Caroline Bissière, director of the Meymac contemporary arts centre
Unlike a museum, the goal of which is to preserve items, the goal of an art centre is to promote and present contemporary creations, which is different. It could be said that the cultural scene has had an extraordinary evolution in France since the start of the 1980s, which is the period when the centre was established (the first exhibition was in 1979). During this era in France, there were several contemporary art museums: in Saint-Etienne, Bordeaux and, of course, various institutions in Paris. However, if you were a resident of Corrèze, there was no way to see modern pieces.
It turned out that in Meymac, this building, which we have been using for almost 40 years now, was escheated. After having been an abbey and a school, among other things, it became a holiday camp for the town of Dieppe. These were the reasons that piqued our interest in this area and drove us to try to set up a contemporary arts centre here.
The centre’s programme is typically organised in three cycles that cover the entire year. In general, these include a themed exhibition that takes place at least once a year, a monographic exhibition and a cycle to support modern creations by artists from art schools. These three cycles are rounded off outside the centre’s walls by the Advent calendar that illuminates the façade in December and that you can participate in on the basis of a subscription.
I would say that the difference between the Meymac art centre and most other organisations is that instead of presenting the artist, we present another view of what is currently happening in today’s society. Based on this, we try to bring out, just as you would pull a thread from a ball of string, a topic that we think illustrates, summarises and expresses exactly that which is significant today.
An art centre has a public service responsibility. Therefore, it cannot be said that we choose artists who we personally deem to be major, essential, unmissable or who we like. I would say that, like someone who manages a theatre or an auditorium, we are obliged to think about who we are addressing and to try to have an approach that is as “honest” and realistic as possible on the subject that we present.
The public is the heart and focus of our concerns. The objective of this kind of art centre, as I understand it, is to open the eyes and develop the curiosity of every person who walks into our exhibition rooms. If you like, the aim is not just for the visitor to agree and suddenly be enthralled by or fall in love with it. Of course, this is what we hope for, but it isn’t our primary goal. The goal is to cure the apprehension that the public still has today when coming in. The first step is to walk through the door.