In the last thirty years or so, public art in France has been dominated by State intervention through its "Commande publique" programme. Most public commissions are initiated and managed by the Ministry of culture and/or the DRAC.
This explains why there are in France almost no independent public art agencies in the British sense of the term. When a local authority wants to work with an artist, it tends to contact the regional arts office. The commission is then managed under the Public Commission scheme or the '1 per cent procedure' (see below).
The downside of state sponsorship of the arts is that there are very few alternatives to the State-run system, and that there is little critical debate about art in the public realm. In the Eighties and early Nineties, a tremendous amount of energy and funding was invested in public commissions. There is currently a lull, which is due to the rethink of the method and its efficacy. It would now appear that many national commissions were short lived. They fell prey to the usual maintenance difficulties, and never properly appropriated.
The major exception to this rule is the New Patrons scheme initiated by the Fondation de France. This is an alternative method for commissioning new work, and although some projects are co-financed by the Ministry of Culture, the working method is completely different. The programme enables anyone confronted with issues of society or local development to associate an artist via the commissioning of a work. The originality of this programme lies in the combination of different players: the patron, the mediator-producer and the artist joined the phase of production by public and/or private partners. See the New Patrons website (English version)
If you are interested in working within the public art area, a knowledge of French is generally indispensable. It is best to contact the regional arts office (DRAC) in order to find out about projects taking place in the area you are based in.
Stephanie Délcroix has written two articles on various aspects of working and exhibiting in France for the a-n website. Read The Hole of Art: Part 1 (on the Centres d'Art structure of galleries) and The Hole of Art: Part 2 (on the processes of public commissioning in France).
The notion of community art is almost impossible to translate into French terms: in France there is no real equivalent of this Anglo-Saxon concept. Of course, artists do work with local community groups, in the context of public commissions or simply to lead a project with a not necessarily permanent outcome. These projects are generally managed by the DRAC with local councils or directly by arts organisations which are not specifically "public art agencies".
Art in Hospitals
In May 1999, the Ministry of Health signed a collaboration agreement with the Ministry of Culture. This agreement marked the beginning of a concerted effort to develop cultural and artistic activities in hospitals. The national programme " Culture à l'hôpital" (culture in hospitals) invites hospitals to develop their own cultural programme in collaboration with the local and regional arts network.
Many psychiatric hospitals work with artists and some have their own arts associations to manage these projects.
Art dans la cité is an organisation which sets up artist residency schemes in pediatric wards in France and elsewhere in Europe.
Public art commissions concern any artistic medium covered by the Délégation aux arts plastiques - the visual arts office of the Ministry of culture: visual arts, photography, new media, video, design, applied arts, graphics, light etc. (Their contact information on their website here)
Public Commissions (Commandes publiques) are national state financed commissions of contemporary art and design, managed by the FNAC, the Fonds national d'art contemporain.
The committee meets several times a year. Suggestions are made by artists and galleries, but most of them originate with visual arts officers in the DRAC.
The 1 per cent has been an important sources of public art commissions over the last fifty or so years and a new constitution regarding the 1% has just been released in order to relaunch the procedure. The principal consists in reserving 1% of the amount spent on the construction or extension of certain buildings, (administration, schools, universities, etc.) for one or several works of art commissioned especially for the building.
Most 1% commissions are managed from an artistic point of view for local councils by the Visual arts officer of the DRAC. Candidates wishing to be considered for commissions can also contact local councils and architects directly, but in general the Visual arts officer suggests a choice of artists in cooperation with the representatives of the local authority or council.
In most cases, a preliminary project is required. The projects are financed by the State (or the DRAC) and the local authority.
Other more experimental projects with no specific site are also commissioned and financed by a national Commande publique budget. For example, in 2000, 10 young artists were asked to create a screen saver. For more information click here.
Another Internet project financed by the National public art commission is Entrée Libre, a virtual space dedicated to twenty young artists: Aubry, Barbier, Bublex, Buren, Collin-Thiébaut, Curlet, Geers, Joumard, Joseph, Leccia, Laurette, Morellet et Bréval, R, dsv et sie.p, Rullier, Sorbelli.
See also examples of Public commissions carried out in the Rhône-Alpes region, an internet site/public commission by Alain Bublex. Click here to read more.
address22 rue du Fresnoy, BP, 59202 Tourcoing Cedexcontacttelephone0033 3 20 28 38 00websitelefresnoy.net
This is a prestigious two-year course open to artists of all nationalities under the age of 35 with 4 years post A-level training and/or 4 years professional experience. The annual enrolment fees are E760. Candidates must possess good spoken French and English. This school is an exceptional opportunity for anyone wanting to produce new work in the multi-disciplinary arts sector in professional conditions. Emphasis is placed on the electronic-digital arts, photography, short film, video and dance. The Fresnoy has state of the art equipment and technical facilities available for students to use. The course is run by visiting artist-professors who themselves produce new work. In a widely acclaimed building designed by Bernard Tschumi, Le Fresnoy is also a venue open to the public with a programme of art films, exhibitions, concerts and other artistic events. The works produced by the visiting artist-professors and the young artists are shown in an annual exhibition as well as in various events in France and abroad.
addressBP 52353, 1 place de Lorette, 13213 Marseille Cedex 02website
Resources, festival and residecies dedicated to video art.
addressAssociation Synesthésie, 15 rue Denfert-Rochereau, 93200, Saint-Deniscontacttelephone0033 1 40 10 80 78website
Synesthésie opened in 1985 a space on the web devoted to the theory and practice of current art in the context of new technology. This was the first French art review on the internet. In 2002 a Virtual art centre was created, for the presentation of works specifically created for the internet and for Synesthésie.
address20, cours Saint-Vincent, 92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux, Francecontacttelephone0033 1 58 88 30 00website
The Cube is a space for digital creation that opened in 2001. It is run by ART3000 specialises in digital technology and organises an annual festival. The aim of the Cube is to provide a stimulating environment for innovative artistic projects to emerge, with access to digital technology and technical assistance. There is a lot of emphasis on technology linked to interactivity and "real time" systems and projects are usually to be found on the net, on CD ROMs and as part of installations. All art forms are represented: visual arts, fiction, performance, music, literature etc.
Centre culturel Andre Malraux - Ccam
address1, place de l'HÃ´tel de Ville BP126, 54505 Vanduvre-LÃ¨s-Nancycontacttelephone00 33 3 83 56 15 00website
International Directory of Electronic Arts is an important international resource. It lists information in French and English from over than 50 countries and includes players and organizations of all kind in the field of art, science and technology. Each entry in IDEA includes the contact information, a short description of activities and, in this online version, links to URL when they exist.
addressB.P. 113, Le Fort, avenue de Normandie, F-59370 Mons-en-Baroeul, Francecontacttelephone0033 320 432 432website
Created in 1975, Heure Exquise ! is specialized in the promotion of video art and video creation. It has progressively set up its activities of distribution , screenings and training in video creation and electronic arts.
The association Bandits-Mages is a specialized and versatile structure in the field of the moving image and multi-media arts: cinema, video art, digital territories, networks and performances.