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“National furniture is the nation’s furniture”

At the end of April, the Mobilier National announced a stimulus plan for crafts and design for an amount of half a million euros, between an exceptional acquisition commission, restoration campaign and auctions.

Meeting with Hervé Lemoine, Director of National Furniture to specify the main lines of these actions, and to show how the institution intends to be a dynamic player in the necessary reorganizations in a world marked by the pandemic.

You announced strong support for crafts and design, by releasing funds for acquisition and restoration campaigns on a national level. A desire to position the public service, in these times of crisis, as an actor in the recovery of demand?

Hervé Lemoine: These arts and design sectors are particularly weakened by the crisis, it is essential that the public service mobilizes, in particular to help small structures, less protected creators – and in particular young people – to help them through this difficult time.

The restoration campaign will focus on collections from the 1930s and 1950s, how was this choice made?

HL: It is a very complete collection, which has never been exhibited, and which requires very specific know-how for the restoration of certain materials (parchment, shagreen, etc.) that we do not have in our workshops; this makes it possible to seek out masters of art throughout the territory with specific expertise, and through these orders, to support them economically. The ultimate goal is to show this collection to the public.

In fact, over the past two years you have multiplied actions towards the public, between your first participation in the Heritage Days, in the FIAC, the Design Parade, in the European Days of Crafts… There is this desire to be more visible , to multiply the dissemination actions?

HL Mobilier national is above all the furniture of the nation. This access to the public by broadcasting is essential so that they understand what we do, how we intervene. In general, when we think of National Furniture, we spontaneously associate it with the notion of heritage, through the activities of restoration and conservation of furniture collections since the 17th century. But creation aid has always been present, and contemporary creation too, especially since 1964 with the creation of the Research and Creation Workshop. About a hundred designers have collaborated with the ARC for the design of more than 630 prototypes. This mission was of course in an experimental creative approach, around technique, materials, for the production of very high quality pieces, which will then be presented in galleries, art museums …

And today you are moving towards co-publishing activities, such as recently the design of the Hémicycle collection, designed by Philippe Nigro in collaboration with Ligne Roset.

HL: Yes, it’s always in the idea of being complementary, of bringing know-how, possibilities of prototyping that could not have been tested in the factory. This is not a source of royalties – Editor’s note; the royalties resulting from this collection are fully reallocated to support for young creations – it is above all a question of also promoting collections “labeled” Mobilier national to fit out, for example, public spaces, as a showcase of French excellence .

Do your ads mention an auction in the fall for the benefit of hospitals?

An important clarification on this point: we are not going to put treasures on sale! We regularly organize auctions with decommissioned furniture, which, for example, furnished official apartments in the 19th century, and which bring happiness to second-hand dealers and antique dealers, and which thus leave our warehouses to find second lives in individuals.
However, what is new is the allocation we want to make of the proceeds of this sale. For the first time, we are proposing to include this project in our support plan for French designers, in the service of hospitals.

In partnership with the AP-HP Foundation (Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris), we will identify the very concrete needs that have emerged, by listening to caregivers and users of its services. Thanks to the talent of our designers, the expression of these needs will be converted into a project, for example to rethink certain spaces or certain uses.
The sum collected during this sale will therefore be used to finance this project: mobilize the designers by means of a call for ideas to study and design a project. In short, it is about putting the design and excellence of our professions at the service of hospitals.
All of this will be done in partnership with the AP-HP Foundation, which acts in direct connection with the AP-HP teams to support the organization of care, hospital staff and research within the 39 hospitals that make up the AP – HP.
At Mobilier National, we are convinced that design will play a key role in anticipating our lifestyles in “the world after”, by rethinking our uses and in particular care and health structures. It is also a tradition for Mobilier National to be a committed player in the service of the public, in tune with the times. Our Research and Creation Workshop has always been involved in these issues with renowned designers who have designed very interesting projects such as hospital beds, with Alain Richard in the 1970s, cradles for pediatric services, or many more sanitary blocks, for example with the Bernard Moïse project.

We are no longer the “royal workshops”, we are also actors in contemporary creation, with the social dimension attached to our public service mission, and close attention to young creation.

Finally, this period of crisis plays a role of “accelerator” of the policy that you have been leading for two years around aid for contemporary creation?

Yes, the action plans for exceptional acquisitions from designers and French publishers and galleries reinforce the various calls for projects and competitions that have already been launched. And we are also there to support artistic expressions through know-how that only we are able to master. Conservation, restoration, creation, transmission, dissemination, research, we have above all a systemic approach in our approach. “Modern for ages” remains our line of conduct, between tradition and innovation. And in the current period, it is essential for us to support the fragile ecosystems of creation.

Nathalie Degardin

Find the stimulus plan announcements here .