The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
La Grande Arche
Louvre Museum


*1 région (regional)
Referring to the 1964 division of the country into inclusive regional governments above the département level. However, these bodies were only given the power to rationalize and implement programs initiated and administrated by the national government departments

*2 DRAC directions régionales des affairs culturelles
(regional bureaus of cultural affairs)

Bureaus established throughout the country as part of the program of decentralization of power in the 1970s. Besides serving as intermediaries in the distribution of cultural funding these bureaus also served an advisory and evaluating function with regard to the related local agencies based on Ministry Of Culture policy.
Artist aAn Ovewview.
French cultural policy enters pivotal era‹ô‹ô‹ô‹ôKuniyuki Tomooka (Sociology, Cultural Policy researcher / Instructor, Takasaki City University of Economics)  
French cultural policy enters pivotal era.†ª†ª†ª†ªKuniyuki Tomooka (Lecturer of Takasaki City University of Economics)  
In France, the national government takes a leading role in supporting the arts. Also, since the birth of a socialist party government in 1981, the budget for cultural programs has nearly doubled, to the point that it now represents nearly 1% of the entire national budget. It is also a widely accepted fact that a wider variety of creative activities, including mass (entertainment) culture, have become recipients of this cultural support from the government, and that, despite the fact that the national government takes the leading role, there has also been a trend toward decentralization and greater shift of decision-making rights to the localities.
In recent years, however, studies have emerged that question these commonly held ideas about France’s cultural policies and programs since the 1980s. In the following pages I would like to refer to these recent studies in taking another look at the actual state of cultural support conducted by the national and local governments with special focus on the question of “democratization of culture.”

The disparity between Malraux and Lang

To understand the history of French national cultural policy we can look for its origins in the era of absolutism. However if we understand cultural policy as referring not only to support for (and control of) the creative activities of artists but also referring to policies aimed at promoting the access of the people to cultural activities, then we must recognize two decisively important events in the history of France’s cultural policy development. One is the establishment of the Ministry of Culture with André Malraux as its first Minister in 1959, while the other is appointment of Jack Lang as Minister of Culture in 1981 with the ascension of a socialist government. Of these two, the latter can be said to have changed the basic framework of France’s cultural policy to its present form, and the defining characteristics of this policy can best be understood by comparing it with the cultural policy under Malraux.
In short, what Malraux applied himself to as the first Minister of Culture was a policy know as the “democratization of culture.” This “democratization of culture” meant making France’s sophisticated artistic culture available to all citizens of France equally. To realize this end, Malraux applied himself to the construction of cultural facilities (called “Houses of Culture”) throughout the country. These “Houses of Culture” were what could be called multipurpose culture centers with facilities for presenting everything from theater, music concerts, movies and television to exhibitions and lectures.
However, in the ten years before his term as Minister ended in 1969, only seven of these “Houses of Culture” were completed, and even today there are a total of only 15. This failure was due in part to the great cost construction of such facilities, but even more so, it is believed to be the result of a failure to gain the support of the general public. This is surely due to shallowness of the concepts Malraux’s “Houses of Culture” policy was based on. He believed that the democratization of culture could be achieved by simply supplying cultural facilities and ignored other sociological factors like class and family and education. Also, his concept of democratization of culture involved the spreading of the finest artistic works of Paris throughout the country, which completely failed to take into account thematic questions like stimulating the various regional cultures that exist around France. In contrast, when Jack Lang was appointed Minister of Culture in 1981 under a new left-leaning government, he proceeded to pursue the democratization of culture with a very different interpretation of what that concept involved. In short, Lang had a much broader definition of what constituted “culture” and greatly expanded the framework of things eligible for cultural support to include not only regional culture but also the vast range of so-called mass culture and the entertainment industries. In other words, he interpreted the democratization of culture not as the spreading of traditional fine art but as the preservation and support of a wide variety of culture that was deeply rooted in the lifestyles of the people. Furthermore, he sought to achieve this not by reducing the amount of support going to traditional fine arts buy by greatly increasing the national budget for the arts (twice the previous year’s budget).
The important mainstay of this new policy of supporting culture in its full diversity was the stimulation of cultural activities in the various regions of the country. In order to change the system of centralized governance that had typified French politics for so long, the new left-leaning government implemented laws in 1982 and 83 aimed at decentralizing governance by transferring several powers formerly held by the national government to publicly elected regional legislatures (*1). Of course, these changes also affected cultural policy, with the formation of a network of regional bureaus (directions) of cultural affairs throughout the country, DRAC (*2). Presently there are 27 of these regional bureaus of culture in France and it is said that 90% of the financial support for cultural projects supplied under the nation’s cultural policies are decided at the regional bureau of culture level. What’s more the combined budgets of the local governments for cultural support are presently 2.5 times larger than the budget of the national Ministry of Culture.
Even more important in Lang’s new policies, however, was the new focus on support for mass culture. In fact, it was the support of mass consumer culture and amateur cultural activities that characterized Lang’s culture policy more than anything else. Under Lang, the Ministry of Culture set about the task of tearing down the barriers art and the masses, the different standpoints dividing the arts, amateurs and pros, inequalities based on regional or ethnic differences and the like. Within this framework, the Ministry was especially diligent in its efforts to break down the hierarchy existing between fine and low art.
The Ministry began by taking on the problem of the existing culture policy of selecting recipients of aid based on their respective forms of artistic expression and began to actively extend support to the many areas of “common people’s culture” that had previously been ignored, such as doll theater, operetta, circus and culinary culture. France’s new Ministry of Culture turned particular attention to young people’s culture, especially popular music, including pops and rock. For example, in February of 1982 Lang released a new music policy including numerous guidelines for the support of pops. These included support for young musicians seeking places to practice and support to regional organizations willing to supply such facilities. Even more striking was the construction of halls specifically for rock concerts. The first of these was the Le Zenith, which opened in January of 1984 in the La Villette area of Paris, and gradually this was followed by plans to build similar facilities in other regions of the country. It was an especially striking development in France in the first half of the eighties to see areas like pops and rock music which had previously been regarded as small branches of the entertainment industry become eligible recipients of government cultural support. In May of 1989 the Ministry of Culture established a new post for an officer in charge of rock music, with the first officer being a 25-year-old music magazine editor named Bruno Ryon. As officer in charge of support for rock music Ryon was given an initial budget of 43 million francs. This trend of support for popular music continues today, having been the object of special policy emphasis in 1998 and 99.
The Ministry of Culture also gave its support to comic book culture. In April of 1982, Land held a conference for professional comic artists. Then, in a press conference in January of 83, he made a point of noting that comic books had been looked down on as a medium criticized as having a bad influence on young people and lacking cultural value. He called for comics to be recognized as a valid art form. Later, President Mitterrand’s visit to the annual International Comic Festival in the city of Angoulême in 1985 led to the idea of founding a National Comic Center the following year. That center would eventually open in January of 1991. Other similar developments in the area of popular culture industries were the establishment of a national Center for Photographic Art, a School of Photographic Art in Arles and a Museum of Advertising.
All this shows that the diversification of aid recipients into various cultural fields is one of the important characteristics of France’s culture policy after the ascension of the left-leaning government. At the same time, however, France’s socialists pursued what can be considered rather conservative policies that contrasted with this. We refer to the building of large-scale facilities under President Francois Mitterrand’s “Grand Project.” It had become a common practice for French presidents to undertake monumental building projects since Pompidou, but this practice reached a new level under Mitterrand and drew much attention in that a single president was undertaking the construction of several large projects.
While the funding for culture-related facilities under the “Grand Project” came from the budget of the Ministry of Culture, the projects were directed by Mitterrand himself. This meant that these projects were managed independent of the other Ministry of Culture programs. It is said that the president’s involvement in the projects went beyond the mere formulating of plans to include specific and often quite detailed instruction throughout the execution of each project.
The construction projects undertaken under Mitterrand’s Grand Project included (1) the Grand Louvre (the large-scale renovation of the Louvre Museum, including the building of the pyramid), (2) The National Library, (3) the Opera Bastille and (4) the Grand Arch (international communications center at the Arch of Triumph). Because the Grand Project was placed administratively under the presidency rather than the Ministry of Culture, it avoided any interference when France had a change of government (conservative government from 1986 - 88) and continued uninterrupted. It is safe to say that Jack Lang and Francois Mitterrand were the two leaders of French cultural policy in the eighties, but as we have seen above, the cultural policies and programs they each pursued were quite different in direction, at least on the surface. While Lang sought to change cultural policy and programs to fit the needs of the times, Mitterrand pursued more traditional policy methods in the creation of national monuments.
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