Sculpture in public spaces, while contemporary art takes root in the city

A sea serpent skeleton, an illuminated tree, a playground straight from the imagination of painter Claude Ponty… Since 2007, around sixty contemporary works are scattered between Nantes and Saint-Nazaire (Lower-Atlantic). The first was born as part of the Estuary Biennale, others followed with “Le Voyage a Nantes”. Every summer, it presents temporary works and two or three permanent artistic creations in public spaces.

11 for thise In the version, Dutchman Krijon de Kooning repainted a circular car park from the 1950s in different shades of green and placed three sculptures in the same tone between the pedestrians. At the Miséricorde cemetery, Pascal Convert and master glassmaker Olivier Juteau have placed a family of deer in bas-relief, which follow visitors with their gaze and view of the surrounding graves.

Le Havre, works acclaimed by the public

Since 2017 and to celebrate its 500th anniversary, Le Havre has embarked on the creation of a contemporary collection of around ten works in public space. Inaugurated five years ago, Vincent Ganivet’s multi-colored double arches, set in view of the harbor and, on the pebble beach, the immaculate portico by the duo Lang and Baumann are now prominent features of the city. However, unlike the permanent works at Nantes, these were not originally intended to remain. It was their success with the public that persuaded the municipality to keep them, after carefully integrating the anchors of the double arch and redoing the portico in concrete (instead of melamine).

From now on, at the end of each “Summer in Le Havre”, which brings ten ephemeral creations to different parts of the city, one of them is chosen to keep. “We have returned very quickly from the population, through site visits, the discussion these works generate in the city and on social networks, as well as through the mediators who welcome visitors all summer”, explained culture assistant Fabienne Delafosse. Thus, from 2017 to the upper town, giants simile Alexandre Moronoz’s woods became playgrounds and climbing grounds for children. Conversely, this summer, controversy quickly mounted over one of Mark Jenkins’ sculptures, which was hung upside down in a void, provoking misunderstandings and criticism, to the point of a swift withdrawal by the town hall…

Giving the image of a dynamic city

It must be said that these installations do not have only an artistic vocation. Run by a public interest group (GIP) that links the local authorities with the Haropa-Port of Le Havre and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, with an overall budget of 3 million euros – half of which is for programming work -, “a summer in Le Havre” of attractiveness for the metropolis. Aim to be a vector. “Through this operation, the aim is to illuminate the city with contemporary art, placing works in important places to express”, explains Fabienne Delafosse. Today, the permanent collection, with a dozen works to discover, composes a route taken by tourists throughout the year, especially those who stop in Le Havre and need to stretch their legs. Thus, according to the elected official, tourism in the city is frequent “Almost double” From five years.

In this case, some works in the upper city and the neighborhood located at the entrance of the city, which is more convenient, raises the question. “Should we concentrate the presence of work in the city center or spread it further across the urban periphery? We are thinking about it…”, skips a bit Fabien Delafosse. However, it is the conurbation as a whole that benefits, thanks to this operation, from a modern and dynamic image, conducive to its development. “”Até au Havre” associates the city with an image of creativity, while some companies tell us they still have trouble bringing their workers here”Emphasis on cultural assistants.

In Nantes, whose charm has been undeniable since the 1980s, contemporary art accompanies the image of a conventional metropolis. Some works have even become symbols of the city. Like the Burren rings, which run along the Loire to Banana Hangar, Nantes residents are a high point for going out. Statue of Philippe Ramet Admire the side step Also mixed in decorations, place du Bouffay, downtown. According to Jean Blais, founder of “Voyage a Nantes”, it will represent the city perfectly, with its discreet side and its bold foot in the void. Pedestrians got into the habit of touching these feet as lucky charms or sometimes adorning them with shoes!

Heavy maintenance costs

Installed in very busy places, permanent work requires special attention. “They’re a little insulted because we’re always there to clean them up.”, explains Romain Decroix, technical manager of “Voyage à Nantes”. The playgroundThese playgrounds designed by artists are particularly in demand, as are installation trampolines We are going to walk on the moonInvestments are made by the younger ones during the day and by the older ones at night. The house is submerged in the Loire, it requires an annual verification of its foundations, as it is subject to tidal attack. Sometimes, you also have to compose with living works, such as the artist Ivor’s Forest, a haven of greenery in the heart of the city. In Nantes, about €400,000 is dedicated each year to the maintenance of all these works installed in public spaces.

Sculpture in public spaces, while contemporary art takes root in the city

A cost that might prevent other communities from embarking on adventures. In the Lille metropolitan area, which, after becoming the European Capital of Culture in 2004, is organizing a contemporary art triennial under the label Lille3000, the elected officials chose to bet on the permanent creation of a dozen cultural spaces, the Foley House. On the other hand, few works have been preserved in urban areas: Shangri-La TulipsA pop sculpture by Yayoi Kusama adjacent to Lille Europe station, two Baby Angels and Demons Giant by Russian collective AES + F, Saint-Sauveur Station and Marquette-Lège-Lille deposited by patrons and around thirty works of street art in 2019. “Storage of such work poses various problems of maintenance, safety and sometimes storage”, Dominique Lagache, General Administrator of Lille3000 and Caroline Carton, Head of Visual Arts. Furthermore, according to the two, “Most insurers refuse to insure works displayed in public spaces”.

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Nantes to Lille, via Le Havre

“Trip to Nantes”, until September 11, 2022. The artistic journey is a range of a dozen new contemporary creations and exhibitions spread across the city (Pascal Convert on the Passage Saint-Croix, photographer Charles Frager of the castle of the Dukes of Brittany, Ibrahim Mahama la Loire from Ghana on Frac des Pays de la Loire …). Information www.levoyageanantes.fr

“A Summer in Le Havre,” through Sept. 18, Nine offers sometimes very spectacular contemporary works such as Erwin Worm’s Narrow House or Joop van Lischut’s Stranded Whale and four exhibitions, including one on The Wind, which cannot be painted in the Museum of Modern Art, to which we will return. Info.www.uneteauhavre.fr

Utopia Lille3000, until 2 October. About fifty installations and exhibitions are being held across the metropolis around the relationship between man and nature. La Croix has a review titled “The Living” at Tri Postale, la-croix.com. Info https://utopia.lille3000.com

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