curatorial lens vol.8 / grégoire prangé

Grégoire Prangé photographed by Claude Quéré in 2022. Image courtesy of the curator.

Grégoire Prangé (born 1993) is Lille and Paris-based curator and art critic, currently working as Curatorial Department Coordinator at the LaM – Lille Métropole Musée d’art moderne, d’art contemporain et d’art brut. He received his degrees in History and Anthropology from Panthéon-Sorbonne University, Museum Studies and Art History from School of the Louvre and a Master in Management from ESSEC Business School, before moving towards working in the contemporary art world. In 2015, he co-founded the “Jeunes Critiques d’Art” collective and in 2018 the “Interférences” association as well as the “YACI” network in 2019.

Recently curated exhibitions include GS-GP-001 (Galerie Sator, 2019); Agnès Thurnauer, A comm boa (LaM, 2022); Etienne Chambaud: Lâme  (LaM, 2022). He also worked on exhibitions such as Etel Adnan (Zentrum Paul Klee, 2018); Etel Adnan et les modernes (MUDAM, 2019), William Kentridge: un un poème qui n’est pas le nôtre (LaM, 2020) and Guillermo Kuitca: dénouement (LaM, 2021). 

LUCIJA ŠUTEJ: How did you first come into contact with contemporary art?

GRÉGOIRE PRANGÉ: This is a difficult question, for which I am not sure I have an exact answer. What I am sure of is that the encounter with contemporary art came late and that it was not initially positive. I lived in a small town in Provence, in the southeast of France, and we were not very exposed to contemporary art. The first major exhibition I remember was the one of Pierre Soulages at the Centre Pompidou in 2009. I was 16 and my parents took us on a family vacation to the capital. I remember mostly a sort of surprise, curiosity, and a certain reluctance. I started to be more frequently in contact with contemporary art a couple of years later when I came to Paris to study History. But there again I had trouble processing the forms I saw. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I met Guitemie Maldonado, a professor at the École du Louvre, that I got into contemporary art – and I haven’t left since.

What is funny is that when I entered the École du Louvre, I was very interested in Medieval History, and I was doing a Master’s degree at the Sorbonne in the early 13th Century stained glass. I had to choose a specialty at the École and I took contemporary art by challenge because I didn’t like it and I wanted to understand it, or at least to know it better… so you could say that I came into contemporary art through the back doors.

LŠ: As a curator how would you define your curatorial practice? How did your educational background shape your interests?

GP: What’s interesting about your question, and this is how I see it, is that you ask about “curatorial practices”. I think that my activity as a curator is reshaped in each project because for me it is really a practice – a fluid one – more than status or a state. I don’t think I can completely define all that it implies for me, because I discover new aspects of it every day, but I know that what interests me most today is evolving, thinking, exchanging, co-conceiving, and co-building with artists, both in putting into space their project and in transmitting this project to the public. This may seem very banal, but I really think that it is the beauty and the difficulty of curatorial practices, which must operate on both the artist’s and the audience’s side, being like a support, a sparring partner, and sometimes a catalyst for one and a transmitter for the other, perhaps not like a bridge but more as a matchmaker – ideally you end up disappearing because you are not needed anymore… sometimes it feels like I’m growing different personalities.

Thankfully I am always working with teams, in collaboration, and this is a second aspect that really interests me, and I need it: collegial work and multiple exchanges with people of various skills and points of view, throughout the project.

Then, of course, there is my research, which focuses on our relationship to the image, and all that the image crystallizes and conveys of historical, cultural, symbolic, and political meaning. Especially the moving, hybrid images, in constant metamorphosis, and the way they take life and evolve in our minds and bodies. On this subject, I think that my early studies, in History and Anthropology, still govern in a way my approach to art and more generally to images and life.

LŠ: In 2015, you co-founded the “Jeunes Critiques d’Art” collective – could you tell us more about the formation and the early stages of your work? How did you approach the artists, institutions, and galleries?

GP: At the very beginning of the “Jeunes Critiques d’Art” project there was the desire of a group of students to write about the works they saw and the art world they discovered. But also, to carry a certain vision of art criticism, which we thought should be understandable, poetic, and political. We couldn’t find a magazine to write in that matched our desires, so we decided to get together to create a digital one. Very soon, the project grew and we defined ourselves as a collective of art critics, along the lines of the artists’ collectives we saw and worked with. Thus, the website quickly became our «critic-run space », so to say.

It was wonderful – and it still is – to be able to get together to visit exhibitions, write and grow together. To exchange our practices and discuss the role that art criticism could have today. And it was also very important to be united because we were very young – between 19 and 22 – and therefore very vulnerable. Being together gave us the courage and weight to carry our convictions. This is one of the reasons why we decided to call ourselves “Jeunes Critiques d’Art” (Young Art Critics): to affirm that even though we were young, amid discovery, we could still write and have something to say.

As there were about ten of us, the contact with the artists and other actors in the field was made more simply, by meetings and word of mouth. And after a while, as people were reading us and the name “Jeunes Critiques d’Art” was more and more known in France, artists, galleries and institutions started to approach us.

Even today, the critical practice experienced as a collective is extremely important to us. On the one hand, it allows us to evolve in our practices and to experiment with new formats – for instance, we recently launched La nuit n’en finit plus (The night never ends), collections of texts read on a musical background that results from nights spent writing on exhibitions: a completely renewed experience of writing. On the other hand, it enables us to collectively address issues that we think are essential and very problematic today, such as the precariousness in the art field, gentrification through cultural policies, sexual and gender-based violence, and so on. These commitments are carried out individually within the collective, but the group makes it possible to strengthen them, for instance through the podcast that we set up with Projets media, which is called Pourvu qu’iels soient douxces, that could be translated with: Hope they be sweet.

Camille Bardin and Grégoire Prangé recording the podcast: Pourvu qu'iels soient douxces in 2021. Photo by Adrianne Louet with courtesy of “Jeunes Critiques d'Art".

LŠ: Could you also tell us more about the curatorial projects of the collective?

GP: We decided quite early within the collective not to curate any exhibitions under the name “Jeunes Critiques d’Art”, to assert and assume the singularity of the critical practice, and we stuck to it except for rare and very special exceptions.

Three years ago, I co-founded with an artist, Camille Sauer, and about hundred young people in Paris, another collective, hosted by “Interférences” association whose purpose was to organize exhibitions: Quelque chose de neuf (Something New). It was wonderful: the whole collective selected the projects, and we then found places to show them, and we assisted the artist in all aspects of the exhibition, from the scenography and logistics to the realization of photo and video coverage, press relations and so on. All the technical skills were there, which was incredible. And the energy was tremendous. It worked very well and we set up projects at the Maison de l’Amérique Latine and the Guimet museum for instance. But unfortunately, Covid made it impossible to carry on with the activities and we were not able to resume afterward, mainly due to lack of time and energy.

Andrés Brisson's Feelnastic, organized by Quelque Chose de Neuf at Maison de l'Amérique Latine in Paris, 2019. Photo by Corentin Schimel and courtesy of Quelque Chose de Neuf.
Claire Luna, Grégoire Prangé and Léo Panico Djoued hosting the Online Talk for Festival Santa Lucia in Mexico, 2021. Screenshot from the video, courtesy “Jeunes Critiques d'Art".

LŠ: In 2019, you co-founded “YACI” (International Young Art Criticism) collective. How do you see its role compared to that of “Jeunes Critiques d’Art”?

GP: Within “Jeunes Critiques d’Art”, we were inhabited by all that the critical practice in collective brought to us, and we wished to find similar collectives throughout the world. The idea was to get in touch with each other, to create a great network of sharing. Quite soon, some friends of ours started a collective in Berlin, whose name is Pokus, for Poetische Kunstkritik. Then a collective in Taipei joined us: DocA.

We are still in the process of building and shaping this project, which has been slowed down by Covid. But the desire that we have is to be able to weave links, to decentralize our look by exchanging with the actors of other artistic scenes, and to allow the public to discover these different scenes through the eyes of those who live them. The idea is not to create a « supra-collective » but really to link independent existing collectives together. So, I hope it’s a « to be continued ».

“YACI” 2019 launch event in Paris, Grégoire Prangé is standing next to co-founder Camille Bardin. Photo by Roxane Rabiaux with image courtesy of “Jeunes Critiques d'Art".

LŠ: You are currently working for LaM – Lille Métropole Musée d’art moderne, d’art contemporain et d’art brut and you are also engaged in the work of the two collectives – “Jeunes Critiques d’Art” and “YACI”. Are these practices in dialogue?

GP: Absolutely! I have been working at the LaM for three years now and I am lucky to be able to participate in very incentive projects there, a stimulating artistic program shaped by our director – Sébastien Delot – in an attractive context and with resources that I do not have outside. So I’m learning a lot, and I feel that it feeds my personal and collective practices. At the same time, I think my personal and collective activities enrich my work at the museum and allow me to stay close to the artists, critics, and curators of my generation, which is very important for me. So the two go together and I can’t imagine doing one without the other.

LŠ: How do you see the future of art institutions – a current ongoing debate? Do you think the current museum model requires changes? How?

GP: Before even trying to answer, we should start by analyzing the different types of art institutions that exist, in terms of missions, scale, location, positioning, audiences, etc. The « model » is absolutely different from a major state museum in an international capital city and a little art center in the countryside for instance. Then, within these different categories, we need to understand what the drivers of change might be: Are they political? Artistic? Ecological? Social? Moral? The answers would most likely be different for each institution, as well as the priorities, and means to achieve them.

However, change is a vital necessity for any organization – and any life form. Art institutions are no exception. For all the reasons mentioned before, I don’t know what the future of art institutions will be. But I do know what we work for, in France today, in the art field that I live in: more inclusive institutions, aware of their political, social, and environmental impact, more experimental as well, more forward-thinking, respectful of artists and art workers, more aware of their history and the violence they carry, and so on.

Finally, there is the question of how. I believe that we won’t get there without gathering, developing together new imaginaries, and thinking of ways to make them happen, at our scale, where we are. So, in the end the question is no longer how but what: what do I do to make these models – and myself – change? And ensure that the answer never becomes: nothing.

It is then about developing structures that reflect our commitments and offer concrete actions. With “Jeunes Critiques d’Art” for instance, we have a very horizontal organization where all structural decisions are taken collectively. And we work a lot for a fair remuneration of artists, critics and art workers: we organize workshops, we battle for the tariff grids, based on the work of AICA France (International Association of Art Critics), etc. There is still a lot to do.

With Quelque chose de neuf, we absolutely wanted the selection of the projects to be transparent and that all the members of the collective – the curators but also the technicians, the photographers, and all the people involved – participate in the selection. And we decided that each exhibition would be curated collectively. It takes a lot of work to build projects like this, but the result is amazing. With “YACI”, we were afraid to repeat the patterns of neo-colonial super-organizations: this is why we immediately insisted on the total independence of all the collectives that would join the network. And “YACI” has no control over the texts published by the critics’ collectives, just as all the texts published on the “Jeunes Critiques d’Art” website are not approved by any management team and do not follow any editorial strategy. I could mention many other examples and numerous organizations in France, particularly in the field of « young creation », which are developing new ways of doing and thinking. It is very stimulating, but these experiments are still struggling to penetrate the institutional models.