A Visit without Médecin

Pierre Le Pillouër
Pierre Le Pillouër
Pierre Le Pillouër
Theoretical background: 
Whether Jacques Médecin’s words were an “unfortunate” slip or whether they were politically motivated, we resolutely condemn them once and for all.

We do not feel obligated to renounce the city of Nice and all of its artistic, scientific, intellectual, and cultural activities. When it comes to public spaces, we think they should belong to everyone!

We refuse to confound the shameful declarations made by the Mayor and the Museum of Modern Art with the beliefs held by its administrative staff.

Which is why the artists of Nice and the surrounding region invite you to the Museum of Modern Art on Friday, June 22, 1990, at 5:00 pm, for a visit without Médecin*.

* Translator’s note: In the French title, there is a play on the mayor’s name, which means “doctor” and the usual phrase “visite avec médecin” for “doctor’s visit.”
Excerpt from André Giordan and Alain Biancheri, “L’École de Nice et les maires de Nice ! (4) L’enfantement du MAMAC,” in ART Côte d'Azur, February 9, 2011:

A retrospective of Arman’s work of was planned for the inauguration of the Museum of Modern Art. It so happens that Jacques Médecin, harshly accused of political corruption, flirts with the [extreme right-wing] Front national. When he “pretentiously” receives leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in the city hall, three city counsel members immediately resign. In a televised interview, the mayor gives a quick and unfortunate quote, for which he later officially apologizes: “It’s the Jews [of the council] who are leaving…” A fierce national controversy gets under way over the perceived anti-Semitism of his words. Arman, the most well-known of the artists from Nice, cancels his Retrospective in his own city and for the inauguration of a museum built for him and his colleagues from Nice…scandalous!

“After the royal reception give to Jean-Marie Le Pen and the former SS officer Franz Shoenhuber, and the rather anti-Semitic declarations given by Mr. Médecin, I can’t stomach the inauguration of this exhibit, shaking hands and smiling with the mayor of Nice.”

Arman, declaration on May 8, 1990, to the Agence France-Presse.

Jack Lang, again Minister of Culture (and public works), sends Arman a telegram of congratulations: “While Mr. Jacques Médecin does it again, sharing 99.9% of the views of the Front national, Jack Lang hopes that other artists will choose to follow Arman’s example.”

Jack Lang, published in Libération, April 15, 1990.

There is general condemnation of the mayor’s words among the artists of the School of Nice. However, their responses are varied, ranging from an emphasis on the importance of such an event for the art world to a cautious approach to the antiracism cause symbolized by Arman’s action. Angered, Jack Lang indicates that the State will not lend out any works from the national museums and refuses to attend the inauguration. Art takes second place, and the city is faced with the battle of “Jack vs. Jacques,” the title given by the international press that nevertheless gives a great deal of publicity to the museum and the art activity of Nice. Against a background of conservatives vs. liberals, Jack Lang sees himself as the leader of antiracism while “Jacquoù de Nissa” [in the original dialect of Nice] likes to think he is the champion of decentralization.

The inauguration still takes place on the scheduled date [June 21, 1990, NDLR], in front of a sizeable crowd, mobilized by the powerful Association des amis du Maire (‘Association of Friends of the Mayor’)! The same association that was very hesitant to build such a museum, but to support their “idol,” suddenly takes up the cause for Contemporary Art. What won’t cause a love of art!

Many of the artists of Nice boycott the ceremony, while others call in sick. The only ones present are Sosno, Fahri, Mas Cartier, Jean Mas, and Ben. Ben carries a sign that reads: “I am against racism and the diktat from Paris.” The next day, a large group of artists gathered by the group Fluxus-Nice holds a counter-inauguration [Une visite sans Médecin (‘A Visit without Médecin’), organized by Pierre Le Pillouër, NDLR]. Jean Mas later organizes an inauguration performance and petition on June 29.

“This dark history of the Museum of Nice has four advantages: it gives publicity to Arman, to Médecin, and to the Museum, and it sells newspapers…So everything is for the best in this best of all sordid worlds.”

, July-August, 1990.

Serge III and Jean Mas reprise this controversial issue with a grand “artistic gesture” in the pure tradition of the School of Nice. Along with José Ferrandi, they go into the bed of the Paillon River to explore and paint beneath the MAMAC: “We’re under the art,”

Jean Mas and Serge III, November 7, 1991.