Culture is future »

11.27.2012

"Putting beauty where it is possible", by Denis Hennequin

Does culture / creative imagination give you a reason to hope ?

What characterizes our time ? Our aptitude for consuming, which is probably a memorable attribute of our societies. Growth itself  is related to the notion of consumption even if we do not know what to do with the objects and the services anymore … The role of culture is to give meaning and this meaning, while integrating with a consumption dialectic, can exceed the logic of accumulation : museums that manage to attract a large and diversified audience by turning into places of life, shopping malls, train stations of hotels that become places of exhibition and sensitization to art. A few years ago, the Ermitage museum of Saint Petersbourg offered hot chocolate to its visitors every Sunday, a way to create a contact between the spectators and the works, almost unconscious. Talking of which, when I was CEO of Mc Donald’s France, we organized an exhibition of contemporary artists in the Saint Lazare train station, where 200 000 people pass each other every day. Surprising works (Andrée Putman, Hilton Mac Connico, …) came to meet passers-by.

The hotel is also a place that can play the role of incentive, thus exceeding its initial function. During the inauguration of a Sofitel in Vienna, Jean Nouvel said that architecture and buildings often ‘take from the city’ in a unilateral relationship. Buildings and hotels must ‘give back to the city’ what it gives them : become places of conviviality without giving up their role thoroughfare by receiving art installations, in the rooms, in the hall or the walls, by surprising and creating envy.

My strong reason to hope is about our ability to make culture get out of its traditional case. ! Putting beautiful where it is possible in order to promote the positive values of diversity and blending, but also to bring people to culture in a different way and … to provoke !

 

Who embodies it the best ?

Artists who manage to combine different forms of expression, who call for the five senses, who break the rules : Picasso’s collages, David Hockney’s digital works on Ipad, Leonardo Da Vinci’s inventions, Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, …. It is more about an attitude than about a person in particular.

 

What would be the personal initiative that embodies your reason to hope ?

The productive sectors, and economic in particular, can be formidable vehicles of communication for culture, art and design.

In our hotels, we are working towards the combination of different creative disciplines. With Ibis, we are developing a new idea of the economic hotel business where the role is enriched with emotion in order to make the economic hotel get out if the purely functional ghetto. Design is entering hotels with iconic furniture with a strong personality and we are developing a pilot project Ibis Music, in partnership with Universal Music to enable the customers to have access to the entire catalogue of Universal. On the whole, every brand of the group develops its own artistic projects. The Pullman hotels are getting involved in favor of contemporary art, by welcoming unique works in the hotels. The Novotel brand, with the Sanguines project, exhibits in the rooms a print, tailor-made by contemporary artists, such as Alechinsky, Garouste or Marc Desgranchamps. Today, Novotel is the origin of the creation of the most important collection of contemporary red chalk drawings in the world, a unique collection registered to the BNF, which finally replaced the classical reproduction of drawings there was in the rooms with the original works. From an architectural point of view too, the work is colossal, particularly for the hotels from the 60s and 70s. But the examples of successful rehabilitation are numerous (Moscow, Berlin …) and prove that it is with investing. In Sofitel for example, the most famous international architects sign openings all over the world. It is not about creating standardized brands anymore, but about doing ‘glocal’ (global-local).

 

How would you like to pass it on to future generations ?

For the company, the passing on goes through the necessity of make the managerial behaviors change by federating around strong programs. With Accor, the program Planet 21 promotes the principles of sustainable development by including a cultural dimension, a ‘sustainable beauty’.