“I could become an opponent if a sale of Guimet looms”

Mayor of the 1st district of Lyon for 20 years, Nathalie Perrin-Gilbert is a member of the left-wing coalition which brought Mayor Grégory Doucet (EELV) to city hall in 2020. Defector from the PS, then independent within her GRAM association (Metropolitan Reflection and Action Group), she has been Deputy Mayor for Culture since 2020. Following numerous disagreements with her environmental colleagues, she lost her Culture delegation on May 13. She comes back for The Arts Journal on her projects for the Guimet Museum, closed since 2007, a file which ignited the powder between the elected official and the environmentalists.

What are the disagreements that led to this break with environmentalists?
The mayor mentions my decision not to renew the general director of the Conservatory. I think that this is only a pretext, because in a more profound way we differ on our conception of cultural public policy, with a public expression on my part within the framework of the municipal council. We particularly opposed the Guimet Museum, from the first meeting on the subject on December 9, 2022, when the mayor's office discussed a delegation of public service, or a transfer. At that time, the hypothesis of remaining in the public domain did not exist. I therefore asked, somewhat strongly, that the scenario of completely public management be reintroduced. On September 14, 2023, a new meeting was held, and I noticed that there had been little progress, we started again in the form of “workshops”. And I hear expressions that make me jump: “what do we keep from Guimet”, “sell the site to the highest bidder”. Faced with this lack of dynamism, I intervened during the following municipal council to propose a project around images and photography.

What is this Palais des Images project?
I thought about it based on volumes, 16,000 square meters in the heart of the city, it's quite exceptional, and starting from the spirit of the place. I also wondered what Lyon lacks: historically, it is a place for photography. Lyon was, before Paris, the headquarters of the National Foundation for Photography, from 1878 to 1993, a large part of the funds of which are in the municipal library. So we have national collections of which we don't do much. I also met Joris Mathieu, director of the Théâtre Nouvelle Génération in Vaise, at the forefront of immersive forms and the use of new technologies on stage. I tell myself that Guimet should bring all of this together, a project starting from the image, between art and science.

You also mentioned “The sentimental museum”, a major exhibition co-produced with the Center Pompidou in the Guimet museum… What about it?
We have already had two temporary exhibitions in Guimet, for the Lyon Biennale, then on Shepard Fairey, which allowed us to verify the attachment of the Lyonnais to this place. To enter into a regular exhibition cycle, the safety commission requires work, which I asked to be costed: 2 million for bringing it up to standard. On a multi-year investment plan for the City which amounts to 1.2 billion, we can find this sum. At the same time, we held meetings with the Center Pompidou teams on this “Sentimental Museum”, with the mayor’s office which was kept informed. When the Center asked if it could communicate on this project, the city's cultural affairs department gave its approval. Despite this, I was reframed on social networks, even though this file was conducted in transparency! I also imagined more commercial things, which could generate revenue, such as bringing Tim Burton's proposal to the Turin Cinema Museum, which I saw, and which would work very well in the large Guimet room.

While remaining in the majority, you are no longer part of the executive. Are you going to continue to carry this file from the Guimet Museum?
As a municipal councilor, yes. I could become an opponent of the mayor if a sale, or a public service delegation from Guimet, looms. I am fighting so that the building, divided into four plots, is not dismembered. The city services estimated the rehabilitation of the museum at 40 million. With all public partners, it would be feasible. Another hypothesis would be that of a public-private partnership, with the creation of a private Foundation.

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