Home Arts The Parisian museum dedicated to the pioneering work of French sculptor Antoine Bourdelle reopens after two years of restoration

The Parisian museum dedicated to the pioneering work of French sculptor Antoine Bourdelle reopens after two years of restoration

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The Bourdelle Museum in Paris, dedicated to the little-known work of French sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, reopened on March 15 after closing last August to complete a two-year, €5 million restoration program and the overhaul of its permanent collection.

On the occasion of the reopening, the museum hosts until July 16 a temporary exhibition of works by the contemporary French artist Philippe Cognée.

More than 40 years after his death in 1929, Bourdelle has earned an international reputation as a pioneer of 20th century monumental sculpture. Assistant, collaborator and friend of Auguste Rodin, Bourdelle was also a friend turned rival of Aristide Maillol and a teacher of a generation of young artists including Alberto Giacometti, Germaine Richier and Hans Arp.

Inaugurated in 1949, the museum revolves around the studio and the house of the sculptor Montparnasse, the 19th century artists’ studios and the courtyard gardens, bequeathed to the City of Paris by its widow Cleopatra.

In 1961, a showroom was added to display plaster casts of Bourdelle’s best-known monumental works. Another extension, a minimalist-style wing designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Christian de Portzamparc, was completed in 1992. The latest renovation added a restaurant converted from an apartment once occupied by Bourdelle’s daughter, Rhodia, and her husband, an art deco designer, Michel. Dufet.

The workshop, constructed of wood and built in 1878 on the site of an abandoned limestone mine, was structurally weak, lacking foundations and affected by rising damp. An investigation by the Paris quarry inspectorate revealed that the ground under the building was riddled with a network of tunnels that had to be filled with cement, said museum director Ophélie Ferlier-Bouat. The arts journal. “I don’t know exactly how many tons of cement, but it was a lot,” she says.

The wooden frame, initially designed as a temporary structure, was reinforced by the insertion of a steel reinforcement cage. This also made it possible to open up the restaurant area on the upper floor. Tall north-facing windows have been replaced to increase the amount of light in the space. The parquet floors, badly damaged by humidity, have been restored, the walls and roofs have been water-repellent and insulated.

The seven-month closure also allowed for a complete overhaul of the permanent exhibition spaces by architects Dominique Brard and Sandra Courtine, specialists in museum design and scenography. The new layout organizes the collection into a sequence of ground floor rooms arranged thematically and chronologically around the courtyard garden. They include spaces focused on Bourdelle’s 18-year-old end of century collaboration with Rodin; his evolution towards symbolism and expressionism; his sculpted friezes and reliefs (1910-13) for the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, for which the dancer Isadora Duncan posed as a model; and his relationship in the 1920s with young modernist artists such as Arp, Richier and Giacometti.

“Before, the philosophy of the museum was monographic, it was Bourdelle, says Ferlier-Bouat. “Now the idea is to put it back into a context, which is the history of the sculpture.”

To support this, the permanent exhibition has been expanded with 35 other sculptures on display, including loans from the Giacometti Foundation, the Museum of Modern Art in Paris and the heirs of Germaine Richier.

The choice of sculptor and painter Philippe Cognée for the opening exhibition reflects this new direction. The heart of the exhibition, in the Portzamparc wing of the museum, is a monumental work, entitled The Basel Catalog (2013-15). It consists of over 1,000 pages of photographs randomly pulled from a decade of Art Basel fair catalogs and coated in Cognée’s signature hot wax.

Ferlier-Bouat, who came from the Louvre’s sculpture department to head the museum in September 2021, credits the idea for the exhibit to her predecessor Amélie Simier, now director of the Rodin museum. She says she wants to continue in the same vein, with a show next year putting Bourdelle in dialogue with Rodin, and, in 2025, highlighting the axis of creation and workshop between the worlds of sculpture and fashion. .

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