The CNAP Public Art Collection
Sculpture Nature met with Philippe Bettinelli, visual arts collection (1961-1990) curator and public art advisor at the CNAP, during the symposium L’art dans l’espace rural organized by the Centre international d’art et du paysage (International Center of Art and Landscape) in 2017, in the context of the exhibition Transhumance and of the Journées nationales de l’architecture. Following his intervention at the symposium, Philippe Bettinelli granted us a few minutes to present the “Art Public” collection of the CNAP, Centre National des Arts Plastiques.
The Centre National des Arts Plastiques is a public institution attached to the French Ministry of Culture that aims at supporting contemporary artistic creation in all its forms and more specifically through a collection called the Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, the French National Contemporary Art Collection. This collection covers all domains of creation from the French Revolution to today and includes approximately 100,000 works. Among these 100,000 works, a few thousands are installed in the public space all over France and constitute what we call the Public Art of the CNAP: a collection of outdoor works in direct contact with a broad audience. Around this collection, we also have a collection of studies and maquettes of public commissions, which includes approximately 3,500 study works, from sketches to research records or maquettes: a great variety of works that allow to follow the history of public art since 1983 _ with the revival of public commissions in the 1980s _ to today.
Today, we are trying to highlight this collection; first through mediation such as visitor guide apps for two sites, one for the Jardin des Tuileries and for the Domaine de Kergéhennec where some of the CNAP’s works are located; and through research that have led to two exhibitions in the past few of years: Le territoire à l’oeuvre at the Galerie Fernand Léger in Ivry-sur-Seine, which focused on public commission studies and maquettes since the 1980s; and Un art d’Etat? at the Archives Nationales, on visual artists’ commissions from 1945 to 1965, from the Liberation to the Malraux years, that showed the significant changes that took place in the perception of modernity during this time period in the public space.
As for possible differences between rural and urban public art, the question is quite complex. The first thing we notice is that, as far as the action of the CNAP is concerned, interventions are less numerous in rural settings. However, this trend has overall been reversed in the past few years: the presence of public art in rural sites has increased. Regarding formal differences, I don’t believe we can truly identify specificities to rural public art. There is of course the important question of the relationship to Nature, but this question could just as well be addressed in sculpture gardens that are sometimes located in urban settings or within protected natural sites that we usually exclude from the common definition of rurality.