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Monaco/Montecarlo: The New National Museum of Monaco in Perspective

by Enrico Pedrini

The Principality of Monaco has organized a major exhibition at the Salle d’Exposition which announces the creation of a new National Museum of Monaco. This show, curated by Jean-Michel Bouhours, is meant to underscore a growing interest in the Principality in modern and contemporary art and its intention to build the museum, which is expected to open in 2008. The exhibition heralds this future venue by showing works that already belong to the Principality, and by informing the public of this collection.

There are three thematic divisions of the exhibition. One recalls urban and historical changes in artistic territory, seen through the artists’ eyes, and the second traces the destiny of art languages crossing into performance art. The third focuses on the great movements of the second post-war period, including Nouveau Réalisme, Abstraction Lyrique, Gutai, Figuration Narrative, and others.

What enlivens the exhibition can be referred to as the Principle of Interference, according to which no aesthetic a priori dominates, but in which everything is possible because color, music and objects can all be elements of art-making. Modernity mingles with the contemporary, and theater with literature and poetry.

Some twenty authors each write about subjects of their own choosing for the remarkable catalogue. By allowing such critical freedom to the authors, the curators acknowledge the creative process of art writing, which helps shape contemporary culture.

Enrico Pedrini: Exhibitions at Grimaldi Forum certainly helped generate Monaco Principality’s interest in contemporary art. What other conditions led to the development of the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco?

Jean-Michel Bouhours: The NMNM project goes beyond the range of the Modern Art that was developed and collected here. Thanks to the advent of this new museum, in a few year’s time we will be able to show all the public collections of the Principality, starting from the 19th century and continuing through contemporary art. It’s a great project for a country that is looking forward to having a real Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. Since I was first charged with my task, I realized it was most important for the museum to develop its contemporary art collection for a strategic reason. It is still possible to build up such collection while financially staying inside a certain budget, since this is a period in which one can still find work at accessible prices.

EP: On December 16, 2004, the NMNM opened its In Perspective exhibition. Can you tell us anything about the Museum’s plans, with regard to activities inside the Southern French environment and how it will interact with the cultures of both France and Italy?

JMB: The exhibition that opened on December 16 represents a preparatory and experimental phase that defines what the museum could be. In a natural way, with no premeditation, the collection is going to include many works by French and Italian artists. We have purchased a work by Alberto Magnelli and one by Valerio Adami. On the French side we have just purchased artists belonging to the movements of the 50’s and the 60’s, such as Abstraction Lyrique, Nouveau Réalisme and artists like Christian Boltanski and Rebecca Horn, who is the sole German artist. It is quite logical, given the geographical situation of Monaco, for this museum to be interested in the articulation between Italian and French contemporary art.

EP: There are nations, like Switzerland, but also Monaco, which bear in their cultures diverse European influences. Do you believe Monaco should be as international as possible within a European context?

JMB: Yes, I believe it is part of Montecarlo’s destiny to be an international city. It always was a cosmopolitan place, open to everyone, and well known all over the world. It is a place that everyone on the planet has heard about. You can fly to Australia or to any faraway country and you’ll find that everyone knows about Montecarlo. They probably do not know where it is placed geographically, but they know its myth. People of Monaco have created this mythic reality in the past, and we now intend to build a museum and collection of mythic quality and proportion.

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