The gap that Nathalie Herschdorfer leaves at the Museum of Fine Arts in Le Locle will be short-lived. The emblematic curator of the institution, who for eight years helped to strengthen its influence, took over the management of Photo Elysée in Lausanne on Wednesday. She will be replaced by Federica Chiocchetti on June 13, the authorities of the second largest city in the Neuchâtel Mountains announced on Friday.
The newcomer, of Italian nationality and resident in Paris, has a track record that has allowed her to stand out among 33 candidates. Author, curator, publisher, she holds three Masters degrees in Milan and London (Finance, Publishing, Comparative Literature) and a PhD in Photography. In addition to directing exhibitions for ten years, she founded the photo-literary platform Photocaptionist.
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“It’s a size that really stood out. And she is very likeable, I am convinced that she will fit in well with the teams,” he says time the President of the Municipality Miguel Perez (The Greens). The competition is tough, he said. “We received CVs from very competent people from very different backgrounds, even from Hong Kong!”
The appointment of personalities from outside the region sometimes makes the Neuchâtel cultural circles flinch. Wasn’t there a rare pearl in the canton? “We have not received any regional applications, and very few from the rest of Switzerland,” replies the elected official.
Close and merge swept
This announcement is a strong signal. The departure of Nathalie Herschdorfer raised questions about the future of MBAL. Some already saw it closed, others conjured up a merger with its counterpart in Limone-de-Fonnier. “The Le Locle PLRs said that keeping just one curator for the two institutions was enough, no doubt to save a few cents. They don’t know anything about museum life,” says Miguel Perez.
In his opinion, such an approach does not make sense. He recalls that in 2014 a merger was considered: “It would have proved more expensive than maintaining separate entities.” But above all, the two museums must maintain their own identities in order to continue to thrive, the President assures: “In Le Locle repeating what is being done in La Chaux-de-Fonds would not make sense. We have to have a real personality.”
Nathalie Herschdorfer was able to give the MBAL a supra-regional, even international appeal by exhibiting works by Andy Warhol, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Stanley Kubrick in particular. Between his arrival and his departure, the number of visitors increased from 1,000 to 10,000 per year. There is no question for Miguel Perez that it will be “a small, insignificant regional museum”. He expects new ideas from Federica Chiocchetti to maintain and develop this momentum.
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Because for Le Locle it’s not just about a museum: “Anyone who doesn’t know our city insults it again and again. We have such a bad image… It’s a shame. The MBAL gives us an aura, it changes the perception of our region.” The official-elect categorically insists that there has never been – and never will be – a question of closing this museum: “It has had others throughout its 160 years of existence seen.”
Despite his modest means, his financial health is excellent, he continues. “Of course it would be complicated if we had to take over the operation on our own. But his association collects around 250,000 francs every year. So it doesn’t cost the community much.”
Federica Chiocchetti will soon arrive in Switzerland to meet her collaborators. She will start working part-time by the end of the year to complete her tenure in Paris and find accommodation in the region. The transition will be smooth, concludes Miguel Perez: “An exhibition is ready for this autumn, everyone knows what to do, the ground is well prepared.”
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