interviews
Interview
Design
Craft

Hervé Lemoine

Mobilier national is not just a 'palace workshop', we also have a real public policy mission supporting arts and crafts and design.

Hervé Lemoine, who was reappointed as head of the Mobilier National in February 2021, believes that the mission of this institution, which is several hundred years old, is to pass on a certain know-how and to train the younger generation in the art and design professions. As part of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, from January to June 2022, pieces from the collections of the Mobilier National will be travelling to Brussels. Installed in the buildings of the Council of the European Union, they will interact with the various works of the Étoffe de l'Europe™ project, for which the Institut français is providing project management assistance. 

Updated on 10/01/2022

5 min

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Hervé Lemoine
Crédits
© Damien Grenon

Can you tell us about the role of an institution like the Mobilier National, which you have been running for three years now, in 2022? 

The Mobilier National is the heir to what used to be called the Garde-Meuble Royal and then the Garde-Meuble Impérial. Its mission today is to furnish all of the official locations of our Republic: ministries, presidential residences, and our embassies abroad. This is the historical mission of our institution, to which the Manufactures Nationales des Gobelins and de Beauvais, specialising in textiles and soapmaking, i.e. in the manufacture and maintenance of carpets, were attached in 1937. Since 1964, the Mobilier National has also supported creative design through a research and creation workshop founded by André Malraux. We also have restoration workshops to maintain the important national heritage that has been amassed over the centuries. These workshops honour and preserve a tradition linked to furniture, but most importantly perpetuate very rare skills and trades. It is this mission of education and training that seems to me really essential today. 

 

What are your ambitions for the years to come? 

The general public is already familiar with our role furnishing official buildings and ministries. I would like to create a better understanding that we are not just a 'palace workshop', that we also have a real public policy mission supporting arts and crafts and design. Our stated aim is to reconcile these two aspects. We are trying to overcome the historical antagonism between the decorative arts and design and support creativity in this field. I also wish to continue to support very concrete projects, such as the Campus des Métiers d'Art et du Design, which we founded last year with the Paris Rectorat and the Ile-de-France Region. It brings together all of the vocational high schools and schools of applied arts in the field of "handicrafts" in the region. There are nearly 8,000 students in nearly forty schools. The idea is once again to open up to research, training and education. Finally, I would like the Mobilier National to be truly considered as "national", and not simply Parisian, since we have a whole network of trusted partners throughout France, including craftsmen, masters of art, and living heritage companies. We want to promote this rich territorial network of skills. 

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Hervé Lemoine 2
Citation
The idea that Europe resembles a tapestry in its construction, with a weave, with people who colour it, spoke to me a lot.

The collections of the Mobilier National will enrich the scenographic and artistic arrangements of the buildings of the Council of the European Union, as part of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union from January to June 2022. In particular, you chaired the jury that selected the Étoffe de l'Europe project by Adeline Rispal. Could you tell us more about this project? 

This call for projects posed a particular difficulty because this is a temporary development, for six months only. There were also many constraints, such as the fact that some rooms had to be vacated for special events. The locations themselves are very diverse: some spaces are truly monumental, some are places of passage, others are confidential. We therefore needed a proposal that would make it possible to resolve this complexity, the idea also being to question the image that France wanted to give of itself during this period at the head of the Council of Europe. What do we want to embody? What universalist message do we want to convey? Adeline's proposal won our support for this reason, all the more so as I was personally appreciative of the fact that it included woven works (graphic and textile weaving). In the great hall of the European Commission building, these large compositions will cover the floor, and can be folded and unfolded to suit a given situation. This idea that Europe resembles a tapestry in its construction, with a weave, with people who colour it, also spoke to me a lot. In another room, a work will show how this tapestry is woven piece by piece, starting with the colours of the flags of the first European countries, right up to the latest arrivals. Despite the complexity of the space, the proposal of the Ateliers Adeline Rispal succeeds in delivering a strong message: both monumental, on the scale of Europe's political project, and ecological. This textile creation is thus very coherent. 

 

Why did you choose to work with the designers Philippe Nigro and Olivier Gagnère for the occasion? 

Olivier Gagnère is a respected name, and I wanted to bring in someone who is very well known internationally. Philippe Nigro is a younger talent who also has a pan-national dimension, since he works a lot outside France. The Mobilier National has already worked with both these designers, and Adeline Rispal has selected a piece by Philippe Nigro that we co-produced. Each in their own way, with their very distinct styles, represents a certain form of French innovation. 

L'Étoffe de l’Europe™ © Luc Boegly
L'Étoffe de l’Europe™ © Luc Boegly
L'Étoffe de l’Europe™ © Luc Boegly

What other major initiatives will the Mobilier National undertake to promote French expertise in 2022?

We wanted to promote the two ecosystems with which we work the most: arts and crafts and design. In 2022, we will again offer a restoration plan open to external participants, to provide them with orders. We are also developing an acquisitions programme for young designers, because the closure of all the trade fairs has deprived them of part of their clientèle. We will also be present at Paris Design Week, Maison & Objets, and the Toulon Design Parade, where we will award a prize in the form of a residency. Internationally, we will be present at Zona Maco in Mexico, in Milan, where we will return to the Furniture Fair, and in the United States, at Miami Art Basel. We are also partners with the Villa Medici, as part of a project to refurbish the villa, and the brand new Villa Albertine in the United States. 

The Institut français and the "Étoffe de l'Europe™" project

The Institut français is providing project management assistance for the Étoffe de l’Europe™ project. 

During the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, from 1 January to 30 June 2022, the Institut français is working towards the objectives defined by the government for this Presidency. The Institut français will therefore be implementing a series of cultural events and activities to promote European creativity. 

Find out more about the Institut français cultural programme for the FPEU 

L'institut français, LAB