At the beginning of the Seventies, Jean-Louis Froment created the CAPC, one of the first art centers in France. It now has become the contemporary art museum of Bordeaux.
The CAPC (Centre of Contemporary Visual Arts) was created in 1973 by Jean-Louis Froment and installed in 1974 in the Entrepôt Lainé, an old warehouse for colonial foodstuffs, which would undergo renovation in the ensuing years. A mobile educational unit called the Artbus saw the light of day in 1975. Early exhibitions included ''Regarder Ailleurs'' (1973) where Claude Viallat rubbed shoulders with Gina Pane, Andy Warhol, Jim Dine and ''Pour mémoires'' (1975), with Christian Boltanski.
In 1984, this young art centre, which quickly became noticed by the international scene, became the Musée d’art contemporain de la Ville de Bordeaux. Apart from the Centre Georges Pompidou, few places in France were then dedicated to contemporary art. The early collection drew on permanent loans, gifts and the acquisition of works on view in the exhibitions. Several work phases, undertaken by the architects Denis Valode, Jean Pistre and the interior designer Andrée Putman, culminated in 1990 with the latest developments. Up until the early 1990s, the CAPC put on themed shows, presenting major contemporary art movements, in Bordeaux, along with solo shows of artists associated with these avant-gardes: Antiform, arte povera, Conceptual Art, Minimal Art, and Land Art. In the face of these theoretical tendencies, the new generation of painters was well represented in the programme: Anselm Kiefer, Jean-Charles Blais with “his whole studio”, Combas, Boisrond, Di Rosa coming in his wake, Enzo Cucchi, Miquel Barceló, José María Sicilia and Keith Haring who covered the entire CAPC with graffiti.
In 1990, when the CAPC opened its doors once again Richard Serra’s overwhelming Threats of Hell were installed in the nave. From the collection came major selections: Christian Boltanski, Daniel Buren, Gilbert & George, Jannis Kounellis, Sol LeWitt, Richard Long, Mario Merz. A year later, Daniel Buren magnified the architecture of the Entrepôt with a spectacular installation of mirrors : Arguments topiques. In the nave, once again, Harald Szeemann presented eight artists in GAS, Grandiose Ambitieux Silencieux (1993).
The period from 1990 to 2000 saw the emergence of a new generation of artists along with a new generation of exhibition curators, and critics, whose relation to images and their circulation, and to the media, had radically altered. Mike Kelley was invited to the CAPC for his first retrospective in France (1992).
Relational aesthetics became the decade’s major keyword. Its challenges were to be seen in the systems and arrangements of the group show Traffic, curated by Nicolas Bourriaud in 1996. In that same year Jean-Louis Froment resigned as CAPC director. His place was taken by Henry-Claude Cousseau, who was also appointed director of Bordeaux’s museums. His second-in-command at the head of the CAPC was Marie-Laure Bernadac. In 1998, Cities on the Move, brainchild of Hou Hanru and Hans-Ulrich Obrist and jointly produced with the centre d’architecture arc-en-rêve, revealed the emergence of Asian artists on the world scene.
During the first half of the 2000s, in addition to solo shows of Louise Bourgeois, Sarkis, Anish Kapoor and Cindy Sherman, the CAPC invited people to reflect on social themes. In 2001, for the exhibition Présumés innocents, l’art contemporain et l’enfance, several generations of artists put forward their viewpoints on the universal theme of childhood. Shortly thereafter Henry-Claude Cousseau stepped down as museum director, and was replaced by Maurice Fréchuret. In 2002, he revisited the roots of contemporary art and the CAPC’s origins with the exhibition Les années 70, l’art en cause. In 2004, food, as a biological reflex and/or cultural act, was the common issue in the works of some 40 artists exhibiting in Hors d’oeuvre: ordre et désordres de la nourriture.
From 2006 on,Charlotte Laubard took over as CAPC director, when Maurice Fréchuret left. Her plan is to re-position the CAPC in a new international deal and in an expanded cultural context, broadened to encompass music, architecture, film and literature, not forgetting the mass media and popular culture. If everybody had an Ocean:Brian Wilson, une exposition (2007) ushered in a series of shows inspired by the musical world of the Pop years. Less is Less, More is More, that’s all questioned the acultural object, responding to the first retrospective exhibition of Présence Panchounette (2008). IAO, Explorations psychédéliques en France, 1968 - ∞ (2009), which also included a music festival, revisited the protest years. Insiders, pratiques, usages, savoir-faire, a new joint venture between the CAPC and arc-en-rêve centre d’architecture, dealt with the notion of contemporary folklore.The heightened attention being paid to new artists came across in the exhibitions Drapeaux gris, Des Mondes perdus, solo shows devoted to Diego Perrone, David Majkovioc, and carte blanche offered to artists: ''A Constructed World'' in 2008 and 2009, Pierre Leguillon for La Promesse de l’écran in 2009. The local scene is being highlighted with the show Buy Sellf, Retour vers le futur (2010) and a specific programme 44°50’54N/0°34’19W passing the baton, as it were, to young Bordeaux-based artists. Graphic design has also found its way into the museum with the project Off Set, which presents its current state of play. Research around the CAPC collection is carrying on with a new series of documentary exhibitions and theme-based presentations of the permanent collection.
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