After a two-year refurbishment, a museum in Paris devoted to the groundbreaking work of French artist Antoine Bourdelle reopens.

Date:

After a two-year refurbishment, a museum in Paris devoted to the groundbreaking work of French artist Antoine Bourdelle reopens.

  • News by AUN News correspondent
  • Thursday, March 16, 2023
  • AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090

Summary:

  • After closing in August of last year for the conclusion of a two-year, €5 million renovation campaign and an overhaul of its permanent collection, the Musée Bourdelle in Paris, devoted to the little-known work of the French artist Antoine Bourdelle, reopened on March 15 this year.

  • As Auguste Rodin’s assistant, partner, and friend, Bourdelle was Aristide Maillol’s former buddy and rival.

  • The collection is now organised in a series of ground-floor chambers grouped chronologically and thematically around the courtyard area.

  • In the past, Bourdelle was the focus of the museum’s philosophy, according to Ferlier-Bouat.

  • To help with this, the permanent exhibition has been increased with 35 more sculptures on display, including loans from the Germaine Richier heirs, the Paris Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Giacometti Foundation.

After closing in August of last year for the conclusion of a two-year, €5 million renovation campaign and an overhaul of its permanent collection, the Musée Bourdelle in Paris, devoted to the little-known work of the French artist Antoine Bourdelle, reopened on March 15 this year.

A temporary exhibition of artwork by French modern artist Philippe Cognée is on display at the museum through July 16 to commemorate the reopening.

In the more than 40 years following his passing in 1929, Bourdelle established himself as a leading figure in 20th-century monumental sculpture. As Auguste Rodin’s assistant, partner, and friend, Bourdelle was Aristide Maillol’s former buddy and rival. He also mentored a new generation of artists, including Alberto Giacometti, Germaine Richier, and Hans Arp.

The sculptor’s Montparnasse studio and residence, as well as 19th-century artists’ workshops and courtyard gardens, were left to the City of Paris by the sculptor’s widow Cléopatre and are the focal points of the museum, which opened in 1949.

Plaster replicas of Bourdelle’s most well-known gigantic works were placed in an exhibition hall in 1961. In 1992, a further addition—a minimalist wing created by Pritzker-winning architect Christian de Portzamparc—was finished. The most recent renovation has incorporated a restaurant made from an apartment that once belonged to Rhodia Bourdelle and her art deco designer spouse Michel Dufet.

The 1878 construction of the timber studio, which was constructed on a defunct limestone mine site, left it vulnerable structurally and susceptible to increasing humidity. Ophélie Ferlier-Bouat, the museum’s director, tells The Art Newspaper that an investigation by the Paris Inspectorate of Quarries revealed the ground beneath the structure was laced with a network of tunnels that had to be filled in with cement. I’m not sure how many tonnes of cement there were, but there was a lot, she recalls.

A reinforcing steel cage has been inserted into the timber frame, which was initially intended to be a temporary structure. Also, it has allowed the restaurant to open on the floor above. The tall north-facing windows have been changed to improve the area’s lighting. The walls and roofs have been damp-proofed and insulated, and parquet wood flooring severely damaged by wet has been rebuilt.

The permanent exhibition areas were completely redesigned by Dominique Brard and Sandra Courtine, architects with museum design and scenography expertise during the seven-month shutdown. The collection is now organised in a series of ground-floor chambers grouped chronologically and thematically around the courtyard area. Spaces dedicated to Bourdelle’s 18-year partnership with Rodin during the fin-de-siècle period, his transition to symbolism and Expressionism, his sculptured friezes and reliefs (1910–13) for the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, for which the dancer Isadora Duncan served as his model, and his interactions with younger Modernist artists like Arp, Richier, and Giacometti during the 1920s are among them.

In the past, Bourdelle was the focus of the museum’s philosophy, according to Ferlier-Bouat. The goal now is to re-inscribe him inside the history of sculpting as a context.

To help with this, the permanent exhibition has been increased with 35 more sculptures on display, including loans from the Germaine Richier heirs, the Paris Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Giacometti Foundation.

This new direction is reflected in the choice of Philippe Cognée, a sculptor and painter, for the inauguration exhibition. Le Catalogue de Bâle, a massive piece in the museum’s Portzamparc wing, is the exhibit’s centrepiece (2013-15). More than 1,000 pages of pictures that were randomly selected from a decade’s worth of Art Basel fair catalogues and overpainted with Cognée’s distinctive hot wax make up this work.

The concept for the exhibition was conceived by Ferlier-predecessor Bouat’s Amélie Simier, currently the director of the Musée Rodin and joined the museum in September 2021 from the Louvre sculpture department. In 2025, she aims to highlight the creative and artistic nexus between sculpture and fashion. She says she plans to continue in the same vein with a show that places Bourdelle in conversation with Rodin the following year.

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