The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Monday, November 29, 2021


In a palace of colonialism, a 'quiet revolutionary' takes charge
Pap Ndiaye at the Palais de la Porte Dorée, which he was appointed to lead in February, in Paris, March 10, 2021. The academic and historian Pap Ndiaye wants to turn around an institution with a problematic legacy so it tells the story of France’s immigrants. Dmitry Kostyukov/The New York Times.

by Farah Nayeri



PARIS (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- It was a monument to the power and glory of colonial France. When the Palais de la Porte Dorée opened in Paris in 1931, every corner of it was designed to extol the colonizing mission: from the bas-reliefs of laborers in faraway lands, to the frescoes of imperial magnificence, to the aquariums swarming with tropical fish.

That institution is now led by a man whose family members were among the colonized peoples of sub-Saharan Africa. Last month Pap Ndiaye, a historian and academic of Senegalese and French descent, was appointed to revitalize the Palais de la Porte Dorée — an institution that was born as the Museum of the Colonies in 1931 and that now houses the Tropical Aquarium and the National Museum of the History of Immigration.

Ndiaye knows the issues well. A graduate of the prestigious École Normale Supérieure, he studied in the United States for several years and is a specialist in African American history. He recently co-wrote a report on racial diversity for the Paris Opera. The question is whether he can turn around an institution with a problematic legacy and the sensitive mission of telling the story of France’s immigrants.

In an interview at his new workplace, Ndiaye acknowledged that the Palais de la Porte Dorée was “a more difficult environment than a museum with a more straightforward identity, because the issues tackled here, around immigration and colonial history, are among the burning questions in French political life.”

He said the French had “a hard time picturing their country as a land of immigration.” That’s because immigrants in France were expected to “forget where they came from and become more French than the French” — speak French, dress French — in a process of assimilation that was the opposite of multiculturalism.

“Our role is to make immigration a more essential part of the vision that the French have of their national history,” he added.

The interview began with a grand tour of the premises: the frescoed foyer with its allegorical images of France’s transcontinental reach, from Africa to Indochina and the South Pacific; the circular aquarium with its swimming turtles and patterned stingrays. All are legacies of the Colonial Exhibition of 1931, a sprawling six-month fair for which the Palais de la Porte Dorée was built, that also featured elaborately constructed pavilions representing some of France’s colonies through their native architecture. The idea was to show the grandeur of imperial France and the benefits its colonies brought to the mainland.

When the empire dissolved three decades later, the Palais changed names a few times and eventually became the National Museum of African and Oceanic Arts, until its collections were folded into those of the Quai Branly Museum, founded in 2006. The following year, the Palais de la Porte Dorée became the headquarters of the National Immigration Museum. Yet because of political sensitivities, President Nicolas Sarkozy refused to inaugurate it, according to museum administrators and historians. The official ceremony took place seven years after the opening, with President François Hollande.

In its 14 years of existence, the museum has staged a number of popular exhibitions — on football and immigration, and on Italian migration to France — and now draws 500,000 visitors a year, many of them no doubt to see the spectacular tropical aquarium. Yet it has never quite found its place in Paris’ cultural landscape.

“Since the 1930s, the Palais de la Porte Dorée has always been somewhat cursed and in search of an identity,” said Pascal Blanchard, a French historian of immigration and colonialism.

It is time for the Palais de la Porte Dorée to confront the issues at its heart — colonialism and immigration — which are also key to the national debate, Blanchard noted.

“Pap Ndiaye is not afraid to tackle those,” he added. “He is familiar with them.”

Ndiaye was born and raised in middle-class suburbs of Paris with his sister, Marie, now a bestselling novelist who won the 2009 Prix Goncourt, France’s top literary accolade. Their father — the first student from sub-Saharan Africa to be admitted to Paris’ elite École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées engineering school — moved back to Senegal when they were toddlers. The children were raised by their mother, a French science teacher, and attended local schools.




“We are products of the French meritocracy,” Marie NDiaye, who renders her last name differently than her brother, said in an interview, noting that they grew up in predominantly white social circles.

“As a child and an adolescent, I never felt Black,” she added. “Because we didn’t know our father and were raised by our mother, we actually didn’t know any Black people.”

Ndiaye said he first became aware of race when he took a gap year to study at the University of Virginia and received an invitation from the university’s Black Student Alliance. He was intrigued to have been asked because of his skin color, he recalled, and started going to the group’s meetings. He became fascinated by African American history, which would later become his academic specialty.

Today, he said, he identifies as Black “out of solidarity with those who are Black and who suffer from it,” he said, even though, he added, he never experienced racism and discrimination firsthand.

His experience in the United States and knowledge of African American history have made Ndiaye into something of a go-to guy on matters of racial inclusivity. In 2019, he advised the Musée d’Orsay on its blockbuster exhibition “Black Models: From Géricault to Matisse,” which focused on Black figures in 19th- and 20-century French painting.

In 2020, he was called in by the Paris Opera’s new director, Alexander Neef, to co-write the report on diversifying the institution. The document, published in February, called for an end to racist caricatures and for the hiring of more performers of color.

“Everyone recognized that it was time to do something and that you could change dancers’ recruitment and abolish blackface without the world coming to an end,” Ndiaye said.

Neef described Ndiaye as “a quiet revolutionary” — someone who “knows exactly what he wants” and how to get it without crashing through walls. He said he expected that in his new job overseeing the Palais de la Porte Dorée, Ndiaye would “listen first before he does something.”

The one problem is that the institution at the Palais’ core, the Immigration Museum, already has a boss: Sebastien Gökalp, who took over two years ago.

How will that work?

So far, so good, said Gökalp in an interview. The two had discussed the prospect of staging an exhibition about Asian migration to France and would jointly present a major October show, “Picasso, l’Etranger” (“Picasso the Foreigner”) about Picasso’s outsider status in France. (The artist, who lived in France for many years, applied for French citizenship but was refused.)

Gökalp said his new boss had extra responsibilities such as running the building, the budget, the staff and the aquarium. He described Ndiaye as “poised, quite gentle, and a consensus seeker. He’s here to appease the debate.” He is also “a fast learner,” he added.

Another adjective commonly used to describe Ndiaye — including by his own sister — is “ambitious.” So what are his ambitions for the Palais?

“This is an institution that is viewed as peripheral,” he replied. “I would like it to be at the center of French cultural life.”

© 2021 The New York Times Company










Today's News

March 19, 2021

Alexander Calder, MoMA's household god, still holds sway

Toomey & Co. Auctioneers sees intense bidding and elevated prices in first two sales of 2021

Up to my eyeballs in art at Superblue

Global art market shrank 22% in pandemic year, study says

Christie's to launch 20th and 21st Century Art Evening sales in May

Exhibition gathers works made by artists at the beginning of 2020 in response to the pandemic

Getty Museum collaborates with international partners in Bulgaria and Jordan

Dallas Museum of Art opens first solo U.S. exhibition of Cubist Juan Gris in over three decades

Christine Nofchissey McHorse, Navajo ceramist, dies at 72

In a palace of colonialism, a 'quiet revolutionary' takes charge

Thomsen Gallery opens an exhibition of works by Yoshio Okada

Phillips announces highlights from the London Spring Sales of 20th Century & Contemporary Art

Irma Stern's Arabian portrait triumphs at Bonhams African art sale

'No pistachios': Worn-down Iran's gloomy New Year festival

Satoko Fujii, a pianist who finds music hidden in the details of life

Met musicians accept deal to receive first paycheck since April

SITE Santa Fe appoints Louis Grachos as Executive Director

Taking stock of James Levine's tarnished legacy

Liverpool Biennial 2021 unveils new outdoor, sonic and digital commissions

Galerie Karsten Greve opens an exhibition focusing on the late work of Swiss artist Louis Soutter

Solo exhibition of recent paintings and watercolors by Ann Craven opens at Karma

Georgia Taylor-Berry and Jesse Taylor announced as reciepients of Sculpture by the Sea Artist Award

New TextielLab weaving machine brings excitement to artists and designers

A stunning diamond necklace fetches £23,560 in Dix Noonan Webb's spring auction

Nationalmuseum and the Gustavsberg Porcelain Museum open to visitors from 6 April

Why do People Play in Online Casinos?

Can YouTube Replace Guitar Books?




Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

 



Founder:
Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

sa gaming free credit

Royalville Communications, Inc
produces:

ignaciovillarreal.org avemariasound.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
Hommage
to a Mexican poet.
Hommage
       

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site Parroquia Natividad del Señor
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful