“Every time an old man dies in Africa, it is as if a library has burnt down” (Amadou Hampaté Bâ). This is an expression of the motivation behind the formation of this foundation, one that Vacheron Constantin has supported over recent years. This cooperation represents a cultural partnership between Juan-Carlos Torres, CEO of Vacheron Constantin, and Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller, President of the Barbier-Mueller Museums of Geneva, Barcelona and Cape Town. It gave rise to the watch collection titled Métiers d’Art Les Masques, and major events such as the exhibition at the Jacquemart André Museum in Paris and a gala evening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
By supporting the Barbier-Mueller Museum Cultural Foundation, Vacheron Constantin naturally expands its existing excellent relations with the museum. Both organizations share the profound values of this project, above all the wealth of culture in the family of man.
Manufacture Vacheron Constantin has itself developed a wealth of company culture since its foundation in 1755, and it is also establishing a reputation for its cultural and social activities. Its economic success enables it to work on themes of general interest. This is the first time that the company is supporting a cultural foundation. The project has already produced two studies that are about to be published.
The first was performed by Italian anthropologist Daniela Bognolo, a specialist on Burkina Faso, regarding a “little-known people”, the Gan population. It will be published in September 2010.
The second study was conducted amongst the Wan, Mona and Koyaga peoples of the central Ivory Coast by Alain-Michel Boyer. It should be released by the end of the year.
The Barbier-Mueller Museum Cultural Foundation, with the support of Vacheron Constantin, was officially presented on Wednesday March 24th by Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller and Juan-Carlos Torres at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. The press conference was also attended by Arnaud d’Hauterives, a member of the Institut de France, Perpetual Secretary of the French Academy of Fine Arts; and Stéphane Martin, President of the Musée du Quai Branly.
The Foundation’s basic premise is linked to the concept that populations who don’t have a written culture risk losing their heritage of knowledge as the population itself diminishes. The vast wave of ethnological research that swept through the twentieth century focused mainly on the most ‘visible’ peoples, those overflowing with cultural wealth: masks, sculptures, initiatory societies, myths of various origins, etc. And yet, tiny groups with strong individual identity have been discovered sometimes living very close to the towns so frequently visited by anthropologists but unknown to them.
In the course of its thirty-three years of existence, the Barbier-Mueller Museum has performed research amongst some of these forgotten peoples. Many of these small, isolated groups produce no cult objects, masks or ‘fetishes’. All they have is a surprising socio-political structure, complex forms of worship staged around perishable, unfired clay statues, aniconic religious preoccupations - in short, nothing that can be displayed in a museum, or very little. The ultimate objective of the FOujdation is to ensure that no human beings, religions or cultures, however small, will ever disappear without leaving a clear trace.
The Foundation is at: Fondation Culturelle Musée Barbier-Mueller, 10 rue Jean Calvin, 1204 Genève, Switzerland
Tel : + 41 (0)22 312 02 70 , Fax : + 41 (0)22 312 01 90
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