Michel-Édouard Leclerc: "There will be a lot of noise in Landerneau"


Nicolas Mathéus

The Leclerc Culture Fund opens on June 24 at the Capucins de Landerneau with an exhibition by Gérard Fromanger. An appointment of artists who will make noise in this former historic convent. An interview West Side ...

Sixty years ago, in Landerneau, the buildings of the Capuchins welcomed the adventure of the large retailers; Tell us about this place.

Michel-Édouard Leclerc: My parents, Édouard and Hélène Leclerc, acquired it in the early 1960s. It is a former 17th century convent that has been destroyed and mistreated since the Revolution. The chapel had been concreted, turned into a saltpetre factory, then bleach. As such, it served as a warehouse at the first supermarket opened in 1962. We have a historical attachment. We had promised to rehabilitate the place, it's done.

The chapel is superb, 17 meters high, with a hull structure returned. There is a convent, a very rustic cloister, a large mineral area and the old store, showing a beautiful Logonna stone near a golden granite, has become the exhibition hall.

A gigantic exhibition hall with 1,244 square meters of museum space!

Michel-Édouard Leclerc: Yes and this is the interest, there are very few places of this size in the West that can host exhibitions. Our regional museums are quite small, it was a real opportunity. But beware, no confusion, it is not a museum, there will be no permanent collections, but cycles of exhibitions two to three times a year to discover the emblematic actors of contemporary art.

People associate E. Leclerc with cultural life, but what about contemporary art?

Michel-Édouard Leclerc: In our economic history, we have become distributors of cultural products with 200 culture spaces. Through this network, we are the second largest bookseller in France and the third record store with 16% of the record market! We are also one of the five major sponsors of cultural life with amazing travelers to Saint-Malo, the crazy days of Nantes, the old plows where we are leaders of the young talent scene. Each Leclerc store is present, it is an investment both commercial and sponsorship.

At the start of the adventure of the Capuchins, there is a cultural intention, but there is also a finding: in magazines, we talk about sales, odds, Sotheby's, prices of paintings ... This commercial speech is very discriminating, it prevents access to a certain form of culture, especially to contemporary art, and many people end up saying: it is not for us. In megacities, you can have everything, but in the province art does not speak to the contemporary. We have a didactic role, a mediator role.

We are lucky to have a very popular name (note, Leclerc is the favorite brand of the French with Yves Rocher); let's put this notoriety at the service of culture. And this is the third part of our action: pure patronage by supporting artists.

In concrete terms, how will this Fund work?

Michel-Édouard Leclerc:No subsidies are requested from the state. Industrialists, bankers, artist friends, my mother, Hélène, who is 84 years old, art lovers, museum directors, all the entrepreneurs of the E. Leclerc network share this adventure with us. They are constituted in an endowment fund (Lagarde law) whose object is not to collect, is not to buy, but to be able to mount exhibitions. We do mediation, service to the public.

The first exhibition is devoted to Gérard Fromanger, one of the major protagonists of the narrative Figuration. Why this choice ?

Michel-Édouard Leclerc: My mother, Hélène Leclerc, Patrick Jourdan, who heads the Fonds (editor's note: he is the former director of the Musée de Morlaix), the artistic committee and I are biased. We would like to destine this place mainly to the representatives of what we call in painting "the Figurations". Because it is an art accessible to a large public and also because the field of investigation is immense: young painting of the years 40, Critical Figuration in the Fifties, New figuration, painters of the "daily mythologies", Figuration narrative, Pop art, free figuration, punk art to comics.

Gérard Fromanger has graphic and political biases that make him the ideal candidate for a first exhibition. This is a great narrative Figuration, with Arroyo. I met him thanks to Serge July de Libération who wrote a nice book about him at the Cercle d'Art. It was not easy to tame! It is an old leftist who claims the workshop of the Fine Arts of May 68; then, in the cliché, I represented big capital.

I met him at the Bastille in his studio, rue de la Roquette, and then I took him down to our western lands, he was thrilled by the place and the retrospective proposal! He knows he is very well received, we present more than 110 paintings from the biggest museums in Europe. Monsieur Pacquement, the director of the National Museum of Modern Art at the Pompidou Center, gives us five paintings, Jean-Jacques Aillagon, Gérard Depardieu and Amin Karvitz entrust us with their personal paintings. It's finally a flagship show! Fromanger brings his sponsorship and credit to the Capuchins.

How is the exhibition hosted by the art community?

Michel-Édouard Leclerc: All that was needed was an article in Le Quotidien de l'Art to pack Europe's collectors and big foundations. We started from the idea that we were going to have fun, and today we are spoiled for choice. From Switzerland, from Germany, from the United States, we are being asked! What is funny is this form of naiveté that characterizes us, it is a breath of fresh air in the landscape of art. The team around me does not claim any expertise, no artistic bias, except to democratize art. Moreover, we have a pricing policy between 2 and 4 euros and we will also invest in activities with schools.

And on the spot?

Michel-Édouard Leclerc:Local journalists already want to say everything, the reception of the public is great, all the elected officials of Brest want to come to the inauguration, there is a real craze. Especially since our project is not in competition with anyone. The city considers it a bargain! It remakes the road so as to enhance the artistic path.

The goal is reached ?

Michel-Édouard Leclerc:The aim is first to bring artists from all over the world to Landerneau and then, once the artistic legitimacy of the Capuchins has been acquired, to co-produce cultural events from Landerneau. In fact, the Fromanger exhibition lists the Capuchins in the national institutional network since it will be presented at the Sens Museum in the summer of 2013. We are also working with the small town of Nizon near Pont-Aven. the subject of the Hang'Art. In the 70s and 80s, all the inhabitants began to paint in the manner of Andy Warhol.

As the song says, you often come back to Brittany ...

Michel-Édouard Leclerc:I manage the Édouard Leclerc Centers from Paris, but I come back regularly to my Finistère. The Capuchins are a good excuse for me because I go back there every fortnight, I reinvest myself on Brittany!

You were born in Landerneau ...

Michel-Édouard Leclerc:I am windy coast, these landscapes punctuated by the big blocks of granite, from Kerlouan to Brignogan. All my childhood is in the three abers, aber Wrac'h, aber Benedict, aber Ildut. This is my Brittany (he shows on his iPad a photo whose flawless framing removes the ruggedness of the landscape), I too do my West Side! West side, he is at my parents' home and he is at home. In Brittany, today, families are reinvesting themselves and not only in the maintenance of heritage. There is a desire to renew decorative codes, many young couples take over houses, we see them in sales of paintings, in galleries ...

And soon to the Capuchins?

Michel-Édouard Leclerc:I hope ! We are so lucky in Brittany to have all the forms of good weather! In summer, there are beautiful days to make an exhibition ... Beside us, the festival of the abbey of Daoulas works very well.

Seagulls, customs trails, beaches at low tide ... photos of Brittany scroll on your iPad ...

Michel-Édouard Leclerc:I am a hiker, I like to trudge along the customs paths of Cape Sizun ... I do not frequent my supposed world, I do not live in the political world, my friends are savages, provincials, writers, writers of BD, it's with them that I'm going to walk.

And what are they in your office?

Michel-Édouard Leclerc:Before, I had a very business office and when I spoke culture, we had to deal with the old clichés of the entrepreneur who speaks arts, whereas I am a literary, a philosopher, my father did theology and my mother is a painter. Here, I reversed the codes, I put my mess to me! The model of a corsair brig which dates from the eighteenth, the original poster of the Cuban revolt, a picture of my father in front of his first store, the painting of a young Franco-American graffiti artist ...

I'm passionate about graphic arts, comics, it's been 17 years since we sponsored the Angoulême festival. In all disciplines, sculpture, photography, installation, I already think of all these artists that will welcome Capuchin, there will be a lot of noise in Landerneau!