A contemporary art installation above Napoleon’s tomb does not appeal to everyone
Pascal Convert hung the plastic skeleton of the Emperor’s favorite horse at the Musée des Invalides.
Nothing beats a little controversy over a symbol (they are often the most vehement) to give an impact to an exhibition, when there will be traffic jam when the museums reopen.
In an open letter dated April 26, the deputy for Seine-et-Marne (Les Républicains), Jean-Louis Thiérot, calls on the Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, regarding the “crazy idea” of the Musée de l ‘Army to suspend under the Dôme des Invalides, above the tomb of the emperor, a three-dimensional reconstruction of the skeleton of Marengo, Napoleon’s favorite horse with which he won several military campaigns (Marengo, Austerlitz, Jena, Wagram) before being seized by English troops at Waterloo.
Called Memento Marengo, this installation, created by artist Pascal Convert for the exhibition “Napoleon? Again ! “, A contemporary art route questioning the image left by Napoleon Bonaparte after his death in 1821,” arouses a great stir in the military community and more generally among those who are attached to this high place of our history “, according to the deputy .
Recalling the memorial nature of the places – the last resting place of many marshals, generals and governors – Jean-Louis Thiérot judges that “the exhibition of an artistic work whatever it is which by its nature is subject to various interpretations is particularly dissonant in a place dedicated to meditation and homage to those who died for the Nation ”.
An opinion shared by Thierry Lentz, director of the Fondation Napoléon, who on his Twitter account writes that “the question is not whether we like it or not, but whether we always owe respect to national necropolis of Invalides ”.
Anticipating criticism, Eric de Chassey, director of the Institute of Art History (INHA) and curator of the exhibition, defended the artist during a documentary broadcast on April 23, on France 5 entitled “Napoleon the influencer”. The latter then saw in this installation “a gesture that is in fact extremely respectful”, with the aim of “going through the animal to find what is human in Napoleon Bonaparte”. An argument that did not convince Thierry Lentz, also asked for the report: “to rehumanize Napoleon by hanging a plastic horse skeleton above his tomb, we dream …”. In the wake of the broadcast, an online petition was created against the sculpture, currently collecting nearly 1,000 signatures.
Faced with the scale of the controversy, Pascal Convert wished to respond to his detractors in a column published in the newspaper L’Obs, on April 27, arguing that “bringing Napoleon’s horse to the tomb of his rider accomplishes a funeral ritual ancient who wanted the combatants to be buried with their mounts ”. The artist also recalled that “like a sacred relic, [the horse] was reduced to its skeleton and exhibited at the National Army Museum where it can still be seen.” The London museum had opposed the loan of the bones of the emperor’s steed due to their extreme fragility.
Contacted by Le Journal des Arts, the Musée de l’Armée did not wish to respond directly to criticisms evoking, by way of a press release, a work “nourished with historical, artistic and mythological references […] respectful of the places and in perfect dialogue with them, at the service of the transmission of history and memory ”.
A contemporary art installation above Napoleon’s tomb doesn’t appeal to everyone
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