French supermarket boss wants to put contemporary art in a countryside landscape
Michel-Edouard Leclerc plans gallery for former convent and shop complex
By Gareth Harris. Web only
Published online: 15 May 2012
A major French patron says that he hopes to transform the French public’s perception of contemporary art by opening a new gallery in a former 17th-century convent in Brittany this summer. “Outside of Paris, contemporary art spaces cater for the happy few,” says Michel-Edouard Leclerc, director of the French supermarket group E. Leclerc whose parents, Hélène and Edouard, bought the convent, called the Capucins de Landernau, in 1964.
They renovated the building and constructed a supermarket alongside, which is now closed. The former retail premises, linked to the convent through a courtyard, forms part of the planned gallery complex, housing a 1,300 sq. m exhibition hall. The convent's chapel will also be converted for exhibitions. The venue is due to open in June.
The project is financed by a “donations fund”, established according to a government law passed in 2008, whereby 650 patrons or companies give between €100 and €4,000. “The fund [entitled the ‘Hélène et Edouard Leclerc Fund for Culture’] is not managed by the Leclerc group, it’s not a business marketing tool. But it is a private family-led initiative,” says Leclerc who declined to comment on the amount donated by his family.
The fund will not acquire works of art but call upon its investors to help mount two exhibitions annually. “With each show, I will appeal to the patrons,” says Leclerc, who hopes to organise exhibitions devoted to Daniel Buren, Pierre Soulages, Anselm Kiefer and Jacques Monory, among others. “I can call upon a network of collectors in Switzerland and Italy who are ready to lend works,” he says.
Leclerc says he hopes to attract 40,000 to 50,000 people annually to the space where he also intends to show works by emerging artists. “I’d like the new venue to be a ‘production centre’ with links to the community and international arena. We want to be mediators as there is very little dialogue between contemporary art and the wider public,” he adds.
The first show (24 June-28 October) is of the French artist Gerard Fromanger, with works dating from 1962 until the present day and with more than 100 pieces drawn from private European collections. “When I was a student, I collected Fromanger’s 1968 posters and liked his paintings, and more generally, works of the [1960s pop art movement] La Figuration Narrative. I’m a cartoons fan and see links between les BDs [cartoons] and his work,” says Leclerc.
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