5 Questions: Alfred Pacquement

The News asks Alfred Pacquement, the director of the Musee National D’art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, about the creation and curation of art in the Unites States, France and beyond.

Q: Are universities a hotbed of artistic development?

A: Certainly art schools are great places to get inspiration and develop your skills. Of course there are a lot of beautiful exceptions: Some great artists were engineers, programmers.

Q: Do Americans respond differently to art creation and curation than the French?

A: The U.S. produces great historians of art, and France is very attentive to the contemporary art scene. But the belief that France is synonymous with art from the past and the U.S. with art of the future is a caricature.

Q: Do you think perceptions of the value of an artistic object vary within each culture?

A: The art market isn’t national, it’s worldwide. I think the French contemporary artists are ignored by the US, and I don’t really understand why. French artists can be as severe, ironical, dramatic as American artists are. It’s probably because of the economic dominance of the U.S., which is reflected in the art market. Also there’s been a long quarrel between Paris and New York from the ’60s to the late ’90s. It’s going better now. But you still don’t see any Soulages or Fautrier in American museums, but you do see a lot of De Kooning and Rothko in French Museums!

Q: None of the latest art genres (Pop Surrealism, Relational art, Street art, Stuckism, Superflat) have been pioneered in France, but rather England, the U.S. and Japan. How would you explain this?

A: I was at the Documenta [Documenta Kassel, the survey of contemporary art in June] in Venice, and I saw that the more successful artists were from Poland, Romania, South Africa. The truth is there is no longer one big emerging art form nowadays. There is no form you can easily identify. It’s more about individualism.

Q: Do you think that the nationality of an artist still matters given the possibility of grabbing global influences and inspiration?

A: I think it does matter. We actually love a cultural system within each artist. But these days, many artists who get our interest aren’t from megalopoles, I’m thinking about towns from South Africa, South America … There is a new interest especially for Eastern European countries. After a post-colonialist ignorance, we are now turning towards them.

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