In 1966 ARC, a research and exhibition area dedicated to contemporary artistic creation, was created within the Art Moderne Museum of the City of Paris
In the tradition of the dynamic initiatives implemented by the museum since its inauguration during the 1937 Universal Exhibition, such as the Salon de la Jeune Peinture (Salon of Young Painting) or the Paris Biennale, Pierre Gaudibert (then Curator of City of Paris Museums), François Debidour (Assistant-Director of Fine Arts) and Bernadette Contensou created this new structure with the aim of meeting the new expectations of the museum-going public.
ARC has a hybrid legal status and is managed autonomously by the Fine Arts Department. This administrative and financial independence gives it a great deal of freedom but complicates its acceptance within the museum institution which houses it. However, it quickly took on a very important role spreading the museum’s influence internationally. ARC’s first year was punctuated by some fifty cross-disciplinary events which set the tone for the ambitions of the new department.
ARC’s creation must be thought of as the result of deliberation on cultural democratisation and popular education in the pre-1968 era. Those involved in its creation were attempting to reach new sections of the public, in particular the middle classes. To do so, they introduced a real educational mission with a high participative element and attempted to make ARC a place for exchange, dialogue and confrontation. The relationship between the works and the public was strengthened by the involvement of guides who for a long time worked free of charge. One of the revolutions initiated by ARC involved the multi-disciplinarity of the events offered to the public. In addition to visual arts exhibitions, the programme included cinema (Christine Aubry), dance (Françoise and Dominique Dupuy), jazz (Daniel Humair), contemporary music (Maurice Fleuret) and also theatre and dance.
This new approach to cultural events took ARC far from the beaten path, to its confirmation of a strong artistic commitment linked to the historical and political context of the period in which it was created. This period was also one which saw Paris dethroned as arts capital by cities such as New York and London and also Stockholm and Amsterdam, etc.
Firmly rooted in its era, ARC also gave itself the task of boosting the Paris art scene. So right from the start it gave a special place to the avant-garde movements of the 1960-70s such as Figuration Narrative (Narrative Figuration) and Supports Surfaces (Mediums Surfaces). Challenge and commitment were part of the deliberation on the status of the artist by the brains behind ARC, who wanted to open the Museum up to mediums which had so far been poorly represented in Paris institutions (photography, engraving, silk screen printing and early video art).
Although ARC’s first years were marked by great enthusiasm, it was immobilised for a while by financial problems. There was also the issue of the possibility of allowing challenge within an official institution.
Following the departure of Pierre Gaudibert, from 1973 ARC was directed by Suzanne Pagé, who had previously been working as Curator. This new Director initiated ARC’s renaissance, using an innovative model whose aim was to display and raise the profile of new talent. During the 1970s, ARC created a large network which allowed its exhibitions to travel and allowed it to host events produced abroad. ARC’s avant-gardist challenge guaranteed it a pioneering position among Paris institutions, even with the 1977 opening of the Pompidou Centre, which had more money and larger exhibition areas. The 1980s saw continued reflections on artistic creation and research by young artists. This was also a time of exhibition space being used more and more by artists, who integrated the location into their work and increasingly worked in situ. The characteristic architecture of the Museum became a constitutive part of the works presented to the public. ARC initially occupied the ground floor, then from 1973 following the work of the architects Faucheux and Josserand, the Wilson room and the upper ground floor. It was in 1976 that ARC was given an “experimental floor”, which it still occupies today.
In 1988, Suzanne Pagé became Director of the Art Moderne Museum of the City of Paris and ARC was integrated into the Museum’s general operation. It has had different directors since this period (Béatrice Parent from1988 to 1990, Laurence Bossé from 1990 to 2007 and since 2008 it has been managed by Angeline Scherf, museum curator).
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