Modern art. Jubilee exhibition for LAAC’s 40th anniversary in Dunkirk

Karel Appel Clowns from the “Circus” series (1978 model on the right): This LAAC loss leader set has an entire piece devoted to it. (©Michel Nguyen)

“Like long echoes that meet from afar”: this is the name givenLAAC jubilee exhibitionPresented at the Museum of Modern Art Dunkirk (North) from the end of the year and until May 7, 2023.

40 years already!

While Louvre-Lens is showing off its short existence – “I’m 10 years old” – LaM is making 40.e On the anniversary of its opening in the autumn of 1983, the Place for Art and Contemporary Action (LAAC) in Dunkirk is blowing out 40 candles and offering a new tribute to its history in this exhibition, which is on view for several months.

This is an opportunity to commemorate Gilbert Delaine, a collector “with no wealth of his own, but rich with ideas”, who knew how to create a collection that carried loud and clear modern plastic creativity in the mid-twentieth century.e century and was able to convince the city to give him shelter.

Built by the architect Jean Willerwal, the museum is set opposite industrial cathedrals with shipyard buildings, the construction now dialogues with the Frac – Grand Large des Hauts-de-France, which gives them a modern double.

The fruit of an area’s industrial strength

Gilbert Delaine, an engineer at Voies Navigables de France, was able to mobilize the major companies in the sector. Thus, they were able to take advantage of the Malraux law on cultural patronage, which allowed them to benefit from significant tax breaks while contributing to the creation of cultural heritage. He recalls this in the video interview he presented: “I sent 1,000 letters and received 60 responses.” This was enough to start the collection. Thus, Usinor, EDF, shipyards became the first patrons of the collection, which was created from the beginning for collective use, not for themselves.

56 artists and 13 guests from the collection

The exhibition shows a great diversity of upcoming artists. Many artists from the region (Herbin, Dewasme, Pignon Duchêne), but also Arman, Niçois, Vasarely, Aixois, Arp, Strasbourgois, even Miró Soulages, Poliakoff, Niki de Saint-Phalle… Rarely major works, of course, but always an opportunity to remember the universe of these artists and make you want to see more.

The anniversary exhibition revisits the great works of the collection by allowing young artists to encounter them. Sonia Delaunay finds her place in a large room whose walls painted by the Finnish artist Maya Hayuk completely surround her to beautify her. Maxime Thieffine makes a connection between his approach and that of Eugène Leroy. Hellemmois painter Jean Dewasme is revisited by Pierre-Yves Brest.

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A museum in beauty

The hanging allows one to appreciate this amazing construction of niches, where the artists found places so dissimilar that, if not the period of creation, nothing comes close. Thus, Peter Klasen, an artist from the industrial world, can be seen alongside Karel Appel, an artist who knows how to show circus art with his Circus series. This museum deserves a visit on a late winter afternoon when the successful lighting creates a magical place in the dark night that surrounds it…

Jean-Michel Stievenard

The exhibition will be on display until May 7, 2023. You can get a primer called “LAAC A to Z” that covers the museum’s big clocks. A, “Association” to Z, “Zones” (industry) via Delaine and Wateringues. It is sold at the reception for 6 euros. Le Laac, 302, Dunkerque avenue des Bordées, is open Tuesday to Friday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm and at weekends from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Every market is free, price: €4/2. Information here.

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