The French Regional Contemporary Art Funds (Frac) are public collections that were created in 1982 to disseminate contemporary art within each region of France. Our American partners were not wrong when they saw the structures as typically French. In the United States, culture essentially arises from private initiative. In France, culture is historically tied to public institutions, because we consider it not only a means of personal development, but also a tool to educate, spread knowledge, and form one's mind and taste.
Set up within the political context of decentralization (the transfer of power to regions outside of Paris), the Frac were created on the principle that financing would be shared between the State and the new regional Councils. Now numbering 23, they are present in every region of France. In less than 30 years, they have gathered nearly 25,000 works of art by 4,000 artists, and provide access to today's major art movements.
Each Frac now holds between 200 and 3,000 pieces, each has an annual acquisition budget to expand its collection. Considered as a whole, the Frac represent the third largest public collection of contemporary art in France, after those of the Cnap (Centre national des art plastiques, or National Collection of Contemporary Art) and the Musée national d'art moderne - Centre Georges Pompidou. However, each individual Frac possesses its own history, collection, and program of cultural activities that lend it its singular identity.
Decisive Tools for the Diffusion of Art
The Frac have three complementary missions: to collect the art of our times, to take it out into the public, and to educate people about art.
With an essentially nomadic approach to cultural heritage and unique tools of transmission, the Frac have progressively become decisive actors in the cultural development policies of the country, aiming to reduce geographic, social, and cultural disparities and facilitate the discovery of contemporary art by an increasingly diverse public.
The Frac have developed ongoing exhibition schedules, welcomed guest artists as well as those from other disciplines, and engaged in publishing activities and educational initiatives, all while engaging in national and international exchange. In certain regions, they have become, along with the art centers and art schools, the essential motor of diffusion and initiator of contemporary creativity. The Frac are at the heart of a network of partners that have developed a close alliance over the years: fine arts museums, art centers and municipal spaces, schools and universities, historic monuments and parks, galleries, neighborhood associations, even hospitals and prisons.
The International Presence of the Frac
Over the past several years, initially under the impetus of the five Frac Grand Est, and then through Platform, the Association of French Regional Contemporary Art Funds, a large number of works have been shown in various countries: Italy and Poland in 2003, Spain and the United Kingdom in 2004, Germany and Slovakia in 2005, Israel and the Czech Republic in 2006, Argentina, Croatia, Italy, and Romania in 2007, Belgium and Lithuania in 2008. The year 2010 takes on particular importance for Platform and the 23 Frac with Spatial City and its three stops in the Midwest.
A New Step in the Development of the Frac
Initially without their own exhibition venues, the Frac began, in 2000, to equip themselves with spaces designed to support a programming schedule, welcome the public, and manage their collections. Currently, thanks to the support and involvement of their own regions, several Frac await new spaces adapted to their missions. The competitions for the design of new Frac involve teams of internationally renowned architects such as Odile Decq, Jakob+MacFarlane, Kengo Kuma & Associates, and Lacaton and Vassal. These buildings encourage urban renewal. When located on the outskirts of cities, they participate in the rezoning of neighborhoods, generating new uses. When in city centers, they send a strong urban signal and help shape the cultural identity of the city in which they are established.
At the dawn of their thirtieth anniversary, the Frac and their projects have certainly surpassed initial expectations. For all that, their missions are as current as ever, whether this means supporting contemporary creativity, making work accessible to all, or continuing to work in the spirit of cultural public service.