From private to public
Issues and strategies in the presentation of private collections of modern and contemporary art in public institutions

One-day conference, Friday, March 12, 2021 – Musée de Grenoble Organizers: Alice Ensabella (Université Grenobles-Alpes), Paula Barreiro Lopez (Université Grenobles-Alpes), Sophie Bernard (Musée de Grenoble)

Organized within the framework of the exhibition Giorgio Morandi. Luigi Magnani’s collection at the Musée de Grenoble (December 12, 2020 – March 14, 2021), this one-day conference aims to bring together recent reflections about strategies for the presentation of private collections of contemporary art (20th-21th centuries) in French and international museums and private institutions.
The exhibition at the Musée de Grenoble, dedicated to the Italian artist Giorgio Morandi, is an opportunity to discover the private collection of the musicologist, art historian and professor Luigi Magnani, one of the most eminent Italian collectors of Morandi’s work. With about fifty works by the Bolognese painter, it allows us to understand and represent all the periods of his career. The friendship between the painter and the collector, as well as the collector’s approach to the collection itself, is one of the strong points of the exhibition.

The hatching of temporary exhibitions or permanent hangings devoted to private collections constituted by famous or less-known personalities in international collecting is a recent phenomenon that is increasingly on trend (the Helena Rubinstein Collection at the Musée du Quai Branly and the Museum of Jewish Art and History, the history of the Maison-Rouge-Fondation Antoine de Galbert, the Alana Collection at the Jacquemart-André Museum, the Courtauld and Chtchoukine collections at the Louis Vuitton Foundation, etc.). Numerous initiatives reveal a growing interest in these issues, which are now the subject of multiple studies. The research project launched by the Montpellier Contemporain (MO.CO.), in partnership with the Université Paul Valéry Montpellier 3 and the INHA, on the identification of exhibitions and acquisitions of private collections within French public institutions, is one example of this trend. This conference, conceived in dialogue with the MO.CO. project, aims to deepen the specificities of this phenomenon, particularly that of the restitution of private collections and their history at the time of their transition from the private to the public sphere.

Indeed, the attention paid to collectors’ figures not only reveals an awareness of their inescapable role in the artistic systems of any era, but also calls into question the chronological and thematic approach often adopted during exhibitions.
How to approach the thorny question of displaying a private collection? Which aspects should be given priority: the collector’s point of view and their intellectual approach, or the artists and periods represented? To what extent does the way in which a private collection is exhibited change (or can be preserved) when it moves from a private to a public context? What are the elements to be highlighted in this new perception the viewer will have of the collection? In designing a display that is both scientific and accessible to a wide audience, what are the priorities and compromises that need to be resolved? What place is given in this field to digital reconstructions, which certainly represent a precious tool for a more faithful restitution of the original hangings of private collections?

In order to stimulate reflection on these themes, this day – symbolically organized by the Laboratoire de Recherche historique Rhéne-Alpes (LARHRA) of the Université Grenoble Alpes in partnership with the Musée de Grenoble – aims to encourage a dialogue between art historians and curators. Its purpose will be to have an exchange on methodological and research issues in the reconstitution of a private collection, as well as on the practical constraints of its restitution in terms of displaying in a museum.

We welcome proposals of 20-minute papers on private collections of modern and contemporary art and their exhibition (temporary or permanent) in public institutions related to the topics mentioned above. Theoretical approaches, as well as specific case studies or the presentation of current projects are welcome.

The proceedings of the day are likely to be published.
Proposals should include an abstract (350 words maximum) and a short biography, and should be sent no later than November 20, 2020 to the email address Participants will receive a response by December 18, 2020.
French will be the main language of the conference, but submissions in English are accepted.

Reference / Quellennachweis:
CFP: Du privé au public / From private to public (Grenoble, 12 Mar 21). In:, Sep 21, 2020.

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