Adèle Fremolle on the 30th anniversary of Villa Kujoyama
Villa Kujoyama in Kyoto is celebrating its 30th anniversary in November 2022. We met with its new director Adèle Fremolle. She discusses her journey, the future of the establishment and the upcoming festivities.
Updated on 18/11/2022
Could you tell us a bit more about your background?
I was lucky enough to work in a variety of cultural organisations, all of which offered not only support for creation and dissemination, but also access to a variety of audiences. Another common feature of my experiences is a strong territorial and contemporary foundation and therefore the reaffirmation of the importance of art and crafts as a means of examining the world around us, and thus rearming our desire to be involved. In 2007 and 2009, I worked for Photoquai, the first biennial event of the Musée du Quai de Branly, and then for the FRAC Grand Large in Dunkirk, where I was assistant director for eight years. I was able to support the development of its new building as well as the evolution of its artistic project which focused on the rotation of its collection. Architecture has always been an important element for me, and this is what led me to spend three years at the Condition Publique in Roubaix, an industrial building whose renovation was designed by Patrick Bouchain. Alongside its artistic programming, this venue is very committed to the topic of creativity as a lever of transition for local areas. In particular, we developed a programme of multidisciplinary residencies: the question of residency, for artists or for curators, was therefore present throughout these experiences.
You have just taken over the management of Villa Kujoyama in Kyoto, a prestigious artistic residence of France abroad. What does that represent for you?
It's a major turning point in my life, both professionally and personally.
Personally, it represents the fulfilment of a dream I had as a student, to visit one day. Being involved in the programming of such a prestigious place really means a lot to me. Furthermore, the scheme that interests me the most at the moment is the research residency. It is no coincidence that so many residency programmes are flourishing in France and around the world: it is another relationship to creation and art, which responds to a need to meet with others, or even with another self. The laureates not only get to meet many Japanese people and other laureates, but also get a chance to express another part of themselves. Rooting the artistic process within a particular place allows the work of art to be seen as a reflection of a new relationship with others and with other cultures. The format of the research residency is therefore essential to complement the work of the exhibition and outreach venues.
Villa Kujoyama plays an important role in cultural exchanges between France and Japan. Could you tell us more about this?
The current building has been in use for thirty years, but the history of Villa Kujoyama goes back almost a hundred years. Before becoming a place of residence, Paul Claudel established a Franco-Japanese cultural centre on this site in the 1920s, demonstrating the strong mutual interest and admiration between the two countries. Beyond our numerous relationships with Japanese institutions, it is primarily the multitude of interpersonal relationships that are formed between French and Japanese people that form this great network of exchange and understanding. This contributes to a better understanding of French culture and a number of projects are helping to make the work of Japanese artists better known in France: one example of this is the project by Vincent Romagny, who worked on playgrounds in Japan. Or Elodie Royer, who was a laureate in 2011 and who has since worked extensively to make Japanese artists and movements known in France.
The year 2022 marks the thirtieth anniversary of Villa Kujoyama. How will this milestone be celebrated?
This year has already been celebrated with an exhibition at the Kyoto Art Center in the spring and a significant participation in the Kyoto Nuit Blanche, featuring a specific tour of various locations in Kyoto. We also participated in the Tokyo Art Book Fair in October and will be present at the Mois de la France in Yokohama, with an exhibition of photographs by Sandrine Elberg. At the Villa, we hosted a performance by Susan Buirge, the first Villa laureate who returned thirty years later to perform on 13 November. On 17 December, Villa Kujoyama will also be open to the public, with several works by former laureates on display. Finally, a book on the history of the Villa was published by Gallimard—72 saisons à la Villa Kujoyama—as well as a special issue of Beaux Arts magazine, devoted to the last 30 years of residence at the Villa Kujoyama. The Institut français is also organising a celebration evening at the Palais de Tokyo on Friday 25 November, which will be attended by a large number of former laureates and all partners.
What will be the main focuses of your administration for 2023 and the years to come?
Villa Kujoyama is a place of research, located in Kyoto but whose work resonates throughout Japan. Since its creation, it has demonstrated a very strong multidisciplinary approach, reinforced by the support of the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation since 2014, in the field of art.
Turning thirty gives us the opportunity to take stock of the situation: of course, it will be necessary to ensure continuity in the implementation of research residencies, but we will also have to evolve in order to keep up with the times, both in terms of residency methods and sustainable development, as well as in terms of local ties and links with French and international networks. One of our first proposals will be to open the villa every month to the general public, as well as to schools, universities and other groups. We are also considering a number of programmes for young people to work on the villa as a research topic.
The Villa Kujoyama is an arts establishment belonging to the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs cultural cooperation network. Falling under the Institut français in Japan, it works in coordination with the Institut français and is supported by the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation, its principal patron.
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