Claude Gillot, a stillborn exhibition

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The Claude Gillot exhibition at the Louvre lasted less than three days. The exhibition has been unhooked, and lenders are already seeing the return of works they had theoretically loaned for three months.

1. Claude Gillot (1673-1722)
Christ at the foot of the Cross
Pen and gouache - 16.4 x 21.8 cm
Langres, Musée d’Art et d’Histoire
Photo: Didier Rykner
See the image in its page

That this first retrospective devoted to a little-known artist such as Antoine Watteau’s master has had to leave the Salle de l’Horloge [1] which housed it - above the Chapel - is undoubtedly not open to dispute: according to the Louvre’s press release, water ingress has indeed been noted in these two rooms. The works that were directly threatened were removed and sent to storage in the meantime, and the necessary emergency measures were taken to stop the seepage. The remaining works were gradually removed, and will all be returned to their owners.

While the premature end of the exhibition devoted to the Museo di Capodimonte, which had already been running for a very long time, was not too penalizing (except for those who had not seen the works brought together in the chapel), that of the small Gillot retrospective, which could only be admired by a very few people, is difficult to understand. All that work, all those artworks displaced for nothing, certainly deserved a better fate.
It’s hard to understand why a solution couldn’t have been found to move it and display it elsewhere. We spoke to the Louvre, who explained that this was not possible.

Wouldn’t it be possible to install it in the areas formerly devoted to the graphic arts around the rotunda of reliefs by Jean Goujon, above the large temporary exhibition rooms in the Pyramid? The Louvre told us that these rooms would be undergoing renovations from January onwards, so this was not a solution.
Wouldn’t it be conceivable to move it to the second floor, not far from the Pavillon de l’Horloge, where antique frames are currently on display and where several rooms can be used for this purpose (they were once used for exhibitions)? We were initially told that the atmosphere was not healthy (!) and that this was why the frames had been installed there... An absurd and erroneous response: firstly, gilded wood is even more sensitive to humidity than drawings, and secondly, these frames were here long before there were any problems with the drains, since they were hung to show them off as works in their own right. Faced with our arguments, the Louvre had to concede that this explanation did not hold up.

2. Claude Gillot (1672-1722) and Antoine Watteau (1684-1721)
Arlequin Emperor in the Moon, c. 1707-1709
Oil on canvas - 65 x 82 cm
Nantes, Musée d’Arts
Photo: Didier Rykner
See the image in its page

The other justification put forward did not hold up either: a new museography would have had to be devised, which was impossible given the workload of the teams, who also had to devise new displays for the exhibitions to follow, which could not be held in the Pavillon de l’Horloge. An equally unacceptable excuse: it would be understandable if, given the urgency of the situation, the exhibition was simply hung up, without any thought of a perfect museography. The important thing was to see these works.
Another reason we were given was no more convincing: because the teams were so busy, it would not have been feasible to find the people needed to move the works from the Pavillon de l’Horloge to their new location... nd yet they found staff capable of taking them down, transporting them to storage, repackaging them and shipping them back to their owner three months ahead of schedule. But no one to move them from one wall to another.

It’s not all very credible, especially as the return journey seems to have been organized in a very chaotic way: the exhibition was interrupted on 11 November, the day the seepage was spotted, and works began to leave as early as the middle of the following week, while today, November 20, nine days later, some lenders still did not know: they found out from us! For a long time to come, we’ll be wondering about this amateurism and the real reasons behind this abandonment in the middle of nowhere. Should we see it as a consequence of the difficult genesis of an exhibition that was originally intended to be joint with the Morgan Library, but which ended up with two separate catalogues? What is certain is that the Department of Graphic Arts has once again distinguished itself, and not in a good way.

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