“This exhibition proves that when countries are at war, when peoples are in exile or experience immense difficulties, they think of their heritage, that which must be protected but also that of the future”, explained Numa Hambursin, director of Montpellier Contemporain (Mo.Co), on the eve of the opening of the exhibition which takes place from November 11 to February 5, 2023.

This is how, after the coup d’etat in Chile by General Augusto Pinochet in 1973, many artists forced into exile decided to create a collection, managing to bring together more than 1,300 works to pay homage to the left-wing president. Salvador Allende.

After the return of democracy, these works were able to integrate in 1991 the Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende in Santiago, the Chilean capital.

In Montpellier, the exhibition focuses on 32 of the 265 works donated by French artists. The photos, posters and paintings with political messages most of the time clearly expressed, perfectly reflect the aesthetics and the strong politicization of the 1970s.

The next stage of the visit leads to Europe, to Sarajevo, in the heart of the war and the atrocities of the four years of siege imposed by the Serbian forces, from 1992 to 1996, which left 11,000 dead.

Often marked by the themes of death and absence, less explicitly political, these are typical works of the end of the 20th century, such as this installation of pairs of shoes under large portraits of missing persons or this video showing an anonymous hand cleaning human bones, a reminder of a conflict where relatives search for their missing for years in mass graves.

They were the subject of exhibitions across Europe, before joining for the most part the discounts of the town hall of Sarajevo, pending the construction of a museum of contemporary art in the capital. of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in principle in 2023.

– “Dire need” –

Elias Sanbar, former Palestinian ambassador to Unesco, will no doubt have to wait even longer to see the realization of his project for a “National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Palestine” in East Jerusalem, part of the occupied city. by Israel since 1967, and which the Palestinians want to make the capital of the future state to which they aspire.

The collection of this future museum, which should see the light of day only at the end of a conflict which has lasted for more than 75 years, is made up of more than 340 works by 150 international artists, 44 of which are shown in Montpellier.

Since 2015, it has been kept at the Arab World Institute (IMA) in Paris, where it has already been the subject of several exhibitions.

“You can sometimes wonder if it’s really useful to tire yourself out doing all that. But not only is it not a luxury, but it’s a vital need. You must always bring beauty to the service of people. who are suffering. It is a form of resistance, art has a tremendous power of training”, assured the 75-year-old former Palestinian ambassador and poet.

The exhibition also includes a historical context, from the removal of works from Spanish museums during the Civil War and those from the Louvre on the eve of the Second World War, not forgetting the current conflict in Ukraine.

“It’s the story of all these displaced works, some of which have been damaged”, underlines one of the two curators of the exhibition, Vincent Honoré, “but it’s also a story of solidarity and hope, because all these collections are based on the idea of ​​the reconciliation of peoples”.