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France appoints first indigenous director of the best museum - Art and Culture

Sunday 14 June 2020, by siawi3


France appoints first indigenous director of the best museum – Art & Culture

May 28, 2020

Emmanuel Kasarherou made history on Wednesday as the first native to have directed a large French national museum when he was appointed director of the musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris.

A Kanak from New Caledonia in the Pacific, the expert on Oceanic cultures – whose treasures constitute an important part of the collection of indigenous art of the museum of Africa, Asia and the Americas – is a former chief of the magnificent Jean-designed by Renzo Piano. – Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center in Noumea, capital of New Caledonia.

Kasarherou, 60, who co-organized two major exhibitions at Quai Branly including “Kanak: Art is a Word” – has been the museum’s deputy director since 2014.

He was the founding director of the highly regarded museum which opened in 1998 in his country and was named after a Kanak chief killed in 1989.

With the restitution of looted artistic and cultural treasures that are now a political hot potato for many major ethnographic collections, Kasarherou could find himself forced to navigate a minefield.

Read also: French “small museums” seek to shine as the lock eases

Colonial hangover

He said he was committed to a “dialogue between cultures” and would continue to cooperate with African countries, some of which are demanding the return of artifacts taken during the colonial era.

Although a success with the public, the Quai Branly museum was extremely controversial when it opened its doors 14 years ago both for its architecture and for the way it exhibited indigenous art, some critics calling him “colonialist” and “regressive” for the way he seemed to fetishize the natives by exhibiting them in curiosity-style cabinets.

Initially called the Museum of First Arts (or primitive art), the name was changed before it opened in 2006 to its address on the banks of the Seine in order to calm sensitivities.

Former French President Jacques Chirac, himself an avid collector of native art, demolished the project by merging two previous collections, despite fierce rearguard action by some academics.

But Chirac said it was time to give non-Western art its place in the canon.

Having made sure that he would be generously funded, his name was then added to his title.

French Minister for the Overseas Territories of the country, Annick Girardin, was among the first to welcome the appointment of Kasarherou, tweeting: “This is a first. No other Kanak has ever run a large museum in mainland France. Well done, well deserved for such a prestigious position. “

He replaces Stéphane Martin, the founding director of Quai Branly who left his post last year to join the French national audit office.