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Tandem, a cultural brand from de French Institute

Founded in 2011 by the French Institute, the label Tandem provides a platform for artistic exchanges, linking Paris to other foreign capitals. The success seen within the Paris- Buenos Aires and Paris- Berlin collaborations confirm the effectiveness of such co-branding. 


 Tandem is an exercise involving one year of artistic and literary exchanges. Its debut in 2011 solidified the link between Paris and Buenos Aires, which was then followed by a collaboration between Paris and Berlin in 2012. Encouraged by the success of these latest partnerships, the French Institute went on to launch Tandem Paris-Dakar 2013 on the 28th of March.

Strengthening historical and diplomatic relations

These affiliations are not random, but instead carefully cultivated by the President of the French Institute, Xavier Darcos. Every year Tandem chooses to celebrate a historical relationship between the French capital and the capital of a foreign nation. According to the French Institute, Tandem “doesn’t pretend to invent a relation between two capitals but simply to boost it, through an artistic and literary engagement, which will, for sure, last for years into the future.” Buenos Aires was selected because it pertains a close relationship with Paris. Argentina’s capital welcomed a flood of French migrants in the period between 1880 and 1910. In 2012, Berlin was chosen as an artistic partner, allowing the two cities to recognise and celebrate 25 years of friendship. Tandem was firmly involved with the cultural side of the commemoration. Most recently, in March of this year, during the opening ceremony of the third edition of Tandem, Xavier Darcos explained his choice of Dakar, highlighting “the historical and cultural links between Senegal and France.” The aim is not to try to forge out new diplomatic exchanges, but rather to strengthen the political and cultural relations that already exist, through artistic partnerships.

Promoting Paris throughout the world, through the use of a promising concept

On March 28th of this year, Jean François Guéganno, Director of Partnership Development at the French Institute, spoke of the encouraging results of the program, mentioning above all the “emergence of dialogues, new projects, and also, new artistic partnerships”. The various projects exist thanks to funding provided by political investors, such as the French Institute, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and Communication and Paris’ own Town Hall. Several cultural partners also support the program, including the Cent-Quatre and the Museum of Modern Art Paris. This is a connection between different actors, offering international cultural exchanges.

The program is multidisciplinary, spanning theater, music, art, literature, cinema and circus. The majority of events are free, allowing for greater accessibility. The success can be traced back to the founding of an original concept: offering young artists the opportunity to travel and explore neighboring cities. In essence, Tandem brings a foreign culture to the audience and not the contrary. In return, it is France, who in creating these partnerships gains international visibility and recognition from foreign capitals. This heightened international profile benefits local artists and groups such as the Cirque Electrique company, who in March performed to a packed house in the Grand Theatre of Dakar.

Tandem : a producer of international artistic exchanges in the long run?

More than simply a brand, Tandem is an international artistic network, supporting and strengthening French cultural diplomacy. This network has room to flourish if France continues to develop its partnerships through the years with other countries, whilst simultaneously laying the foundations for long-term cultural relations. Following the Paris-Buenos Aires Tandem in 2011, each capital is welcoming in 2013 a new designer of the partner-city, invited to stay for a six-month residence, in the context of a new co-operation. We await the sense of balance found in the first two editions - yet to be published – until we can tell for sure the sustainability of such a concept. 

Laurène Mathey


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