Bright future for Lambert Collection
Major step in making Avignon the “Davos of culture”
By Jean-Christophe Castelain. Museums, Issue 252, December 2013
Published online: 16 December 2013
The Collection Lambert will move to a temporary home next month at the start of an expansion project that will see the institution more than double in size. Converting the Hôtel de Montfaucon, next to the Hôtel de Caumont, the home of the Collection Lambert in Avignon since 2000, was a condition imposed by the art dealer and museum founder Yvon Lambert when he promised 560 works to the French State in 2011. The donation of works by artists including Joseph Beuys, Christian Boltanski, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt, has been described as France’s largest gift of art since the Picasso estate’s donation in 1974.
Work on the Hôtel de Montfaucon is due to be complete by summer 2015. (A clause in the donation contract stipulates that it must be finished by that date.) As well as more space, from 2,500 sq. m to 7,500 sq. m, the Collection Lambert will enter a new stage in its history. “We have a very particular public-private status,” says Hervé Digne, the president of the board of directors and Lambert’s chief negotiator with the French government. “The walls belong to the city, the collection to the State, the administration is a private association and funding comes from all sides,” he says.
Collector and dealer
The two historic mansions belong to the city of Avignon and the €14m cost of the conversion is coming from the French government (€8m) and local authorities, including the Department of Vaucluse. The department will eventually be represented on the collection’s board. During building, works will be show in the former Sainte-Anne Prison, near the Papal Palace.
“The public subsidy of €1.2m is not going to be enough,” says Digne, who will seek other sources of funding to cover its annual operating cost. He says the Collection Lambert aims to emulate the “model museum based on the donation of a collector-dealer: the Beyeler Foundation”. He would also like to enrich the collection by prompting other donations and to establish a collaboration with Maja Hoffmann’s planned Luma Foundation in Arles, and the Château la Coste in Aix-en-Provence, and possibly also the University of Avignon or the Forum d’Avignon. The consultants Lord Cultural Resources will come up with recommendations for the development of a strategic plan.
The confidence that Yvon Lambert has demonstrated in Digne, especially in assigning him responsibility for negotiating the donation with the State, is not based simply on their shared Provencal origins. This 56-year-old graduate of the ENA (the École Nationale d’Administration, which has been described as the finishing school of the French Establishment) is well acquainted with the corridors of power, having worked for three years at the ministry for the economy and finances and having been, from 2005 to 2007, the media adviser to Dominique de Villepin, the then prime minister. As well as the president of the board of the Collection Lambert since 2011, he is the vice-president and founder of the Forum d’Avignon, which aims to make the city in the south of France the “Davos of culture”.
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