LITTLE BIG PORTRAIT of Catherine Alestchenkoff
Catherine preparing the exhibition "the forbidden city in Monaco" @DR
Catherine Alestchenkoff next to the portrait of Francis Bacon by Carlos Freire © Pascal Giron (2016)
Catherine Alestchenkoff par Yves Clerc @DR
The director of cultural events of the Grimaldi forum unveiled for us what happens behind the scene and told us about the new summer exhibition “The Forbidden City in Monaco” dedicated to the last dynasty of Imperial China.
Catherine Alestchenkoff admits being discreet and gives very few interviews. But as soon as we start asking her about her job, she can’t stop talking. Passionately. She welcomes us warmly in her office at the Grimaldi forum from where she manages the cultural events department, surrounded by a multitude of art books. After a position as exhibition assistant at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, Catherine joined the Grimaldi forum adventure in 2000. Her mission? “Generate emotions! And make the public dream by organizing original cultural exhibitions, not seen anywhere else before and with a unique scenography”- she told us. She started then to program each year a summer exhibition that quickly became an unmissable cultural event. Themes are always different, mixing patrimonial, monographic or modern art topics, always treated with an innovative angle.
It is with the success of the “Super Warhol”, an exhibition presenting key art work from the American artist in 2003, that the doors from the major institutions opened. Giving legitimacy to the Grimaldi forum on the international cultural scene. Only successes followed, like for example “ The Grace Kelly years, Princess of Monaco” in 2007, “Queens of Egypt” in 2008, “Monaco celebrates Picasso” in 2013 and the Nahmad collection, « ArtLovers » in 2014 with the modern art collection of François Pinault, « From Chagall to Malevitch, the forefront revolution » in 2015 and « Francis Bacon, Monaco and the French culture » last year.
Among her best souvenirs, Catherine Alestchenkoff mentions « Arts of Africa » that in 2005 gathered primitive pieces as well as work from contemporary African artists, who came for the first time in Monaco to attend the event. “It was a beautiful human experience because we very rarely meet contemporary artists”. But she also organise cultural events all year long for the local community, with among others exhibitions of photographers such as Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Helmut Newton, Robert Doisneau, Willy Rizo, Suzanne Held, etc. And makes this exhibition space, a place open to everyone.
Telling a story
“Creating an exhibition is first of all about telling a story”. Each new event get created the same way. Catherine Alestchenkoff puts forward, suggests or gathers projects that can meet the expectations of the cultural public of the Côte d’Azur in the best possible way. Once the right angle is found, she needs to find and confirm the curator « who will tell the story », get the board validation and ensure the availability of the artwork. “Usually we start working on exhibition 3 years in advance”. Like for the exhibition of this summer “the Forbidden City” which is about the last Chinese dynasty who ruled from 1644 à 1911. “In 2011 we had organized « China of the First Emperor » with terracotta soldiers and horses statues lent by China after a diplomatic visit from H.S.H Prince Albert. We wanted to keep telling the story of Imperial China, but this time under the last dynasty”
China in Monaco
More than 250 pieces will be presented in more than 3000 square meters. Most of them come directly from the Forbidden City but there will be also pieces from occidental museums. Each of the room will be dedicated to a specific function of the emperor as he was at the same time religious, military and literary chief… Catherine Alestchenkoff organized the exhibition with the curator Jean Paul Desroche and the help of all her team. After 17 years of making us dream with unique creations, does she still have any dreams left? “I would like to create an exhibition with private collections from Monaco and tell the story of art through these collections”.
We certainly can’t wait!
For more information on the exhibition " The forbidden city in Monaco" : www.grimaldiforum.com
Every day from 10h00 AM to 8h00 PM, until 10:00 PM on Thursdays.
Until the 17th September
OUR QUESTIONS TO Catherine Alestchenkoff
Which place do you find the most inspiring in/around Monaco?
The Charles Garner Opera and most specifically its facade overlooking the gardens, showcasing the beautiful Belle-Epoque architecture and acting as a reminder of the old days and their magnificent parties.
Your favourite restaurants ?
La DifférAnce, on the coastal path towards Menton. A quiet place, overlooking our incredibly blue sea, nature, and the sun.
A secret to stay in shape ( A part from running!)
To stay in shape, I escape as soon as I can to the back country, in the Mercantour, for long hikes in the mountains.
One of your daily pleasures?
Looking at the sea and watch the changing light on this limitless horizon
Local artists you admire?
I always enjoy visiting the artists’ studios but the Grimaldi forum is not intended to be a permanent art gallery and is not focusing specifically on young talents. For this I enjoy going to the Pavillon Bosio, (École Supérieure d'Arts Plastiques de la Ville de Monaco)- It is a true artist lab, combining workshops, meetings, performances, exhibitions and art education.
Your secret addresses to share with our Little Big Monaco readers?
I discovered when I arrived in Monaco, a site that remains emblematic for me. In February 2001, we had just opened the Yann Arthus-Bertrand exhibition « Earth from above” and he had planned an helicopter flight over some sites of the Principality. Among those, the sky of the Fairmont hotel, a huge piece by Vasarely. Walking on this promontory overlooking the Mediterranean sea, being in the middle of a piece from this artist, is all the more a strong moment that it is rare.
Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Terrasse Vasarely (2001)
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