Jean Paul Favand
« Laughter is not taken seriously »
Jean Paul Favand
« Laughter is not taken seriously »
The history of the Pavillons de Bercy-Musée des Arts Forains is closely linked to its creator’s life, Jean Paul Favand , a collector of heritage from the performing and fairground arts, as well as an exhibition designer.
The Musée des Arts Forains was first established in Gentilly (1), then moved to the 15th arrondissement of Paris (2) and finally settled in 1996 in an ancient wine storage facility in Bercy, the “Chais Lheureux”. (3)
The Bercy neighbourhood is mostly known as a festive area in the 19th century. The Joyeux-Bercy, which was at the time beyond the borders of Paris, benefited from the privilege of tax removal on wine. Naturally, “guinguettes” were established there, along with the main wine traders. Wine was thus actively sold and drunk.History of Bercy
Now called Pavillons de Bercy, the site brings back to life past festivities by being a lively place of memory for the performing arts heritage. It welcomes over 300 000 visitors every year for evening events, guided tours and special openings (for example for the Festival du Merveilleux).
With its documentation centre and restoration workshops, the museum is a place of discoveries and preservation. Jean Paul Favand stages there his objects thanks to cutting-edge technologies.
His artistic approach and his interest for curiosities led him to meet many artists. For instance, he interacted with surrealists such as Dali, providing him with objects for his museum in Figueres, and became among other well acquainted with Doisneau or César.
As his collection was constantly growing, it became of utmost importance to restore and properly store his authentic “objets d’art”. Thus the idea of a commemorative site for amusement artefacts bloomed, in order to keep his collection alive and preserve it for the future.
Thanks to his experience in designing over fifty interactive exhibitions, and creating a themed “bistrot” (bar) called the Tribulum, Jean Paul Favand gave birth to an innovating museography and created a lively museum.
This entertaining museum is different from traditional cultural institutions. It can be destabilizing to discover a museum without labels or display cases; where it is possible to touch the art pieces which are staged around the visitors.A new kind of museum
In order to make these objects accessible and bring about a dialogue with the public, they were carefully selected among thousands in storage. Then Jean Paul Favand worked meticulously on positioning and matchmaking and used lighting in order to reveal their evocative power to the visitors.
To fully apprehend the very special nature of the place, the visitors need to be guided in order to immerse themselves into those out-of-time sceneries. Through the tours, the visitors also participate into the scenography and metaphorically become actors by entering each room through theater curtains. Each carousel offers a scenario, as in the Venitian rooms where our visitors become mechanical dolls on the music box melody of a gondola ride…
It is this interaction between the amusement artefacts and the visitors that embodies the concept of a lively and entertaining museum.
In parallel to 1900s showmen who used techniques inherited from the Industrial Revolution, Jean Paul Favand is turned toward the future using the latest technological innovations to give life to his objects.
« Here, the past meets the future, which enables me to tame the modern technologies I use in my object-staging approach » Jean Paul Favand
This is how, thanks to the multimedia shows where magic lanterns are replaced by video projectors that Robertson’s phantasmagorias and mechanical fairground theatres can come back to life.
However, even if digital technologies offer many possibilities, it remains but a simple tool to Jean Paul Favand, whose scenography mainly takes roots in the theatrical tradition.
19th-century funfairs were a social phenomenon, as important as cathedrals in the preceding centuries and television today. The fairground was the cradle of most modern forms of entertainment: theatres, music hall shows, hawkers, entertaining sports, illusionists, acrobats, jugglers, puppeteers, and many more.A short history of Fairground Arts
During the Belle Époque, visitors came to be entertained but also learn and discover. Through mechanical theatres, wax museums, cinemas, scientific demonstrations and other…funfairs popularised innovations and technologies.Fairground and science : Showmen as science popularisers
Although fairground arts were long denigrated as “popular”, they are now recognized as proper decorative art thanks to the quality and diversity of their ornaments. The past craftsmen would now be considered as artists. They had workshops with many students, catalogs were printed and exhibitions organized to present their work.A decorative art in its own right
The merry-go-rounds and booths preserved by the Pavillons de Bercy are the evidence of a vast heritage. Their display brings back an atmosphere similar to 19th century funfairs.The merry-go-rounds, booths and showfronts: an overview of fairground heritage