century, nothing has gone right. The infighting has intensified since Yoyo Maeght, the granddaughter, left the board in 2011. The foundation has not emerged unscathed. After three directors in 10 years, including the short-lived Dominique Païni, who stayed on for eight months, the position has been vacant for two years. While the administrative management still has some challenges to face. The absence of an artistic director is regrettable given the importance of the foundation's collection, its history and its prestige," laments Olivier Kaeppelin. This does not correspond to the statutes, nor to the spirit of Aimé Maeght, who was always looking for new things and artists to show him the way. Torn between art and money, poetry and family psychoanalysis, the foundation is looking for a new lease of life. "After the departure of the previous director, the board of directors wanted to give itself time to reflect. For 18 months, under his impetus, the foundation has shown great dynamism", the foundation explains briefly.

Existential atony
It's all a question of point of view. While Aimé Maeght preferred to speak of "living art" rather than "modern art", the programme is more memorial than bold and contemporary. The foundation's eighth Miró exhibition has just ended, while another familiar name, the Giacomettis, will be on display next autumn. In the spring, it will be Jacques Monory's turn, to whom Jean-Louis Prat and Michel Enrici have already devoted exhibitions, in 1977 and 2009 respectively. Independent curators have been invited for each exhibition. But how can we move forward without a conductor? Attendance has fallen by 40% since 2010, according to the Côte d'Azur Regional Tourist Board, but has recovered by 30% since 2018 according to the foundation, even though it is headless.
A delicate situation for a private structure without public subsidies, whose budget of 3 million euros is 80% based on ticketing. "For budgetary reasons, the order is to concentrate on private lenders who can pay for transport or more," explains one of the invited independent curators. This financial shortage is not new. The extension project commissioned from Italian architect Silvio d'Ascia in 2006 and promised in 2014 was halted for lack of money. The building is still awaiting renovation work, particularly on its windows, to present more graphic arts. While waiting for a brighter future, the foundation is multiplying turnkey exhibitions rented in China, Germany, Italy... 
In this existential sluggishness, the state supervision of this structure, which is recognised as being of public utility and represented on the board of directors by the Rue de Valois itself (an exception for a foundation), is discreet. In 2016, Marie-Christine Labourdette, Director of the Museums of France until 2018, expressed her dissatisfaction with the foundation's erratic management. On the menu of grievances: failure to update the statutes for 40 years, irregularity of the meeting of the administrators, disrespect for the composition of the board where the family alone is represented by three people including the president in office since 1982 (Adrien Maeght, his half-sister Sylvie Balthazar-Eon, his daughter Isabelle Maeght), delay in filing for bankruptcy, or persistent vagueness in the sharing of certain works between the heir family and the foundation.

The State's bridle was loosened with the long vacancy of the directorate of the Museums of France, which only found a head in February. However, the position of administrative and financial director was created in 2018 with Nicolas Gitton, an HEC graduate. But the haemorrhaging of the board of directors has seen the successive departures of high-profile individuals such as former minister François Léotard. The salvation and renewal of the Maeght Foundation will necessarily involve a return to the ethics and commitment of its management bodies as they were set up by Aimé Maeght in 1964," explains Yoyo Maeght, "by modernising the way it operates in view of the networks of creation and dissemination of art today and by restoring the spirit of innovation that animated my grandparents. An advertisement for the recruitment of a director was finally published, but closed on 25 October. According to our information, no applications stood out. Let's hear it...
L'article sur le site du Quotidien de l'Art ici ("The article on the Quotidien de l'Art website here")
Le Quotidien de l'Art - 21 November 2019, by Sarah Hugounenq
Yoyo Maeght's book - La Saga Maeght ici

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