Based in the faubourgs of Limoges for many years now, on the premises of its co-operators, FRAC Limousin, now FRAC-Artothèque du Limousin, will soon be relocated in a new building in the heart of downtown Limoges, in a heritage site from the nineteenth century, with fine architectural lines redesigned by Jakob & McFarlane. This new phase in the history of contemporary art in the Limousin region comes as a pleasant surprise at a time of budget cuts and art centre closures, but also when the fate of the FRACs has not yet been settled several years after the merging of the regions. We asked Yannick Miloux, co-director of this new organisation, to discuss it with La belle revue.
Benoît Lamy de La Chapelle: How did this project evolve and how did the FRAC team manage to impose this after all these years?
Yannick Miloux: The development of this project is based on the fact that two pre-existing facilities, the FRAC and the Artothèque du Limousin, the only art library on a regional scale in France, merged in 2014. This geographical territory of dissemination used to be shared by the two organisations, and my colleague Catherine Texier and I came up with the idea that we should work in a complementary way, so as to best share these public collections with the widest possible audience. This merger was supported by the Limousin Regional Council, which bought a building in downtown Limoges in late 2014 to relocate and give greater visibility to the FRAC-Artothèque.
BldLC: After the FRACs of the first generation (nomadic), second generation (based in exhibition spaces), and third generation (with buildings built to measure), are we not now witnessing the emergence of a new generation of FRACs, placing the emphasis on the almost permanent exhibition of their collection (like the gallery devoted to it, in your project) to the detriment of a greater focus on artists, experimentation, and current research into contemporary creation?
YM: As part of our project for the building on Rue Charles Michels in Limoges, we will have a lot more space for creating artworks. And our collections include many such works: around 1,600 for the FRAC and 4,400 for the Artothèque. For us, it is not about showing our collections in a permanent way, but refreshing their presentation at a slow pace and providing a support programme of temporary exhibitions and more short-term events
(lasting a month, a week, or an evening). These presentations will enable visitors to establish temporal or even historic milestones and to be confronted with different perspectives, or surprises, at any rate.
Also, in recent years, we’ve already called on artists to provide their perspectives of our collections, such as Anita Molinero, Richard Fauguet, Jane Harris, or Sarah Tritz. We intend to continue to offer them this possibility so that they can enrich our view of this heritage in the making.
BldLC: Nevertheless, it seems to me that to confront one’s own artworks with an existing collection or work on a strictly personal exhibition does not engage the artist in the same way. The research and experimentation aspect strikes me as being more constrained when the artist must measure themselves against the yardstick of major artists of the FRAC collection. Similarly, there is a difference between an artist-curator and the artist who places artworks from the collection within their own exhibition. What will happen to the artist’s own “space”?
YM: It is by no means an obligation, but simply a possibility; the confrontation with works by other artists is not a one-way street. It can also allow artists considered “minor” to be discovered. What I think is interesting about this project is the very idea of dialogue, of conversation, in order to try to break away from the isolation of artists and, through a ricochet effect, involve them as viewers, irrespective of their cultural baggage.
BldLC: This new building located on the cusp of the retail and tourist areas will change the relationships FRAC-Artothèque du Limousin maintains with its (new?) audiences. Your programme will have much greater visibility, which is smart, given your recent merger with the Artothèque, through which visitors will be able to borrow artworks in addition to seeing exhibitions. This kind of unprecedented merger allows the FRAC-Artothèque du Limousin to occupy a unique position within the field of operation of contemporary art venues in France, or even abroad. With this view to making contemporary creation increasingly more accessible, could we describe this as a model that’s currently in the experimentation phase?
YM: Before merging the two facilities, we had already started to work on their respective collections. We realised, for instance, that the two collections had seventy-five artists in common. And we decided that, as required, we could do complementary purchases: for instance a painting or a sculpture for the FRAC, artworks on paper by the same artist for the Artothèque. This means that even if the inventories are differentiated and the lending conditions for the artworks are not the same, when the occasion arises, we could exhibit monographic collections that are often greatly appreciated by the public.
BldLC: Will your proximity to heritage sites, particularly museums, have consequences on the artistic direction? Will context become a bigger issue?
YM: This new urban context will bring us a lot more visibility, that’s for sure. And this very beautiful building, whose spaces and luminosity are very different from our previous exhibition rooms, will lead us to revisit our collections from a new angle. We will finally be able to show paintings in the right lighting conditions and sculptures of larger dimensions. We can also imagine that public relations will have even more importance, since our goals are that the people come and go frequently, appreciating certain artworks shown over the long term and discovering new, more ephemeral presentations, or participating in events.
BldLC: Will this focus on the new building and its multi-faceted programming allow the teams to pursue the development of the dissemination policy, a fundamental mission of the FRACs?
YM: We would like to maintain the beyond-the-walls visibility activities and even develop them further, based on new reciprocal exchanges. Projects that are established independently could find their place in the in situ programme, and vice versa, other proposals developed on site could circulate across the vast neo-Aquitaine territory and possibly beyond.