A new kind of museum

« Laughter is not taken seriously is a phrase I have often said regarding amusement heritage. It is the reason that prevented these objects from being displayed in a traditional museum, when France as so many museums for war and work. »
– Jean Paul Favand


In his willingness to create a lively place of memory for performing and fairground arts, Jean Paul Favand had to face the rigidity of traditional museum displays. His idea was not a place filled with nostalgia but on the contrary somewhere alike his bistrot, the Tribulum, lively and joyful. The display should pay homage to entertainment heritage and to its prior function: be a purveyor of dream.

Therefore, Jean Paul Favand developed an object-staging approach, considering himself as a stage director and his objects as a theatrical troupe.

For this unique production, objects were carefully selected among his collection for their strong evocative power. Secondly, to uncover this evocative power, objects were treated by passionate conservators in the respect of the objects historical and cultural value as well as conservation standards. Finally, objects are meticulously positioned and sculpted using lighting to reveal them and guide the visitors’ eye.

« The idea is to give the floor back (to the object), to awake its expressions, to seize its essence. »

A curiosity exhibitor and objects matchmaker

This approach is complemented with the concept of object matchmaking – enabling the objects to interact not only with the visitors but also amongst themselves. This, along with the absence of display cases and labels, created a unique closeness between the visiting-spectators and the acting-objects. Visitors are invited the meander not only as spectators but as actors of their own tour they create following their artistic sensitivity and the objects they discover as the walk by.

 « My approach is somehow similar to the Renaissance autodidact Humanists. Back in the time of cabinet of curiosities knowledge was acquired through what the senses could perceive (sight, touch). As the science of the Humanist resulted of their intuition, not their reason.»

Jean Paul Favand tried to design a place out of time. Visitors are invited to interact and touch the objects and thus forget about their everyday life. It parallels the role of funfairs at the Belle Epoque that enables visitors to be carried away and seize the moment.

The conservation & restoration workshop : bringing back the objects’ magic

Preservation and conservation of Jean Paul Favand’s collection, as a unique form of heritage, is one of the fundamental activity of the Pavillons de Bercy.

The Pavillons de Bercy have its own on-site conservation studio, including a permanent conservation team and punctually hired specialised contractors working on bringing back the objects magic.

Our conservation ethic is based on a documentation and research approach. Archivists, museum experts, conservators and exhibition designers from the Pavillons de Bercy have analyzed more than 29 000 documents, postcards, carousel makers’ catalogues from all across Europe to help the restoration of centenarian objects.

Most of fairground art artefacts were continuously overpainted across their lives, leaving up to 15 layers of paint on a single wooden horse. It can require up to 3 months for our conservation team to uncover layer by layer, and reveal their original polychrome aspect and the delicacy of the original carving.

The restoration of a carousel can require the intervention of many specialists. The Caillebaut et Decanck Velocipede ride from 1897 on display in the Musée des Arts Forains, has undergone more than 20 000 hours of restoration work. The treatment included: rebuilding a new central mast that had been too damaged by the former steam engine; consolidate the worm-eaten rounding boards; refix the painted canvases on  new wooden backings, uncover three layers of paint ( one gold and red paint , the second with the showman’s initials, the third with landscapes).

This project brought together conservators from 18 different specialities: painting, sculpture, woodwork, metalwork, leather and textile, engineers and electricians…

The engines that were out of order for many decades required the intervention of specialised mechanics to recreate missing parts to enable this roundabout to go round once again. Preventive conservation and maintenance are also an everyday work, taken care by our conservators under Jean Paul Favand’s supervision.

Once every year, for the European Heritage days we open our conservation and restoration studios and organise meet-ups between our conservators and the visitors to showcase the importance of their work.

A living heritage company

The unique know-how of the Pavillons de Bercy has been recognized and awarded with the national label “Entreprise du Patrimoine vivant” (Living Heritage company) in 2009.

This label was set up by the French government to distinguish companies with excellent artisanal and industrial expertise.

It is a recognition of the Pavillons de Bercy proficiency regarding the conservation, restoration and documentation of performing and fairground art heritage to museum standards.

The conservation team has enabled the preservation of an unknown form of heritage and the recognition of a folk art.

The label was originally attributed for a 5 years period and was renewed in 2015 after examination by a national commission.

Publié le : 09.01.17