Before 1991

Centre Culturel Gérard Philipe

  • U+0043-006

    Latin Capital Letter C

  • C Centre Culturel Gérard-Philipe


  • w.n.

    Green offset printing, 3,3 × 4 cm

  • Brétigny Aujourd'hui, №29, p. 44



In 1974 the New Towns General Secretariat Central Group installed in each of the group’s towns a “visual arts” cell; these arts centers soon came to symbolize the decentralization of culture. Brétigny-sur-Orge was not, strictly speaking, one of the new towns the way Évry, Marne-la-Vallée, and Cergy-Pontoise were. But it did benefit from the repercussions of this significant moment when the public authorities, with the “1% for art” initiative taking shape, worked to see the artist become “the direct partner of the urban planner.”[1].

That same year Gilles Arnoult, the former organizer at Villeparisis’s cultural center and director of the then brand-new Communal Cultural Center of Brétigny mounted the first “visual arts” events there. At the time CCCB was working out of the Gérard Philipe Center, only a few steps from the art center’s current location. Current art, contemporary prints, and drawings were shown there, alternating—at least during the initial series—with the work of young artists and newspaper illustrators, as well as posters, particularly from Latin America. Two years later, Gilles Arnoult recruited the visual artist Otto Teichert, who was to design and develop programing at the space until late 1985.

We find ourselves here at the beginnings of what would later come to be called art centers in France. These were often the result of the drive of committed artists, who were able to take advantage of a context and the right tools to fashion an environment that was favorable to making art. In the case of the future CAC Brétigny, the context was fostered by the outstanding support of the Communist mayor at the time, Alain Blin, and that of his assistant for cultural affairs, René Julienne, who maintained the momentum and contemporary direction that Otto Teichert had given the movement.

In late 1977, the latter brought on board the art critic and junior lecturer at Paris 8 University Philippe Cyroulnik, who provided outside support and assisted with programing. A full schedule of exhibitions was put in place with five to seven solo and group shows per year, displaying a clear preference for painting and drawing. Priority was given to supporting and promoting young visual artists based on regular studio visits, primarily in the Île-de-France region but also further afield. A carte blanche approach was also practiced, which involved entrusting an invited professional from the art world with the project design, notably in the field of photography.

Drawing on his university connections, Philippe Cyroulnik encouraged the temporary hiring of student-interns, who helped to gradually introduce an educational department in the cultural center at a time when such outreach programs were unheard of. Otto Teichert was especially mindful of documenting the shows and events taking place at the center by publishing documents on the artists, commissioning contributions from young art critics, and putting out videos on contemporary art directly tied in with the shows that were running at the time. This way of thinking, geared to passing on knowledge, experience, and curiosity about art, can also be seen in the close ties the center has developed with nearby schools and in particular with the Lycée Jean-Pierre Timbaud, where classes in the visual arts resonate with the activities going on at the cultural center.


In 1981, Visual Arts officials at various culture-oriented institutions from satellite towns around Paris decided to regroup within a common organization, IAPIF (Information Arts Plastiques Île-de-France/Information Visual Arts Île de France). This statute 1901 association brought together some half-dozen institutions, viz., the Communal Cultural Center of Brétigny, the Cultural Initiative Center of Corbeil-Essonnes, the Municipal Gallery and Visual Arts Studios of Gennevilliers, the Municipal Department of Visual Art of Choisy-le-Roi, the Center for Cultural Initiatives of Saint-Cyr-l’École, the Cultural Center of Villeparisis and finally the Cultural Initiative Center Les Gémeaux of Sceaux.

This initiative allowed the towns to develop collections according to the following protocol: the six venues would jointly make an overall acquisition of an artist’s work and would devote to the artist an exhibition drawing on a common collection of pieces as well as original works that would renew the show at each of its iterations. The artists exhibited in this way include the painters Erró, Joël Kermarrec and Jean Degottex. Each of the towns acquired a work by the artist in question according to a distribution decided by drawing lots. Prefiguring the later TRAM network,[2] IAPIF represented in any event an early attempt at working within a network. It evinced a keen awareness of the benefits that arise from pooling skills, experiences and knowledge in a mindset of effective support for artists, on the one hand, and a professionalization of institutional structures, on the other, in terms of both finances and visibility.

Inside, outside

In 1982, Otto Teichert, working with Philippe Cyroulnik, launched an annual initiative called “Inside…/ Outside…/ Proposals” (“Dedans.../ Dehors.../ Propositions”), which involved exhibiting temporary and studio works simultaneously in the Gérard Philipe Center gallery and outside (especially on site in the vast sculpture garden created for the occasion and/or in the town center itself). This program would run until 1991.

In late 1985, Teichert left CCCB and several months later founded—with Philippe Cyroulnik and Thierry Sigg—Le Crédac, Contemporary Art Center of Ivry-sur-Seine,[3] which would later join the IAPIF network. It was the artist Jean-Michel Espinasse who, from 1986 to 1991, directed the cultural center and developed its annual program of visual arts events. He presented each year alternately and “without excluding any school or genre”[4] an IAPIF show, an “Inside-Outside” show, a show featuring young emerging painters, and finally a solo show of a living artist.

In 1986, at the request of Brétigny’s mayor Jean de Boishue, the town’s cultural department was tasked with forming a collection[5] of contemporary works of art to preserve the memory of the initiatives undertaken by the town in the visual arts domain.

Espace Jules Verne, which today is home to CAC Brétigny, was inaugurated in 1988. It is the culmination of work begun at the Gérard Philipe Center, bringing together under one roof a space devoted to the visual arts, a media library, and a theater. The cultural center became a municipal facility, confirming a process of “municipalizing culture” that was very emblematic of the late 1980s in France.[6] Jean-Michel Espinasse left Espace Jules Verne in 1991. The eighth and last show in the “Dedans.../ Dehors.../ Propositions” series, featuring the artists Cécile Bart, François Deck, and Jean-François Grand, was the work of Francis Bentolila and Xavier Franceschi, who had just been appointed director of visual arts for the town.

Manon Prigent, with the generous assistance of Otto Teichert.


[1] Paris Île-de-France special report. Special issue of ARTS INFO no. 40 (Sept-Oct), 1987, 16.

[2] Founded in the mid-1990s, TRAM is an association uniting 32 venues involved in producing and spreading contemporary art in Île-de-France.

[3] Otto Teichert subsequently left Le Credac to direct the Mulhouse School of Art, going on to head the Graduate School of Art of three cities in succession, Limoges, Marseille, and Strasbourg, between 1997 and 2013.

[4] Paris Île-de-France special report. Special issue of ARTS INFO no. 40 (Sept-Oct), 1987, 5.

[5] This collection was put under the aegis of the Community of Cœur d’Essonne, following the transfer of responsibilities to the Community of Val d’Orge, and subsequently to the metropolitan area that took shape when two formerly separate communities combined, Arpajonnais and Val d’Orge.

[6] See Philippe Urfalino, L'invention de la politique culturelle, La Documentation française, Paris, 1996, 279.