Guide Tour of Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art, Paris, France

The Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, is a contemporary art museum located at 261 boulevard Raspail in the 14th arrondissement of Paris. The Cartier Foundation is an exhibition and creation space for artists, and a meeting place with the public through the organization of conferences, concerts, and shows related to temporary exhibitions.

Initiated in 1984 by Alain Dominique Perrin, President of Cartier International at the time, on a suggestion by the artist César, and directed by Hervé Chandès, a private institution entirely devoted to contemporary art, the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain is a unique example of corporate philanthropy in France.

Formerly located in Jouy-en-Josas (Yvelines), since moving to Paris in 1994, the Fondation Cartier has been housed in an airy building filled with light that was designed by the architect Jean Nouvel. In this unique setting, exhibitions, conferences and artistic productions come to life. A place where art and the general public can meet, the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain is dedicated to promoting and raising public awareness of contemporary art.

A pioneer original approach to corporate patronage, the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art has paved the way for patronage in the French cultural landscape by offering an exhibition space to artists from all over the world, known and unknown. Each year, the Fondation Cartier organizes a program of exhibitions based on either individual artists or themes, and commissions work from artists, thus enriching an important collection.

It also organizes the Nomadic Nights, a rendezvous that focuses on the performing arts, where artists explore links between the visual arts and other forms of contemporary artistic expression. Exhibitions and the collection itself are frequently sent to institutions abroad, enhancing the Fondation Cartier’s international profile.

Recognized on the international artistic scene and hailed by the public, the Fondation Cartier distinguishes itself by its curiosity, originality and heterogeneity. As a reflection of our times, the Fondation Cartier embraces all creative fields and genres of contemporary art, ranging from design to photography, from painting to video art and from fashion to performance art. This testifies to the Fondation Cartier’s commitment and skill, to its blend of rigor and eclecticism which opens up contemporary art and renders it more accessible.

The building
From 1984 to 1993, the Cartier Foundation was located in the Montcel estate in Jouy-en-Josas, near Versailles. When the American Center, a cultural center, chose to leave its premises on Boulevard Raspail, which it had occupied since 1934, the Foundation decided to settle on the site and entrusted the architect Jean Nouvel with the task of creating a new building. of glass and steel, inaugurated in 1994.

The airy glass and steel building designed especially by Jean Nouvel, who is also the creator of the Institut du Monde Arabe and the Musée du Quai Branly buildings. Famous in France and internationally for his unique way of dematerializing architecture, his challenge for Cartier was to harmoniously bring together of exhibition space and six storeys of offices on the boulevard Raspail.

This building, all in transparency, offers an exhibition area of ​​1200 square meters, it is surrounded by a garden designed by the artist Lothar Baumgarten. Its name, Theatrum Botanicum, is borrowed from books in which monks inventoried medicinal and aromatic plants in the Middle Ages. The garden has more than 240 species of wild plants and flowers. The ecological assessment of the garden (plants, insects, birds, bats) is regularly carried out by the Cartier Foundation.

The architecture housed a historical treasure: a cedar planted in 1823 by the writer François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) visible from the street, through the glass facade. According to the newspaper Le Parisien, on September 22, 2020, the bicentenary tree, victim of the heat wave, had to be cut down. Defenders of the environment denounce a rampage, the Foundation for its part evokes a heartbreak linked to the drought.

By 2024, for the 40th anniversary of the Foundation, its president Alain-Dominique Perrin announced in 2018 the project to move its headquarters to the Louvre des Antiquaires (1st arrondissement). In a district that is undergoing significant architectural and museum renewal, the foundation would increase from 1,200 m² of exhibition space to 6,000 m². The Boulevard Raspail site would be transformed into offices.

The Collection
The museum displays exhibits of contemporary and international artists. The Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain Collection is made up today of nearly 2,000 works from a rich and multidisciplinary program. It is a testament to the relationships forged with more than 350 artists from all over the globe, and to the desire to open up to the world and today’s society.

Its collections include monumental works such as The Monument to Language by James Lee Byars, Caterpillar by Wim Delvoye, Backyard by Liza Lou, La Volière (The Aviary) by Jean-Pierre Raynaud, and Everything that Rises Must Converge by Sarah Sze; works by contemporary French artists including Vincent Beaurin, Gérard Garouste, Raymond Hains, Jean-Michel Othoniel, Alain Séchas, Pierrick Sorin, Jean Giraud; and works by foreign artists including James Coleman (Ireland), Thomas Demand (Germany), Alair Gomes (Brazil), William Kentridge (South Africa), Bodys Isek Kingelez (the Congo), Guillermo Kuitca (Argentina), Yukio Nakagawa (Japan), Huang Yong Ping (China), and Damian Pettigrew (Canada).

Art project
The Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art aims to discover, support and promote international contemporary artistic creation through monographic and thematic exhibitions, the organization of shows, concerts, the publication of books and catalogues, and building up a collection of works of art. Some of the events it organizes in Paris are the subject of presentations in museums abroad. Works from the collection are regularly loaned and exhibited in museums around the world.

It is multidisciplinary. It has, in particular, largely contributed to making known African artists and South American popular art. It has also, for years, opened its doors to research and scientists such as astrophysicist Michel Cassé, mathematicians Cédric Villani, Misha Gromov or bioacoustician Bernie Krause. The Cartier Foundation organizes a program of live shows and invites artists from all disciplines: dance, music, performances. It also gives a large place to scientists and authors.

The Cartier Foundation has organized thematic exhibitions such as Rock n’roll (2007), Terre Natale, Elsewhere begins here with Raymond Depardon and Paul Virilio (2008), Graffiti (2009), and Mathematics, a sudden change of scenery (2011), or exhibitions of creators and artists such as Seydou Keïta (1994), Matthew Barney (1995), Jean Paul Gaultier (2004), Agnès Varda (2006), David Lynch (2007), Mœbius (2010), Beatriz Milhazes (2009), Bruce Nauman (2015), or evenDaido Moriyama (2016).