Cultural policy France

High hopes for France’s youthful new minister of culture

Decentralisation and wider access to culture are high on Aurélie Filippetti’s agenda

Aurélie Filippetti

Aurélie Filippetti (right) has been appointed by France’s new president, François Hollande, as minister of culture and communication, replacing Frédéric Mitterrand. To keep the post she first needs to be re-elected as the Moselle region’s deputy in the legislative elections on 17 June.

François Dournes, a director at Galerie Lelong in Paris, says: “Frédéric Mitterrand was a rather good minister but did not have much room for manoeuvre. Filippetti will surely be better listened to in this government, which places education and culture at the head of its priorities.” 

Filippetti’s appointment is in line with the socialist president’s commitment to “justice and youth”. She turns 39 in June, and is one of 17 female members in prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault’s government.

Observers are wary of her lack of experience in the visual arts, which has suffered cutbacks during the financial crisis. However, Filippetti was in charge of culture in Hollande’s election campaign and was an adviser on environment, culture, education and social issues to Ségolène Royal, who stood against former president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007. That year Filippetti became deputy of the Moselle region in northeast France, the location of the Centre Pompidou-Metz.

A published author, she studied classics at the prestigious Ecole Normale Supérieure. The daughter of a miner and former communist mayor, and the grand-daughter of Italian immigrants, she supports the “fight against the inequalities in access to culture”, she told Arte, the French-German television channel. Speaking in April at the Centre Pompidou-Metz, she said: “Our aim is to strengthen artistic education and democratise access to culture, and re-launch… innovative policies in establishments like this to go and seek people who don’t spontaneously go to museums.” She is also expected to decentralise culture, rather than just focusing on Paris and France’s other big cities.

Olivier Belot, the director general of Galerie Yvon Lambert, says: “After Frédéric Mitterrand, who turned out not to have any real conviction in our domain, we all hope for real consideration of public powers of social and economic weight that represents art on a national and international level.”

Her visit to the Art Paris art fair in late March has been noted. “She seemed very curious and open to contemporary artistic creation,” says Guillaume Piens, the director of Art Paris.

How Filippetti can enrich the French art scene partly depends on how much she is influenced by her advisers. “Culture ministers have such large fields that it largely depends on the advisers that she’ll nominate,” says Marc-Olivier Wahler, the former director of the Palais de Tokyo. “But given her age and her dynamism, I’m very optimistic about what she’ll do for artists in general.”

The artist Laurent Grasso says: “It would be interesting if she met artists because we are always represented by other people—critics or museum directors or galleries.”

One issue vexing gallerists and auction houses is the new government’s intention to increase value added tax (VAT). “The main undertaking of the new government falls in line with the European plan—[but] VAT on imports and the droit de suite [artist resale rights] constitute competitive handicaps for the countries in the European Union in a context where competition with the United States and Asia is growing stronger and stronger,” says Guillaume Cerutti, the chief executive of Sotheby’s France. “The culture minister will need the active support of the foreign affairs and finance ministers to make the voice of France heard alongside those of other countries.”

This concern is echoed by the gallerist Chantal Crousel. “I hope that Aurélie Filippetti will know how to make her colleagues at the foreign and finance ministries understand that culture, just like research and science, can bring richness to France and that it is regarded as a vector for growth.”

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