Paris, May 30, 2024 – Renault, a cornerstone of French industrial and cultural history, is facing intense backlash over its decision to auction part of its prestigious art collection.

The sale, scheduled for June 6 at Christie’s in Paris, includes 33 works from the Renault collection and an online sale of drawings by Henri Michaux.

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Critics argue that this auction undermines the legacy and integrity of a collection that was never intended to be divided.

The controversy stems from the origins of the collection, established in 1967 by Claude Renard, a senior executive at the then state-owned carmaker.

Renard’s vision was to bridge the worlds of industry and contemporary art, a radical idea at a time when art was not the commercialized commodity it is today.

This pioneering initiative aimed to create a permanent, indivisible collection that reflected Renault’s commitment to social and cultural values.

“This sale betrays the spirit of the collection; it distorts and disfigures a unique ensemble,” Delphine Renard, daughter of Claude Renard, vociferously argued in an interview with Le Figaro.

As a psychoanalyst and custodian of her father’s vision, she is leading the charge against the auction.

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Her sentiments are echoed by the estates of prominent artists such as Jean Degottex, Simon Hantaï, Jesus-Rafael Soto, and former Centre Pompidou curator Margit Rowell, who collectively expressed their dismay in an open letter published by Le Monde.

They argue that the collection’s indivisibility was a core tenet of its creation, one that is being fundamentally violated. Ramuntcho Matta, son of painter Roberto Matta, whose five works are among those up for auction, expressed his outrage.

“For my father, who took me on his shoulders to the Peugeot workers’ picket line, Renault was a different kind of company, which treated its employees better.”

“For him, this collection had a social and political value,” he stated, highlighting the deeper significance of the collection beyond mere art.

The auction also raises questions about the strategic and ethical direction of Renault, now only 15% state-owned following partial privatization in the 1990s.

Bernard Ceysson, former director of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Saint-Etienne, lamented the company’s shift to a “private company mindset.” This shift, critics argue, prioritizes financial gain over cultural stewardship.

Art dealer Jean Frémon, co-director of Galerie Lelong in Paris, criticized the auction’s handling, particularly the sale of 30 Michaux drawings at low estimates and without a reserve price.

“It sends a clear message: ‘We want to get rid of them; you just need to bend down to claim them,'” Frémon commented.

He noted that many works were sold to Renault under the assumption they would remain part of a public, non-commercial collection, emphasizing the ethical breach in the company’s current approach.

As the auction date approaches, the debate intensifies over the preservation of cultural heritage versus corporate pragmatism.

The sale of Renault’s art collection has become a flashpoint, reflecting broader societal tensions about the role of corporations in safeguarding public cultural assets.

The outcome of this controversy will not only affect the fate of the Renault collection but may also set a precedent for how corporate art holdings are managed in the future.

 

This article was created using automation technology and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by one of our editorial staff members

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