Sacreblue! x SBS
The September Selection
Every month, Sacreblue! highlights some francophone films from the SBS catalogue.
These movies will be available for the whole month for free on SBS On Demand!
Here is our September selection, enjoy these adventure-filled tales to put a pep into your step as we head into Spring.
Twist à Bamako / Mali Twist (2021)
Mali Twist is a historical drama set in 1962 Mali, shortly after the proclamation of the country’s independence. The film centres around the unlikely love story of Samba, a yound socialist revolutionary, and Lara who has just escaped a forced marriage, as they navigate the political turmoil of a changing society.
The film featured in the Valladolid International Film Week and at the 2022 Alliance Française French Film Festival.
Watch it on SBS on Demand here.
Police / Night Shift (2020)
Adaptated from the 2016 novel Police by Hugo Boris, three Parisian police officers are tasked with escorting an illegal immigrant from Tajikistan who is subject to deportation from France. The officers face an ethical dilemma when they are confronted with the reality that their prisoner will likely be killed upon return to his home country.
The film had its world premiere at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival in February 2020.
Watch it on SBS on Demand here.
The Big Blue / Le Grand Bleu (1988)
The Big Blue is a fictionalised story exploring the friendship and sporting rivalry between two leading contemporary champion free-divers in the 20th-century; Jacques Mayol and Enzoe Maiorca and Mayol’s straiend relationship with his girlfriend, caught between his yearning for the deep and his love for her.
The film became one of France’s most commercially successful films, it has been described by film historian Rémi Lanzoni as “one of the most significant cult movies of the 1980s” and as creating a “Big Blue generation”.
The Big Blue was nominated for several César awards and won the César awards for Best Music Written for a Film (Éric Serra) and Best Sound in 1989. The film also won France’s National Academy of Cinema’s Academy Award in 1989.
Watch it on SBS on Demand here.
In February 2022, Culture Plus, in partnership with the Embassy of France in Australia, the Alliance Française de Sydney and the Art Gallery of NSW, organised the first eloquence contest at the Art Gallery of NSW as a way to reinforce cultural exchanges between France and Australia. This year, the contest is back, tackling the theme of art and the environment.
Cultureplus is a non-profit company organising talks, events and weekend getaways to immerse yourself in Art, History, and French & Australian Culture.
The concept behind the Eloquence art prize is to reward the best 15-minute art talk given by a university student from one of the top five Australian Universities, in front of a jury composed of leading Australian arts professionals. Art students have been selected through a three stage process and each university champions will participate in the Grand Final. The Grand Final will provide some of the most engaging art talks in he country.
The Art Prize seeks to reward excellence in art history and provide unforgettable career opportunities to participants. Prizes vary from one year to another but can include entry into a summer program at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris, including payment of flights and accomodation, mentoring sessions and french lessons with Alliances Francaises Australia.
Prior to the prize ceremony this year, a documentary screening and panel discussion evening will take place on the 27th of September at the Kambri Theatre, ANU.
The event will feature the screening of award-winning 2021 French fim Once You Know, followed by the world première of a short 10′ film on its Golden Plan wind farm project. The film is an Australian “world premiere”, produced by students from the Academy of Film, Theatre and Television.
Following these thought-provoking films, stay for a panel discussion featuring the following speakers:
- Joe Harber, Director, Head of Wind Investments at the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), a governmental organisation that finances renewable energy projects (but not only).
- Rob Gordon, outgoing CEO of Sunrice, Board Director of Inghams and member of Inghams sustainability committee, who will bring the point of view of an Australian corporate company
- Fiona Veikkanen, Executive Director, Canberra Environment Centre, an organisation that promotes pragmatic everyday actions for every one.
- Virginia Rigney, Head curator at Canberra Museum And Gallery, in conversation with Alex Boynes, artist and curator at Canberra Contemporary Space and also moderator for the evening.
Tickets available here.
From Paris to Brisbane: Micro-Folie
A Window to the French Masterpieces in Australia
Launching on Thursday, 27 July 2023, the Micro-Folie initiative will debut at the Cube, nestled within the scenic Gardens Point Campus of the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane. This groundbreaking project, supported by the French Embassy in Australia, seeks to bring the enchantment of art and culture to the Australian audience.
At its core, Micro-Folie is a testament to the potential of technology and its ability to democratize culture. This Virtual Museum serves as a gateway to the art world, offering communities unparalleled access through digital technology. By combining virtual reality and digital devices, Micro-Folie creates an engaging and interactive environment, providing visitors with a unique and immersive encounter with art.
A pivotal aspect of the Micro-Folie project lies in its collaboration with 12 founding national cultural establishments offering access to their collections : Centre Pompidou, Château de Versailles, Cité de la musique – Philharmonie de Paris, Avignon Festival, Institut du monde arabe, Louvre Museum, Picasso Museum, Musée d’Orsay, Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques-Chirac, Opéra de Paris, Réunion des musées nationaux et du Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées, Universcience and Parc de La Villette. These partnerships ensure that Micro-Folie visitors can explore and appreciate masterpieces from renowned cultural institutions, fostering a sense of inclusivity and cultural exchange. With over 40,000 works at its disposal, the Micro-Folie offers visitors a remarkable journey through art and history, spanning from the ancient world to the conquest of space. It serves as a captivating gateway to explore the diverse realms of human creativity and imagination.
The first Micro-Folie opened its doors in France in January 2017, marking the beginning of a remarkable journey that would soon revolutionize how communities engage with art and culture. Spearheaded by Didier Fusilier, President of the Parc et de la Grande Halle de La Villette, in collaboration with the French Ministry of Culture, the Micro-Folie concept rapidly gained global recognition. It was born out of the French Ministry of Culture’s commitment to making culture accessible to all. Recognizing the challenges faced by individuals who are unable to physically visit museums, whether due to distance, disability, or financial constraints, the Micro-Folie offers a unique solution: a digital museum that brings together premium content from leading museums worldwide, offering visitors an immersive cultural experience that showcases the best of French and European art and heritage. With over 200 installations worldwide, including in countries like Burma, China, Egypt, Peru, and Turkey, Micro-Folie has become synonymous with accessible and immersive cultural experiences.
The Micro-Folie initiative has resonated particularly well with Australian audiences. Linguistically adapted to accommodate visitors from various backgrounds, the digital content is often available in multiple languages, such as French, English, Arabic, and more. This approach guarantees accessibility for all, bridging cultural gaps and allowing Australians to revel in French art and heritage. The Embassy and Micro-Folie teams collaborate closely with Australian cultural establishments to develop content tailored to Australia’s unique culture. This joint effort enriches exhibitions, offering visitors a deeper understanding of the Australian and Pacific region’s heritage and distinct cultural characteristics. By intertwining the rich tapestry of French and Australian culture, Micro-Folie fosters cross-cultural appreciation, celebration, and understanding.
The Micro-Folie at QUT promises to become a cultural hub, igniting passions and fostering a deeper appreciation for art within the local community, and as the project continues to thrive and expand its global footprint, it exemplifies the boundless potential of technology in shaping cultural experiences. With each installation, this technological and cultural marvel brings the world closer, celebrating the beauty and diversity of human creativity.
So, whether you are an art aficionado, a technology enthusiast, or simply a curious soul, prepare to embark on a mesmerizing journey at the Micro-Folie – an experience where art, technology, and community seamlessly intertwine.
Raising bilingual kids…when you’re not a native speaker of the other language.
I grew up in Australia in an English-speaking family, and I’ve only spoken French to my 2 young kids, all the time, every day, since they were born. This may seem like a strange thing to do. I don’t have French parents or grandparents, and I only started learning French when I was 12 years old in high school. I didn’t grow up learning French games, songs, culture, history or geography. Yet together with my husband I’m creating this life for my kids, to help them be fully bilingual. What began as a bit of an experiment has developed into a life-long process that affects many of our choices as a family. I believe it’s possible to introduce and maintain a foreign language to your kids if you have the right strategies and support in place.
- First of all…why do it?
Why speak a language to your kids when it isn’t your mother tongue? Why do we as parents do a lot of things for our kids? To help them grow and mature into young people with opportunities in life.
My Australian husband and I decided to raise our kids as bilingual with French and English always being spoken in our home. He only speaks English with them, and I only speak French. When I was pregnant with our first son 11 years ago, we discussed the idea of speaking 2 languages in our family. We both thought it would be a great gift for our kids. I’m a French-English translator, and I studied French at high school and university, then lived in France for a year. I’ve been teaching French to adults since 2009, and I’m also a teacher of EFL, so I have a lot of experience in language learning and teaching. My husband, by his own admission, did pretty badly at high school French – like most teenagers he didn’t see the point in learning it.
As a teacher, I know how hard language learning is for adults. As a mother, I’ve experienced first-hand the wonder of little kids easily learning 2 sets of vocabulary and grammar and not even questioning it. It’s easier for kids, so for us it made sense to give it a go.
- Isn’t it weird to speak with your child in your non-native language?
It is definitely a bit strange at first, speaking with your child in a language that’s not your mother tongue. It’s called mother tongue for a reason – it’s the language you know by heart because you learnt to talk in this language, and your whole world is shaped around it. Learning to speak a language is not just about learning the grammar rules and pronunciation – there’s also the cultural aspect of a language and its speakers. I had to learn things like French lullabies or popular slang for baby and kids vocabulary as my children grew.
Using emotional language, like when you’re angry or upset, is a lot harder when it’s not your mother tongue. I sometimes mix up verbs when I’m telling my kids off, and of course they like to point these mistakes out to me!
- So how do you actually start?
THE METHOD – My husband and I researched bilingual methods before our son was born. We decided to follow the OPOL method – One Person One Language. There are other ways of raising bilingual kids, some people like to use one language exclusively at home, and the other language when they go out. We thought the OPOL method would work best for us and would cause the least confusion for our child in terms of learning to speak simultaneously in 2 languages. I think it’s important for parents to discuss the method before they start, and to agree on how they will do the language learning aspect of child raising.
WIDER FAMILY & FRIENDS – Our kids’ grandparents only speak English, and they are all very involved in our kids’ lives. This made for a slightly uncomfortable situation at first, as I was pretty much excluding them from conversations with my baby. When the boys were very young and not yet verbal, I sometimes used to repeat myself in English to explain to the grandparents what I’d just said in French. If it was important to the conversation and situation, like what time my baby needed to be put down for a nap as I was going out, then of course I used English with my parents or in laws. But I would always say it first in French to my son.
It also felt a bit weird around my friends who didn’t speak French, when we hung out as new mums with our babies, and I spoke French to my baby. But they all understood why I was doing this, and again if the information was important and concerned them then I would say it in English as well.
Over time – my eldest is 11 years old now – I’ve become much less self-conscious about speaking a foreign language in front of people who can’t understand it. I think it also depends on the community you live in, as there are some very multicultural places where it’s quite normal to hear various languages being spoken – and then there are some very monocultural places too. If you’re in one of these places then you will stand out more, when speaking a foreign language to your kids.
YOUR PARTNER – I’ve talked to people who speak a second language but haven’t passed it on to their kids because their partner doesn’t understand the language. I think this is unfortunate, but I understand how it could create friction in a family. My husband now has a fairly good level of French, which is a big advantage for our family, as he knows what the kids and I are talking about and so doesn’t feel excluded from the family conversations in French.
5 things that worked for our family, especially when our kids were young:
- Be consistent! This was some of the most helpful advice that I read when researching how to raise bilingual kids. It’s hard to consistently speak in one language with your child, especially when the language you’re using is not your first language. It wasn’t natural for me to speak French to my son when he was younger. It felt strange, although over time it became less so, to the point that 11 years later I would now feel awkward speaking English to my kids. Being consistent means you will reinforce the language to your child as they develop their language skills and learn common words and phrases.
- Don’t acknowledge your child when they speak the other language to you. I know, this sounds really harsh! Ignoring your child when they are just telling you something using the other language? Note here that it’s not the ‘wrong’ language, and I never used those kind of words to describe English. My husband and I have always reinforced it as ‘French is what you use to talk with mum and English is what you use to talk with dad.’ When my son was really young and just learning to repeat sounds and words, I would teach him the words in French, while at the same time my husband would give him the English word. Now, it wasn’t always the case that my husband was with us in the room, as I was the primary care giver and he worked a full time job away from the home. So it was natural that our son picked up more French than English in his early childhood, given he spent most of his time during the week with me, his French speaking mum. His English language skills didn’t suffer as he still had time over the weekend with his dad, and he also spent regular time at my parents’ house from the age of 18 months to 3.5 years. When I talk about not acknowledging your child in a certain language, the way it worked in our house was that if my son (and I use him as the example because he’s the first born) asked me something in English, I would reply in French and re-phrase what he had just said and then give him the words he needed to reply to me in French. Kids learn pretty quickly; they have younger, more efficient brain cells than adults, so they also retain new language.
- Make the most of all the resources available to you. We are so lucky to live in the internet age – I can’t even imagine how I would have attempted this bilingual experiment if there was no YouTube and online translation tools. I introduced my kids to French ‘comptines’ (nursery rhymes and songs) when they were a few months old. I found a great playlist on YouTube and we listened to these songs on repeat. When my eldest son was 1, I bought an annual French kids books subscription, delivered to my house each month. Living in Australia, it’s not easy to buy foreign language books, so you will have to pay a bit more for delivery than say someone living in the US or Europe. Finally, find their favourite TV shows in their second language. When my boys were younger and had a regular quiet time after lunch, they got to watch Netflix. I made sure it was a show that had French available as a dubbed language, so the deal was the boys could watch TV but it had to be in French.
- Join a language-specific playgroup with other parents who speak your foreign language. When my eldest son was 13 months old, we joined a Francophone playgroup. For the first year or so this weekly group was more helpful for me as it meant I could have French conversations with other adults. We were living in Perth, Western Australia, at the time, and while there is a small Francophone community it’s not easy to just find French speakers to hang out with! By joining this group, my son heard other French speakers so had more exposure to different accents, and we both added to our repertoire of ‘comptines’. And there was an extensive ‘bibliothèque’, a library of French books that members could borrow. This was my lifesaver as the local public library had few, if any, kids books in French.
- Find a French preschool and/or a bilingual program at a primary school. This is obviously easier if you live in a capital city, and more of a challenge if you’re in regional areas. Our eldest son attended a ‘maternelle’ (French preschool) from the age of 2.5, and now both our boys go to a bilingual public school where part of the curriculum is taught in French.
For more from Cathlin and to get in contact head to her webiste or connect on LinkedIn.
Céleste Boursier-Mougenot: after the MoMA, the QAGOMA and the NGV, a new permanent installation at 101 Collins Street in Melbourne!
On the 13th of July 2023 from 4pm to 6pm, the Australian public will have the opportunity to experience the work of internationally acclaimed French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot as a permanent installation opens at 101 Collins Street, one of Melbourne’s most prestigious office towers. Meet the artist in an exclusive Screening and Q&A on July 11th at NGV International.
The installation commissioned for 101 Collins Street is part of a series of seven new artworks, aiming to enhance the cultural landscape of the building. Located in the grand foyer spaces of 101 Collins Street, which recently underwent a significant refurbishment led by Batessmart architects, Boursier-Mougenot’s artwork will be one of the most significant pieces in this project, adding a dynamic and engaging element to the newly revitalised interiors. It will feature a series of kinetic sculptures strategically placed to incorporate movement and sound, responding to the environment and the presence of viewers, creating an interactive and dynamic experience. Complementing the kinetic sculptures, video projections will be displayed on designated walls within the foyer spaces. These projections will be synchronised with the movements of the sculptures, further enhancing the immersive nature of the installation.
Céleste Boursier-Mougenot is a renowned contemporary artist who has captivated audiences worldwide with his innovative and immersive installations that blur the boundaries between art, music, and everyday objects. Born in 1961 in France, Boursier-Mougenot has consistently pushed the limits of artistic expression, creating captivating environments that engage the senses and invite viewers to experience art in unexpected ways. His ability to merge art, music, and everyday objects has made him a pioneering figure in contemporary art. Through his groundbreaking work, Boursier-Mougenot has inspired future generations of artists to explore new avenues of creativity and to appreciate the beauty and harmonies found within the ordinary.
One of his most celebrated works, “From Here to Ear,” premiered at the 2009 Venice Biennale and garnered international acclaim. In this installation, finches moved freely around the space, perching on guitars, and plucking the strings with their beaks, creating a one-of-a-kind musical composition. Boursier-Mougenot’s work has been exhibited in prestigious venues worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, the Barbican Centre in London, and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. The artist has also previously showcased innovative installations such as “From Here to Ear”, “Clinamen” and “Présences” in Australia, captivating audiences with his unique artistic vision, leaving a lasting impression in the Long Gallery in Hobart (2009), the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in Melbourne (2013), and the Queensland Art Gallery Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) in Brisbane (2010, 2016).
The permanent nature of this installation at 101 Collins Street provides an exciting opportunity for Australians to engage with Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s work and for his art to become a permanent part of Melbourne’s cultural landscape. This collaboration marks a significant addition to Melbourne’s vibrant arts scene.
Do not miss the chance to celebrate the third and final stage of the Ground Floor Evolution of the 101 Collins St and to witness the installations’ unveiling on Thursday, 13th July.
To secure a place at the exclusive Screening and Q&A with the artist on July 11 click here !
Pritzker Prize Winners Anne Lacaton
and Jean-Philippe Vassal exhibit in Sydney
The University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design, and Planning is set to host an extraordinary exhibition that delves into the transformative power of quality housing and its impact on urban environments. Renowned architects Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, recipients of the prestigious 2021 Pritzker Architecture Prize, will present their extensive research, teaching, and architectural projects in a captivating showcase entitled Lacaton & Vassal: Living in the City. Spanning from July 27 to September 23, 2023, this exhibition marks the culmination of three years of collaborative work as inaugural Rothwell co-chairs at the University of Sydney. It highlights Lacaton and Vassal’s commitment to exploring the role of architecture in creating livable and inclusive urban spaces.
The establishment of the Garry and Susan Rothwell Chair in Architectural Design Leadership, made possible through a generous gift from alumni Garry and Susan Rothwell, has provided the foundation for Lacaton and Vassal’s research and teaching at the University of Sydney. The Chair’s purpose is to explore the capacity of architecture and urbanism to enhance people’s quality of life, perfectly aligning with the focus of the exhibition.
The focus of the 2021 Rothwell Studio centered on the Sirius apartments in Sydney, as students meticulously assessed strategies employed in other notable works for their potential application within a contemporary Sydney context. Continuing the series, the second studio in July 2022 delved into the realm of social and affordable housing in present-day Sydney. Building upon the findings and discussions from the 2021 Rothwell Studio and Symposium, students undertook a comprehensive documentation of the Waterloo Housing Estate nestled in the heart of south-central Sydney. This endeavor tackled multifaceted issues encompassing social housing, Indigenous rights, colonial history, urban planning, and market interests. An enlightened approach guided their actions, ensuring that no existing buildings, trees, or elements cherished by the inhabitants were to be disturbed, adhering to an ecologically responsible ethos. Finally, in April 2023, the third and final studio unfolded in the captivating city of Paris. Here, a talented group of 20 Masters students embarked on an intellectual exploration of key architectural marvels and captivating artists’ installations in and around Paris. Their purpose was to delve deeply into critical research and meticulous documentation, all with the aim of embracing architectural and urban ambitions that resonated harmoniously with the visionary principles championed by Lacaton and Vassal.
Their exploration of contemporary urban conditions of living in the city has resulted in a wealth of knowledge and insights that will be shared with the public. Central to this transformative exhibition is the duo’s philosophy, which places a strong emphasis on close attention, transformation rather than demolition, and the provision of high-quality living spaces for everyone as a critical priority. Through architectural models, documentary films, and studio investigations, visitors will gain a profound understanding of Lacaton and Vassal’s methodology and their efforts to improve living conditions in urban areas, as the exhibition underscores their belief that access to dignified and well-designed housing is a fundamental right. Curated by Anne Lacaton, Jean-Philippe Vassal, Hannes Frykholm, and Catherine Lassen, the exhibition also features exemplary social and affordable housing designs by international and Australian architectural firms and researchers. It serves as a platform to highlight innovative approaches to housing, fostering a dialogue around collaborative efforts in creating sustainable and inclusive communities.
Lacaton & Vassal: Living in the City promises to be an inspiring and thought-provoking experience that challenges conventional notions of housing and urbanism. Don’t miss this exceptional opportunity to witness the innovative ideas and transformative projects of Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal.
To know more about Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal’s work head to their website.
Navigating “Art de la Table” with Camille Drozdz
Ep. 46 – Navigating “Art de la Table” with Camille Drozdz
In 2010, the French gastronomic meal was protected as a part of UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage – and the food was only part of the package. To discuss some of the other elements so entwined in this bastion of Frenchness is Camille Drozdz, the product designer and ceramicist behind Ici l’Atelier and a co-host of TERRE/MER terroir-based retreats in the South of France. She’s here to discuss a phrase closely linked to that oh-so-French passion for food – but rather than talk about what’s in the dishes, she’s interested in the dishes themselves.
Art de la table.
Find Camille Drozdz on Instagram and Facebook
Adelaide Illuminate Festival Set to Dazzle
with French Artists Collectif Scale and Groupe LAPS
The vibrant city of Adelaide in Australia is abuzz with anticipation as the highly anticipated Illuminate Festival approaches. This annual event celebrates the captivating world of light and art, and this year promises to be even more mesmerising with the presence of two renowned French art collectives, Collectif Scale and Groupe LAPS. From July 7 to 23rd, between 6 pm to 11pm, visitors will be enjoying their innovative and immersive installations, for free, in the City Lights events.
This annual event is dedicated to celebrating the power of light and its transformative effect on art. It brings together artists, designers, and technologists from around the world, creating a melting pot of creativity and innovation. Throughout the festival, visitors can expect to encounter a diverse range of light installations, projections, and interactive exhibits that push the boundaries of imagination. From large-scale light sculptures to immersive digital experiences, the festival promises to be an incredible journey into the world of light and art. French artists Collectif Scale and Groupe Laps are set to bring an extra touch of enchantment to the festival, captivating audiences and igniting their imaginations.
Collectif Scale, a French art collective known for its awe-inspiring light installations, is comprised of a team of talented artists, engineers, and designers. The collective seeks to redefine the boundaries of art and technology through its captivating creations. Using cutting-edge techniques and a deep understanding of light, Collectif Scale has gained international recognition for its ability to transform public spaces into breathtaking visual experiences. Their installations often incorporate innovative uses of projection mapping, augmented reality, and interactive elements, creating a symbiotic relationship between art and its audience. Their immersive art piece Ammonite has been showcased in diverse music videos and world stages and is now gracing the Queens Theatre, Playhouse Ln & Gilles Arcade.
In addition to their captivating light painting performances, Groupe LAPS brings an element of playfulness to the Adelaide Illuminate Festival with their interactive installations set on the University of Adelaide Grounds, North Terrace, Adelaide. Known for their innovative approach to combining light and motion, the French art collective introduces LAPS Games, a series of intriguing games that engage and delight festival attendees. These interactive experiences invite participants to become active players in the luminous world created by Groupe LAPS, encouraging them to explore, interact, and ultimately shape their unique visual narratives. With their gamified installations, Groupe LAPS not only captivates audiences but also invites them to become co-creators, transforming the festival into a vibrant playground of light and imagination.
Installations and performances will transport visitors to a world where light and art intertwine, offering a unique and unforgettable experience. Whether you are a lover of art and technology, or simply seeking inspiration, the Adelaide Illuminate Festival is an event not to be missed.
To find out more about the events and artworks, visit Illuminate Adelaide’s, Collectif Scale’s and Groupe LAPS’s websites !
Interview with the NGV curators behind the Pierre Bonnard exhibition
Ted Gott and Miranda Wallace
- What inspired you to curate an exhibition of Pierre Bonnard’s work, and what makes his work so unique and noteworthy?
We have been delighted to work with the Musée d’Orsay, and with Isabelle Cahn, emeritus Senior Curator of Paintings at the Musée d’Orsay, to create the largest and most comprehensive survey of Pierre Bonnard’s work ever to be staged in Australia. We wanted to bring late 19th and early 20th century France to life through displaying paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and decorative objects by Pierre Bonnard. What makes his art so unique is the way in which he worked in so many media, and embraced modernity in all its emerging forms, from the birth of cinema, to the use of photography as a creative tool, and the adoption of the motor car to take him throughout the French countryside in search of motifs to draw and paint. His multi-faceted work will be shown in this exhibition alongside early cinema by the Lumière brothers, and artworks by Maurice Denis, Félix Vallotton and Édouard Vuillard, Bonnard’s early contemporaries.
- What challenges did you face in curating this exhibition, and how did you go about selecting the pieces that will be on display?
It is always a challenge negotiating international loans for large exhibition projects such as this one. The exhibition features loans from the Musée d’Orsay, which holds the world’s largest collection of Bonnard’s work, along with significant loans from other museums and private collections in France as well as elsewhere in Europe, the UK, the USA and Australia. International lenders include Tate, London; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Art Institute of Chicago. We wanted to present a show that would capture every aspect of Bonnard’s incredible life and career; and so we had to consider which works to borrow, and from where, to create a truly immersive exhibition experience for the visitor.
Tracing the Pierre Bonnard’s emerging artistic practice in the 1890s, the exhibition starts with the artist’s paintings and prints recording Parisian street life, which contain rich and often satirical observations of what Bonnard called the ‘theatre of the everyday’. The exhibition then follows the artist’s career in the first decades of the 20th century, when his perspective shifted to a more domestic vision of the life he shared with his life-companion, Marthe Bonnard. The landscape became a primary subject for Bonnard from around 1910 onwards, influenced by his friendship with the painter Claude Monet, a near neighbour in the Normandy countryside until Monet’s death in 1926. For Bonnard, landscape painting was a hybrid genre and often included glimpses of interiors and still lifes. Bonnard’s life shifted largely to the south of France from the 1920s onwards, leading to the preponderance of highly coloured, iridescent landscapes capturing the light and life of the South. It is these last paintings for which Bonnard is most celebrated and the exhibition features iconic examples from international collections in France and the United States.
One of the biggest challenges that this exhibition faced was that it was originally scheduled for mid-2020 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been realised now due to the swift and generous agreement of many lenders – particularly our major partner the Musée d’Orsay – to recommit their loans for 2023.
- In the exhibition, you showcase a new installation by acclaimed designer India Mahdavi. How do you think Mahdavi’s work enhances the experience of viewing Bonnard’s paintings, and what do you hope visitors will take away from this unique collaboration between a designer and an artist from a different era?
India Mahdavi (b. 1962) is a French architect and designer widely celebrated for her use of colour, form and texture. Combining these foundational elements of design, she has created immersive environments in restaurants, hotels, retail interiors, art galleries and public spaces around the globe. She is truly one of the design icons of our time. Her shared passion for utilising colour, texture and form to elicit certain memories and emotions, paired with her deep appreciation of Bonnard’s practice, made her a natural and authentic choice to create the scenography for this exhibition. Bonnard’s works possess both a sense of pensive contemplation – a wistful longing, perhaps – and joy in the colour and mercurial nature of paint. His paintings radiate within the spaces they inhabit, filling rooms with ‘shimmering colour’, to quote Antoine Terrasse, Bonnard’s great-nephew. They also provoke a range of sensations in their viewers, from pure pleasure in the visual to a curious and pensive sentimentality in response to the scenes of domestic life. We hope that visitors will understand and enjoy Mahdavi’s attraction to Bonnard as an artist whose work evinces contrasting moods and feelings, and who creates complex worlds with colour and light, which reveals something of her own approach to interior design. Mahdavi describes our relationship with the spaces where we ‘live, work, learn, share, eat, play, love and dream’ as ‘both physical and emotional’.
- What was the process of incorporating Mahdavi’s design elements into the exhibition? Can you talk about any particularly interesting or challenging aspects of this collaboration?
For this exhibition, Mahdavi has encountered Bonnard’s work anew, seeking to create, in her own words, ‘an impression of his world, through my own eyes’. In a scenography that expresses the deep affinity between artist and designer, Mahdavi has shaped the galleries into interiors for Bonnard’s art, with furniture, lighting and wallpapers based on elements of her favourite paintings by Bonnard. India Mahdavi visited Melbourne in 2019, to gain a sense of the National Gallery of Victoria’s exhibition spaces. This was essential for her to be able to marry her vision of a Bonnard-inspired design with the installation of the Bonnard project here at the NGV. Located in the rue Las Cases in Paris’s 7th arrondissement, India’s studio is a mere 400 metres from the Musée d’Orsay, which houses one of the largest collections of Post-impressionist masterpieces and, fortuitously, the largest single collection of Pierre Bonnard’s paintings in any museum in the world. Designing interiors allows Mahdavi to create new worlds, inspired both by the characteristics of the site or setting at hand and also by unconscious memories of colours, textures and shapes. Affinities in their approach to colour and texture, as well as a shared interest in the domestic realm, make this exhibition the perfect opportunity for Mahdavi to meet Bonnard in the twenty-first-century museum.
- What do you hope visitors will take away from the exhibition, and what impact do you think it will have on the wider art community?
Pierre Bonnard is not yet a household name in Australia. It is our fervent belief that this spectacular exhibition is going to change that, making Bonnard a permanent presence in the collective consciousness of Australian art lovers. A member of the artistic movement the Nabis, Bonnard, along with his fellow artists, worked across a wide range of media, embracing painting, book illustration, posters, ceramics and theatre decor. This is what we think will excite the wider art community, many of whom already work across a similar range of media in their daily practice. We also hope that all visitors to the exhibition will spend time with Bonnard’s later paintings, which are incredibly complex in their structure and multiple narratives. These are works that really reward ‘slow looking’, in a world where we are bombarded with instantaneous visual materials from all sides in age of the internet, mobile phones and electronic advertising in our streets.
- How do you think Bonnard’s work has influenced contemporary art, and what relevance does it have to today’s society?
Pierre Bonnard is one of the most beloved painters of the twentieth century, celebrated for his ability to use colour to convey deep emotion. Bonnard was declared by his close friend Henri Matisse as ‘a great painter, for today and definitely also for the future’. Bonnard as a painter has had an enormous impact on the development of contemporary art, his works having been revered by artists for decades since his death in 1947. As a young man, when he was part of the group of artists who called themselves the Nabis (the prophets), Bonnard sought to be ground-breaking and transformative in his approach to art. The Nabi artists considered themselves the prophets of a new design-based art that would encompass every sphere of modern life – interior design, furniture, fans and textiles, stained glass, and commercial illustration and advertising. The Nabis were also committed to treating the surfaces of their paintings as a site for exploration of flat colour and linear design above all, before narrative concerns. This emphasis on the primacy of design, design for living even, makes Bonnard extraordinarily relevant for contemporary art’s current intersection with the worlds of architecture and design.
- As an exhibition curator, what role do you think cultural exchanges, such as the showcasing of a French artist’s work in an Australian museum, play in fostering positive relationships between countries and promoting cross-cultural understanding?
As curators, we are always thrilled when we are able to bring highlights of another society’s culture to Australia. Cultural relations between Australia and France have been strong ever since Napoléon sent Nicolas Baudin to explore Victoria in 1800 (when he named our state Terre Napoléon), and he brought Australian flora and fauna back to Joséphine at Malmaison. In 1889 Melbourne’s opera singer Nellie Melba was the toast of Paris, settling into a new apartment on the Champs Élysées; while in 1891 the most famous actress in the world, Sarah Bernhardt, wowed audiences at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre with her performance in La Dame aux camélias. Within months of the Lumère brothers unveiling their new film invention, the Cinématographe Lumière in Paris, their crews were operating in Australia, famously recording the Melbourne Cup in November 1896. The influence of French food and viniculture in Australia has been profound; and, our two countries have been united together in defence of France in both the world wars of the twentieth century. Cultural exchanges like the NGV’s Bonnard exhibition serve to remind us of the close bonds that connect our two countries, promoting continued understanding of the many ties that bind us together.
- Can you talk about any particularly interesting or surprising aspects of Bonnard’s life or artistic career that visitors might not be aware of?
There are many surprises for visitors in this exhibition. One of these is the presence of films by the brothers Auguste et Louis Lumière, who pioneered cinema in France. Bonnard was introduced to them by his brother-in-law Claude Terrasse, and their early films influenced Bonnard’s art in the late 1890s. Another surprise will be Bonnard’s involvement with both music and experimental theatre at this time. In 1890 Bonnard’s sister Andrée had married Claude Terrasse, a composer and music teacher, and Bonnard subsequently collaborated with his brother-in-law on illustrating the latter’s musical primer for children, as well as Terrasse’s musical scores. In 1891 Bonnard moved into a studio at 28 rue Pigalle in the ninth arrondissement, which he shared with Maurice Denis, Vuillard and the young actor Aurélien Lugné-Poe. Through Lugné-Poe’s connections, he now became involved in the contemporary experimental theatre scene in Paris. Lugné-Poe’s friend Paul Fort founded the Théâtre d’Art in 1890, which he conceived in opposition to the prevailing taste for naturalistic representation in French theatre. Bonnard was to design stage sets and playbills for Fort’s Théâtre d’Art productions; and, later, worked for Lugné-Poe’s own theatrical company, the Théâtre de l’Oeuvre. In 1896 he worked with Terrasse and Lugné-Poe on the staging of Alfred Jarry’s controversial play Ubu Roi (King Ubu). Bonnard also worked on the Théâtre des Pantins (Puppet Theatre) that he, Terrasse, Jarry, and the poet Franc-Nohain established in 1897 in the garden of Terrasse’s residence near Montmartre. Bonnard made some 300 puppets for the Pantins productions, as well as illustrating the sheet music for songs by Franc-Nohain that were scored by Terrasse. So, Bonnard, cinema and puppets, who knew?
- What is your favourite piece in the exhibition, and why?
This is always a difficult question to answer, as one’s favourite work can change daily sometimes! But a true favourite remains Bonnard’s great painting, first exhibited at the Salon de la Société des artistes indépendants in Paris in 1892, Twilight, or The croquet game (Crépuscule, ou La Partie de croquet) 1892, which is being loaned by the Musée d’Orsay. This is a spectacular depiction of summertime play at the Bonnard family estate at Grand-Lemps, near Grenoble, where Bonnard’s sister Andrée and brother-in-law Claude Terrasse are shown playing croquet with another couple, while young women dance on the grass in the background. Reflecting the Nabis’ commitment to treating the surface of a painting as a site for exploration of flat colour and linear design, Bonnard here intermingles the dense patterns of fabrics and foliage into a single surface of interlocked silhouettes. This work is enormous in scale, and is a highlight of the exhibition’s opening gallery.
- Can you discuss any upcoming projects or exhibitions at the National Gallery Victoria that may also feature any art pieces from France or the francophone area ?
The NGV has had some amazing new acquisitions that will be of great interest to francophones everywhere.
Sandra Bardas OAM and David Bardas AC recently donated a magnificent cast of Auguste Rodin’s Walking man (L’Homme qui marche, moyen modèle) (conceived 1899–1900, cast 1964). Working at the same time as Impressionist painters who were changing perceptions of art, Rodin challenged the conventional notions of sculpture. One of his most significant contributions was to present the incomplete human form; naked figures often headless, missing limbs and lacking the usual refinement. This concept of legitimising non finito works redefined artistic practice in Europe. Rodin’s most recognised and admired work in this reductionist mode is his Walking man, that he adapted from his earlier sculpture John the Baptist.
Through the generosity of Krystyna Campbell-Pretty AM and Family, the gallery has received the gift of five new French paintings, of extraordinary quality and interest.
Marie Victoire Lemoine’s A young woman leaning on the edge of a window (Une jeune femme appuyée sur une croisée) 1799 is a life-size portrait by one of the most prominent women artists working during the French revolutionary and Directorate periods. The painting shows a young woman standing before a windowsill, upon which is propped a largish book; she toys with its pages with the fingers of her left hand, gazing languidly out at the viewer. When exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1799, this portrait could not have looked more up to date, given the new fashion under the Directoire for all things à la Grecque.
Two new paintings by Louis Léopold Boilly also expand our holdings of French paintings from this period. An artist whose career spanned many genres and also extraordinary political and social times, Louis Léopold Boilly lived and worked through the Ancien Régime, the French Revolution, the Directorate, the Napoleonic Empire, the restoration and the July Monarchy. His The lacemaker (La Dentellière) c. 1789-93 is a fine example of the small genre pictures that Boilly produced in these years, in which he updated the seventeenth-century Dutch genre picture for a late-eighteenth-century French audience. His The two sisters (Les Deux Soeurs) c. 1800 is one of Boilly’s depictions of everyday life, known as genre painting, that focused in particular on representing family. In this painting, the delicate and almost porcelain-like touch of Boilly’s hand as a painter emphasises the tenderness of the protective gesture of an older sister towards her younger sibling.
Louise Abbéma’s Portrait of Renée Delmas de Pont-Jest 1875 is a ravishing painting by this accomplished French painter, sculptor, and designer of the Belle Époque. The sitter here is Marie-Louise-Renée née Delmas de Pont-Jest (1858–1902), an actress and sculptor, who was also one of Abbéma’s closest friends. Seated at a desk, she holds a letter written on a sheet of black-bordered mourning stationary, and seems to be penning a condolence note in response. The sitter was later to marry the acclaimed actor Lucien Guitry, and was the mother of the film director Sasha Guitry.
Finally, the NGv’s twentieth century collections have been immensely augmented by Suzanne Valadon’s Nude with drapery (Nu à la draperie) 1921. Suzanne Valadon was a completely self-trained artist. She had worked, however as a model from the age of fifteen in the vibrant art world of Paris in the late nineteenth century. Artists who she posed for included Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Jean-Jacques Henner, Théophile Steinlen, and avant-garde painters Berthe Morisot, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir among others. She became very close to Edgar Degas and they remained life-long friends. Possessing natural talent and a wonderful eye, she learnt much from observing the artists for whom she modelled. She painted still lifes and landscapes, but her specialty was painting the naked female form.
Ted Gott, Senior Curator of International Art, National Gallery of Victoria
Miranda Wallace, Senior Curator, International Exhibition Projects, National Gallery of Victoria
An Homage to Belle du Berry
Paris Combo, the celebrated French musical group, is making a highly-anticipated return to Australia with exclusive performances on the nights of the 9th, 10th and 11th of June for the 23rd edition of the biggest cabaret festival in the world: The Adelaide Cabaret Festival.
Every year, this celebration of cabaret brings together world-class performers and artists from around the globe to showcase their talents and captivate audiences, making it one of the major events in both the Australian and International arts calendar. In 2023, the festival will be returning with a program that promises to be more spectacular than ever before. From June 2nd to June 24th, Adelaide will be alive with the sounds of cabaret as an impressive lineup of artists – including Paris Combo – take to the stage at the Adelaide Festival Centre.
As always, the festival will feature a diverse range of performances, from classic cabaret and musical theatre to contemporary performance art, with something to suit every taste. In addition to the headline acts, the festival will also feature a range of free events, masterclasses, and workshops, giving audiences the chance to get up close and personal with some of the world’s leading cabaret performers and creatives.
Paris Combo is a French musical group formed in 1995 following Australian musician David Lewis and French artist Belle du Berry’s collaboration in the musical revue Cabaret Sauvage in 1994. The group is known for its unique blend of musical styles, which includes swinging gypsy jazz, cabaret, French pop, and world rhythms. Their music is characterised by its infectious energy, catchy melodies, and sophisticated arrangements, which have won over audiences and critics around the world. Belle du Berry, the group’s lead vocalist and lyricist, who sadly passed away in 2020, was known for her captivating stage presence, and distinctive voice. She was a key creative force behind many of Paris Combo’s most beloved songs and was widely regarded as one of the most talented performers of her generation.
On the nights of the 9th, 10th and 11th of June, Paris Combo will perform as a special 10-piece ensemble and will be joined onstage by guest vocalists Carmen Maria Vega, Billie, Aurore Voilqué, and Mano Razanajato. The concert will be a vibrant tribute to Belle du Berry, featuring beloved songs that have made the group an international favourite, as well as selections from their final studio album with Belle, titled Quesaco?. This unique celebration is sure to be a memorable experience for fans of Paris Combo in Adelaide, and throughout Australia.
Whether you are a seasoned cabaret fan or a newcomer to the world of performance art, the Adelaide Cabaret Festival is an event not to be missed. Join the crowds who will gather to celebrate Belle du Berry’s legacy and the incredible performances of Paris Combo!
Get your tickets here: https://cabaret.adelaidefestivalcentre.com.au/whats-on/paris-combo?dateId=09-06-2023&performanceId=EDUN2023769PC