After receiving my bachelor degree in history of art in Vienna, I took the decision to move to Paris and start my master in Museology at the École du Louvre. The so called Grand École was created in 1882 with the attempt to train future curators and specialists in archaeology and later art history. It is located at the west wing of the Louvre Palace, Porte Jaujard. The first semester in museology should give us a good overview of all domains covering the institution “museum”. The courses included the history as well as the administration of French cultural heritage and collections, art mediation, history of museology, conservation and restauration of artworks, methodology of art history as well as a specific diachronic topic in art history (this year it was all about the plaster mould – “Moulages et Tirages” – I honestly would have prefered to work on the originals but it was nice to see the Gypsothèque du Louvre at Versailles). Compared to a standard university program, the teaching methods in the first semester are exclusevily focused on ex-cathedra teaching having up to five classes a day, each two hours long. The second semester consists of a specialisation in either the field of “research” (based on a specific object/epoch/artist in art history) or “art mediation”. After obtaining the master degree, students who specialised in an object-specific research program have the chance to apply for the Concours de Conservateur du Patrimoine organized by the INP (Institut National du Patrimoine) to become a future curator. In the French system being a conservateur (a sort of “curator”) doesn’t only consist of organizing exhibitions but sort of “running a museum” and being part of the research team – curators in contrast are called commissaire d’exposition. The contest is pretty intense, only about 40 to 50 contestants out of 700 get the chance to be offered a job in a museum or other similar cultural institution. The gainers hence receive a tenure. The professors at the École du Louvre are mainly conservateurs themselves or work in the Cultural Ministry, the National Archives or the National Institute of Art History (INHA – which by the way, has one of the most beautiful libraries in Paris). Students have the chance not only to receive a high degree of theoretical background about museology but also to get a direct insight into the cultural institutions in Paris and other French cities.
This semester, I am attending a course about the conservation and restauration of contemporary art which takes place at the dépôt of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in Saint-Denis, near Paris. We discussed which difficulties conservators face with the restauration/conservation of contemporary art. The course concentrated inter alia on technological obsolescence in kinetic sculptures of the 60s as by Duchmap, Tinguely, Le Parc, Demarco etc., and the difficulty of preserving art works as complex installation (ex. Claude Rutault, Thomas Hirschhorn) or art including the use of plastic as material (Claes Oldenburg, Niki de Saint Phalle). Therefore alternative ways of modification of the artwork (or not) by means of preserving the original state as good as possible have to be examined. In the case of preserving installations the idea of remakes was eventually discussed as for an installation by Richard Long at the Musée d’art contemporain in Bordeaux. His White Rock Line from 1990 was, after being installed outdoor for 20 years, completely remade in 2014 and is now entitled White Rock Line Remake 2014. Another similar course about photography helped us get in contact with conservators working in laboratories and restoring/conserving photographs which are sometimes completely damaged or even preparing them for exhibitions. It was particularly fascinating seeing the restaurateurs work on totally wrinkled-up and riven photographs and bring them back to an almost original state.
Last but not least, I choose to attend the seminar Museums and their Acquisition Policies with Vincent Lefèvre who works in the Cultural Ministry (Direction générale des patrimoines / Service des musées de France/ Sous-direction des collections) and is specialised in Asian art. He was involved in the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum project and was able to give us one-hand insights into what it means to build a collection out of nothing. We discussed the different types of acquisitioning of an artwork (by donation, sale by private contract, or purchase in auctions, where the French state owns a judicial privilege to use the pre-emptive right). At the end of the course, we had the opportunity to present different acquisition policies of French and foreign museums, as well as simulate a presentation for purchasing an artwork for the museum by convincing the Conseil général. For my part, I had the chance to present one of my favourite museums in Vienna, the mumok at the MQ, who organized an exhibition in 2011/2012 presenting their acquisition policy. The mumok in Vienna was so kind as to offer me the exhibition catalogue which I could donate to the École du Louvre library, nerdy as I am.
At the moment, I am mainly concentrating on my first master thesis about the intergenerational use of new technology between digital natives and digital immigrants. To restrain my research field I chose to write about a relatively young institution called La Gaîté Lyrique in the 3ème arrondissement, a cultural centre all about New Media and the Digital Age. To examine the phenomenon of digital immigrants I chose to interview participants of ateliers conceived for seniors like the project Game Older or Hype(r)olds which try to adapt elderly people to video games or new technology in general (computer, smartphone, the internet etc.). For some reason, the ateliers consisted of exclusively female participants! Where are the guys? I might try to answer you this question in a next posting.
Don’t hesitate to write me an email or a comment if you wish to know more about the École du Louvre and their program, as well as some artists mentioned here. Glad to offer you more information (and receive some as well)!