Just few hours ago, reports from the city confirmed that the emergency state and the so-called emergency legislation at least until end of May 2016. We enter the Monnaie de Paris, one of the buildings with more material history in France, located on 6th Arrondissement and windowing the Seine river.
It is just few steps from the train station of the regional lines, therefore potentially visited by an infinite number of people coming from everywhere.
It is a very inclusive space for any age of visitors and to open the door to us there is a strong rooted Italian art historian whose liaison with Paris and its arts culture started on 2000 and for years has been interlaced with landscape design.
In this monumental building Chiara is today covering a role that has been created for her – she changed the core business of the old royal manufacturing from a simple temporary shows host to a cultural hub where it is possible to spend half a day beyond watching art: interacting, learning, sometimes buying low-price creativity, often playing with ‘touch-me’ exhibitions, eating, shopping and, very often, workshopping with seminal thinkers and theorists.
Your story in few lines must be dense and complicate in terms of choices and interests – can you start from your early years?
After getting my PhD in art history at the Università La Sapienza in Rome, I taught there for few years. Then from 2000, I have been curator at the Academy of France organizing a series of exhibitions entitled La Folie de la Villa Médicis (The madness of the Médicis Villa).
From 2004 to 2011, I directed the Centre international d’art et du paysage (International Center of art and landscape) on Vassivière Island in France where, amongst others, we were focusing on producing exhibitions in a very experimental way with renown artists and young emergent artists. We presented personal exhibitions by Yona Friedman (who, in the sculpture park of the island, has created his first great terrestrial work titled Licorne Eiffel), Marisa Merz, Claude Lévêque, Hubert Duprat and also Cyprien Gaillard, Thomas Houseago, Rosa Barba… After seven years on Vassivière island, I could really appreciate and measure how much the place that welcomes artists occupies a central position in their creation. After this strong experience, I wanted to continue this commitment to produce works and exhibitions in situ in a place of fascination and great history.
I was overwhelmed by the story of Monnaie de Paris, its industrial character, its capacity for renewal. This is a place without any equivalent in the world: a factory, a museum, a palace next to the Seine… Since 2012, as the Director of Cultural Programs at Monnaie de Paris, we have developed fantastic urban projects with Mohamed Bourouissa and Booba, Rob Pruitt with his Flea Market and also replayed the best known and still one of the most complex works by Stockhausen: the Helicopter String Quartet.
In 2014, we re-opened the renovated 18th century salons with the challenging Chocolate Factory exhibition by Paul McCarthy, transforming the Mint into a great functioning chocolate factory. Then in 2015, we presented the fabulous Musée d’Art Moderne – Département des Aigles by Marcel Broodthaers, followed with a huge collective exhibition gathering 44 international artists: Take Me (I’m Yours) with the curators Christian Boltanski and Hans Ulrich Obrist. In 2016, the spaces have been used by Jannis Kounellis and then Bertrand Lavier made his tribute to Raymond Hains with an exhibition-conversation Merci Raymond par Bertrand Lavier.
Do not blame us for the simple and straight, surely repetitive for you, question: any regret about working there and not in an institution of your native country?
Opening a space dedicated to contemporary art at Monnaie de Paris, the oldest factory (1150 years old) and still in activity in the very heart of Paris, is about conceiving a “thinking machine”, a structure able to produce and give exceptional contexts for the invited artists. It is also about building possibilities for the visitors to experience great and unique experiences, based on a complicity between the place of life, the place of work, of production, the place of the exhibition.
How do you cope with the fact that you do not always show ‘happy pieces’ or ‘happy processes’ with the international visual arts world and its collectors, dealers and institutions – typically looking for ‘happy pieces’ to hang all over the place?
I do think my relation to art is quite different. I’m thinking now of our collaboration with Bertrand Lavier for conceiving the show Merci Raymond, a genuine and deeply alive dialogue between Raymond Hains and Bertrand Lavier. More than ‘happy pieces’, I look for and I am interested in the input and spirit of the artist, his relation to our time, and the way to rethink and reconsider everything at every exhibition.
Paris, and France in general, if seen from abroad, seem changing: from the most open-mind society to the recent product of the terror – a quite far-away and frightened ‘endroit’. How do you live this as a citizen of a city where in the last fifteen years growing frictions among various communities have occurred?
Keeping working, keeping collaborating, inviting artists and people to continue thinking and developing their work: this is what we do on a daily basis.
A remarkable encounter you recently enjoyed?
An afternoon with Maurizio Cattelan
Can you share your favourite cooking passion?
I only eat what chef Tatiana Levha designs and cook at her stunning restaurant in the 11th arrondissement.
Which is your favourite wine or drink?
Gin tonic – I drink only transparent liquids.
Which is your music or the book(s) with you now?
All Daniel Arasse, Letters to an Unknown by Cage, Mose et Aron by Schoenberg, Daft Punk with all ‘Top 100’ playlist by Davide Bertocchi.
As for books, I have a great pile of them. I do not remember them, I do not read, I just go through the images and lettering, and collect books which have a nice ‘air’ to them. Actually I only read, and read again, only one author: Wallace.
In which way do you try to live “slow”, if you like to do so, in a city as yours?
I adore pines, watching at the colour of Rome pines.
Which is a talent you have and the one you miss?
Perseverance – is how I work.
Where will you settle in the next 10 years?
Drinking in a small square in Rome with some friends and then go and take a look at a Caravaggio in the first church I run into.
To learn more about Monnaie de Paris: http://www.monnaiedeparis.fr