Emmanuel Macron′s cultural policies | Arts | DW | 09.05.2018
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Emmanuel Macron's cultural policies

As DW interviews the young and charismatic politician who won the French presidential elections in 2017, here's a look at some of Emmanuel Macron's views on cultural policy.

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French President Emmanuel Macron in DW interview

French President Emmanuel Macron, an unabashed Europhile, pronounced his commitment to promoting a "Europe of Culture" at the Frankfurt Book Fair last October. He has called for the return of all museum artifacts looted during colonial times in Africa and he also wants to act against the Paris centralism that also affects the country's culture, by sending the Louvre's Mona Lisa to the French countryside, for example.

Described by the author Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt as the "literary president," Macron wanted to become a writer when he was 16. He played the piano and starred in school plays and went on to study philosophy, writing a master's thesis on Machiavelli and Hegel.

Europe needs culture

"Without culture," Macron said in his speech at the opening of the 2017 Frankfurt Book Fair, "there is no Europe."Referring to rising populism and nationalism in Europe, Macron spoke of the unifying power of literature. "Books are the best weapons," against those trends, he said. "Nothing is more effective than the book. It's the most precious thing we have in our world."

Read more: French author Edouard Louis: Why Macron will lead voters to the far right

 Merkel and Macron (Getty Images/AFP/J. Macdougall)

A common culture: Smiling with Angela Merkel at the Frankfurt Book Fair

A 'cultural passport' for young people

In order to better democratize French culture — one of Macron's political goals — he wants to realize a "Passe Culture" program. This cultural passport, which has a one-time value of 500 euros, would be gifted to French youths upon their 18th birthday. The passport could be used as each person sees fit, as they go in search of greater culture: a trip to Barcelona or perhaps a year's subscription to a theater of choice.

The pass does not come without a cost: with around 850,000 youths celebrating their 18th birthday in 2018 alone, the program would cost the French Ministry of Culture around 425 million euros. In September, the idea gets a test run in four departments of France: Bas-Rhin, Hérault, Seine-Saint-Denis and French Guiana.

Read more: 'Macron needs to shed his image as president of the rich'

The restitution of colonial treasures to Africa

The French President made way for a revolution in European culture in November 2017 when he spoke at the University of Ouagadougou about his plans to return culture goods that were taken from Africa.

He recognized the "indisputable crimes" of European colonialism and told the President of Burkina Faso along with the several hundred students in attendance that he would do all he could to realize that restitution was made.

And although he spoke only of those prestigious collections of African art in Paris' possession, the speech made waves in institutions across Europe: Berlin's upcoming Humboldt Forum museum owns some 75,000 African artifacts in its collection.

Read more: Emmanuel Macron's mission in Africa: A new approach? 

Model of the Humboldt Forum Berlin (Imago/IPON)

Curators at the Humboldt Forum in Berlin are likewise grappling with questions of the restitution and return of exhibits

A fight against 'cultural segregation'

One of Macron's campaign promises was to decentralize French culture and make the country's cultural treasures accessible to everyone. But in the French cultural cosmos, one star shines brighter than the others: the capital city of Paris.

To fight against this "cultural segregation,"  François Nyssen, French Minister of Culture, is seriously considering sending the Mona Lisa on a tour through the countryside.

In many French provinces, there is only one cultural institution for every 10,000 residents – and that institution might be a library or a movie theater. Those who profit most from the cultural offerings of Paris are the mobile elite or those who can easily get to cities like Bordeaux or Lyon.

Bringing the painting to the Louvre's second space in Lens would bring the art closer to the people; at the same time, it would cost nearly 35 million euros and create losses for the city, as 90 percent of all visitors to the Louvre in Paris go there just to see her mysterious smirk.

90% of visitors to the Louvre come to see the Mona Lisa's smile (picture alliance/Godong)

90% of visitors to the Louvre come to see the Mona Lisa's smile


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