“The idea that the Festival d’Automne could exist without passion is inconceivable.” The statement was made by Michel Guy, the man who founded the festival in 1978. For the next director, Alain Crombecque, it was “an event that merges with life and transcends the contingencies of time.” In paying tribute to these two visionaries, I wish to reiterate my statement when I was appointed director: “For the Festival d’Automne, the present has always been seen in resonance with history and memory, in being able to invent other, more desirable futures.”
For fifty years now the spirit of autumn has prevailed, built on values of original creation, open horizons and transmission, being loyal to artists in a determined quest to discover new works, breaking down borders both geographical and intellectual.
What does the Festival d’Automne mean today? A key feature of the history of the festival is loyalty to the artists whose inventiveness has attracted audiences year after year. The series of Portraits, initiated in 2012 and extending over a full season, follows the career of each artist portrayed, developing as part of this same trajectory.
This year, for the fiftieth festival, there are partners in 65 cultural venues, more than half of them in Greater Paris, for example, municipal and national theaters, dance centers and an historic chapel. The wide range of partners shows how dynamic the arts scene is in the Greater Paris area that is covered by the Festival d’Automne. All of these are bases and points for audiences to assemble as they establish their own individual itineraries.
The association of Friends of the Festival d’Automne has fifty partners in the private sector whose ongoing support has made it possible for so many events to be completed. I am delighted to be continuing the venture of the festival with them, together with the long-standing public partners, i.e. the Ministry of Culture, the City of Paris and the Region of Greater Paris [Île-de-France]. Our warm gratitude is extended to them all for their commitment to the Festival.
The team behind the festival may be small in number, but is steadfast, carrying on the work, passing it on from generation to generation. I wish to express respect and admiration when applauding the work done by Joséphine Markovits and Marie Collin who helped define the “spirit of autumn” and who have left their mark on the history of the Festival d’Automne à Paris.
Today, caught in the turmoil of the pandemic, we have continued on our path in a spirit of solidarity, and between May and July 2021 we presented more than thirty programs to audiences who had not been able to attend performances since autumn of last year. The same spirit saw us broadening our audiences with special efforts for the younger generation, particularly students, and also for some of the more vulnerable members of society.
The aspiration for solidarity is a feature of the new alliances formed with partners in healthcare, education, and social service sectors. The Festival has a role to play in supporting artists and their works, presenting them in schools, hospitals and community centers. Such alliances are formed by figures from different fields who come together around a shared ambition to offer new scope for the imagination. I wish to thank the Paris hospital authority AP-HP, the universities in Greater Paris, and the various clubs and organizations who are working together with us on these new and exciting experiments, making an invaluable contribution not only for the present but also for the future.
The fiftieth Festival has more than one hundred programs plus a large number of projects developed by young artists, programmed alongside names such as Christoph Marthaler, Marina Abramović, Robert Wilson and Lucinda Childs, and showing the attention given to equality and diversity in the selection of guest artists. The works of Lia Rodrigues, Gisèle Vienne, Forced Entertainment and Philip Venables featured as the four Portraits will be presented across Greater Paris and will include some of their older works, premiere performances and exhibitions. The visual artist Leonor Antunes from Portugal will have a two-part exhibition in original architectural settings, and the program also includes many events open free of charge, including the first weekend at various venues, all intended for a wider audience to discover the experience of the Festival.
For this fiftieth year, the spirit is one of innovation, solidarity and generosity, and we are pleased to be extending an invitation for you to share in the ever-young and ever-fresh experience of the Festival.
Director-General, Festival d’Automne à Paris