French municipalities are mistreating the public works they commission under a national “1% for art” program, with one going so far as to recently repaint a sculpture without the artist’s approval, Libération reported. In the north-eastern commune of Hayange, a stonework sculpture by the artist Alain Mila was repainted blue, the gentle monumentality of its twin forms transformed into a grim robin’s-egg scene, its color suspiciously close to the logo of the National Front, a far-right party.
Though in most cases an amiable solution is found in consultation with the artist, Libération writes, the threat of unsanctioned modifications still looms over public art in France. The country has had a 1% for art program since 1951, with public construction projects dedicating one-hundredth of their budgets “for the commissioning or acquisition of one or several works of art specially conceived” for the project in question. But in a related article Libération notes that in 2006, an appeals court in Lyon found that works could be “adapted to new needs” for “aesthetic, technical, and public security” considerations.
The Mila sculptural fountain, for which the municipality of Hayange paid €9,000 in 2001 (~$12,000 today), was apparently painted a shade of blue that the artist finds “very close to that of the logo of the National Front.” The mayor of Hayange, Fabien Engelmann, is a member of the controversial nationalist party.
For his own part, mayor Engelmann was nonplussed about the modification’s aesthetic implications, telling the press that one would be “pained to call [the sculpture] art.”
The French minister of culture, Aurélie Filippetti, disagreed, calling the modification “a manifest violation” of laws moral and civil.
All translations by the author