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Eric Mézil on the Collection Lambert / Avignon

On July 11th the Collection Lambert opens its new exhibition space in Avignon. Flash Art sits down with Director Eric Mézil to learn about the institution’s future programing.

What has changed at the Collection Lambert?

The size of the exhibition space is going to more than double, and over two thousand square meters will be added to the current facilities, for temporary exhibitions and permanent display. Many sectors that we have been developing over the last fifteen years — such as public and pedagogical programs — will have a proper setting. We are building an amphitheater and developing spaces devoted to the conservation of artworks. Cyrille and Laurent Berger, the two architects who were chosen to work on the Hôtel de Montfaucon, the second building, helped us structure the new spaces. The basement will be restructured too, with three exhibition rooms and a screening room. The display of the collection will change on a yearly basis, and we will host three exhibitions a year, which will encompass solo projects, thematic projects and conversations between ancient art and contemporary productions.

The Collection Lambert is primarily Yvon Lambert’s personal collection, and it seems to function like a museum. How does the fact that it’s a former dealer’s collection interact with its status as a museum?

The fact that Yvon Lambert decided to donate the collection to the state in 2012 manifested his impulse to make it permanent — to make it a museum. This is a very rare gesture, especially in France. We are not a foundation — there is no private money involved. We are a public institution, and we function thanks to public subventions from the state, from the region, from the department, from the city of Avignon. We are an international museum in the French province, and we program our exhibitions in collaboration with the world’s leading institutions.

How involved is Yvon Lambert in the collection that bears his name?

Yvon Lambert has shown us a great deal of trust and support, ever since we started working on the collection. He is involved in a very positive way. This summer, the collection will host a major exhibition devoted to the work and world of the theater and film director Patrice Chéreau. Yvon’s support — that of a major donor to the French state — has been invaluable in arranging loans from many public institutions, especially from museums of ancient art, of which he is very fond.

When there was Galerie Yvon Lambert in Paris, people used to wonder — wrongly — about the relation between the gallery and the collection — a very French problem. Yvon closed his gallery in December 2014; now these views can all be dismissed, and we can look back at what we have achieved over the last fifteen years and see how productive Yvon’s contribution has been. For instance, Yvon’s collaboration and friendship with Cy Twombly was entirely disconnected from the market during the last years of Twombly’s life. But we continued this collaboration with a scientific, museum model, with two exhibitions, and soon a third one will be devoted to his work. Today, Yvon is very involved in developing new projects with artists. The collection also enables him to look at artists he had not yet been able to discover properly. However, we will of course continue the narrative of his conversation with certain artists, such as André Cadere.

At the same time that you are opening the new Collection Lambert in Avignon, you are developing new projects in Vence. What is the relation between the collection in Vence and Avignon?

Yvon Lambert was born in Vence. He has very strong ties with this town, where such prominent artists as Matisse and Dubuffet worked. It gives us considerable freedom to work and experiment with art and artists in new ways. For instance, the large exhibition we will devote to Adel Abdessemed in 2016, all over Avignon, will be preceded this year by an exhibition in Vence. The two towns are only two and a half hours driving distance. There is something very special about Vence. The Minimalist artists Yvon has always been interested in, such as Brice Marden, Robert Mangold and Richard Tuttle, look a lot at Matisse’s work in Vence. With our spaces both in Avignon and in Vence, we aim to pay tribute to the Mediterranean light, something that has been so important to Yvon Lambert himself, and to so many artists.

by Donatien Grau