The cultural and artistic heritage of a nation is surely its most precious asset, but it can be a fragile gift. The dust of years and centuries accumulates quickly and can weigh heavily upon the most glorious monuments to human thought and endeavour, all but obscuring their timeless beauty to modern eyes. Locked perforce into a collision course with an ever-increasingly voracious culture of instant gratification, with its dizzying array of new and quickly disposable gadgets, gizmos, footballers and boybands, time-honoured culture runs the constant risk of becoming irrelevant and inaccessible, especially among the young. When you add to the mix the continued global financial uncertainties and the scarcity of public funds for anything but the most basic social necessities and the war on terror, the outlook for the preservation of past culture looks bleak.
Enter Bruno Monnier, passionate devotee of art history and superb managerial expert. In 1986, he joined the French Ministry of Culture in charge of “Patrimoine 2000”, with the challenging brief to modernize the management structure of a number of historic monuments and museums throughout France, with a special mandate to reorganize the running of the Château of Versailles. Two years later, in response to widespread exigencies faced by public sector cultural management throughout France, he quit the Ministry and co-founded, with Olivier Pounit-Gibert, the organization Culturespaces. Inspired by the United Kingdom’s National Trust, and with the support of GDF SUEZ, Mr Monnier’s vision was to preserve, restore, and make accessible the rich cultural heritage of France – its monuments, museums, historical buildings, gardens, art collections – primarily by modernizing the management of these sites entrusted to Culturespaces by local authorities and public ownership.
Since its official founding in 1990, Culturespaces has developed into a completely modern and professional organisation for managing and promoting the French cultural heritage, and has been entrusted with some of France’s, and the world’s, most priceless heritage sites, among them the Roman amphitheatre at Orange and the arena at Nîmes. Its dynamic and innovative model for cultural-economic cooperation has reaped rich dividends; over the years Culturespaces has been able to contribute annually 1.5 € million to the ownership of the sites it manages for their further preservation and development, without the need of funding from any outside source; this is in addition to the obvious benefits to local tourism and the creation of employment in the area. Culturespaces manages the entire production of each attraction or exhibition in close collaboration with the site owner and often in partnership with some of the world’s most prestigious museums, from the programming, sponsorship, transport and insurance, to customer relations and bookings, catalogues, and other activities.
Receiving around 2 million visitors per year at its various sites, Culturespaces remains committed to high standards of excellence in every aspect of cultural presentation. With many of its attractions open to the public 365 days per year, Culturespaces offers a warm welcome, user-friendly access, and state-of-the-art modern media presentations, with free audioguides in eight different languages, as well as 3D films, multimedia slide projections, iPhone and iPad applications, latest generation Internet material, and of course the ubiquitous social networking media – one of Culturespaces’ main objectives is to make art and culture more accessible and more enjoyable for the youngsters. Around a half million children per year visit their sites, taking advantage of reduced family or school group rates, and find themselves in the midst of colourful, instructive, and above all entertaining exhibitions which bring art and history vividly to life. In 2009 the Culturespaces Foundation was established to promote this aim even further, with special emphasis on bringing art to disadvantaged children.
In its 22 years Culturespaces has organized many temporary exhibitions of international reputation in Paris and elsewhere in France, and has also created its own world-wide panel of internationally-renowned experts in art and monument restoration and conservation, ensuring the most advanced levels of scientific technique are brought to bear on the monuments and artworks it presents. Among the other principal sites managed by Culturespaces are the Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris, the Ephrussi de Rothschild and Kerylos Villas on the Côte d’Azur, the Château des Baux and the Carrière des Lumières in Provence, the National Museums of the Automobile and the Train in Alsace, and in Belgium although a landmark in French history, the Battlefield of Waterloo.
153 Blvd Haussmann