As of 17 March 2012, for a ten-year cycle marked by five major long-term exhibitions (eighteen months), the Versailles collections have been on display at the Abbey of Saint-Vaast, the musée des Beaux-Arts in Arras.
The Palace of Versailles is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a former royal residence, a museum and a museum of French history. It is also a national palace where the Parliament meets in Congress.
The decree of 27 April 1995 awarded the Palace of Versailles the status of a public administrative institution and placed it in the care of the Minister of Culture. Thus, as part of its scientific and cultural project, the Public Establishment of Versailles must ensure it receives the as many visitors as possible by any appropriate means, increases the number of visitors to the Palace and its Grounds, promotes knowledge of its Heritage and Collections and designs and implements educational and dissemination activities aimed at ensuring equal access of all to culture.
This status also gives it better managerial autonomy to carry out major restoration projects, improve the reception of the public and maintain cultural activities that are worthy of the place, by allocating all its resources to its development.
The "Versailles outside the walls" project, an initiative aimed at cultural decentralisation, is directly linked to this mission of democratising French historical heritage.
The collections of the National Museum of the Palace of Versailles and Trianon contain more than 60,000 works, including 7,000 paintings, 2,900 sculptures (400 of which are outdoors), 6000 old books, 4000 pieces of furniture, 2500 works of art, 1200 frames, 28,000 engravings, 1330 drawings, 1200 vehicles and accessories.
Catherine Pégard, President of the Public Establishment of the Palace, the Museum and the National Estate of Versailles:
Napoleon at Versailles? The imposing figure of Louis XIV and the iconic memory of Marie Antoinette seem to have eclipsed him. There is nevertheless a close link between the Emperor and the "palace of kings", which holds the finest Napoleonic collection in the world. Although he decided against settling at the Palace of Versailles, which was still marred by the recent events of the Revolution as well as being too expensive with regard to living arrangements, he attested to its greatness by receiving the Pope there one month after his coronation, and was keen to preserve it, buying land to restore the estate, whose integrity he helped to maintain. In the manner of his predecessors, he endeavoured to maintain the intimacy of the Grand Trianon and made it the setting for his new life with Marie-Louise, Marie-Antoinette's niece.
Versailles thus forms part of this Napoleonic legend that Louis-Philippe strived to illustrate in the Historical Galleries. It is this little-known section of a double epic - that of Bonaparte and that of the Palace of Versailles - that the exhibition illuminates today, through more than a hundred masterpieces to which little attention is often paid in our collections.
We are pleased to be able to present this other image of Versailles at the Arras Musée des Beaux-arts, through our partnership with the City and the Hauts-de-France Region. This choice illustrates our shared notion of cultural decentralisation, which has become exemplary since 2011.
The city at the heart of events
Ideally located equidistantly from Paris, London and Brussels, sufficiently close and sufficiently distant from the densely populated areas of the Hauts-de-France region (15 mins from Lens, 30 mins from Lille, 1 hour 15 mins from Calais), Arras has many assets.
twenty centuries of history behind it, Arras is famous for its flamboyant baroque style squares, which form a sumptuous backdrop to the Town Hall and the Belfry, which is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It contains a Citadel which built according to plans by Vauban, and became a symbol of the annexation of the province of Artois by the Kingdom of France. The history of Arras can also be seen through its archaeological site, which displays the remains of a part of the ancient city of Nemetacum, founded 2000 years ago by the Romans. Arras's past has also been marked by the passage of historical figures such as Robespierre, Vidocq, Corot and Verlaine...
Arras will surprise you with the wealth of its heritage but also the city's way of life. Amazing underground passages, prestigious golf courses, and rafting or hiking in the Artois region are not the only things that will draw you to Arras: culinary adventures, the open market on Saturday morning and the 1500 cafe terrace seats are all reasons to discover the capital of Artois, in the heart of the Hauts-de-France region.
The Main Square Festival, the Arras Film Festival, the Christmas Market... Arras is a cultural and festive city which hosts great events. It offers a diverse, entertaining and regular program of free, popular and outdoor events, giving everyone the chance to discover, share and exchange. Furthermore, in order to contribute to the artistic influence of the city, Arras is preparing to create the biggest cultural centre North of Paris, within the Saint-Vaast abbey.
In 2009, the Musée des Beaux-Arts hosted the exceptional exhibition "Bonaparte and Egypt". Today, the city is pleased to embark on a new adventure by displaying the prestigious collections of the museum of Versailles, within the rebuilt Saint-Vaast abbey, for the next ten years.
Frédéric Leturque, Mayor of Arras
"400,000 visitors! Since 2011, the partnership between the Palace of Versailles, the Hauts-de-France region and the City of Arras has attracted 400,000 people to the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Arras. As Mayor, Iam obviously pleased with this record.
Beyond the figures, Iam above all proud that this unprecedented partnership between three strong entities is an example of cultural decentralisation and is putting the whole region on the map. After the success of the first two exhibitions, expectations are high for this 3rd one devoted to Napoleon. Arras, in the heart of the Hauts-de-France region is ready to welcome visitors from all over France, Belgium, Great Britain, the Netherlands and elsewhere...
In connection with this event, the whole cultural fabric of Arras will be brought to the fore with numerous activities organised to coincide with the exhibition throughout its 13 months at the Musée des Beaux-Arts. One of the objectives of these activities will be to bring young people closer to art and culture. I wish you all a warm welcome to Arras!"
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Xavier Bertrand, President of the Hauts-de-France Region
François Decoster, Vice-President of Culture
"Napoleon has taken up residence in Arras and the visitors from the Hauts-de-France and elsewhere will have all the time they need, during the thirteen months of this exceptional exhibition, to discover paintings, sculptures, furniture and objets d'art from the period from the Palace of Versailles. It is an opportunity for our region to welcome these collections and for the public to be invited to see them. All this has been made possible thanks to our partnership with the Palace of Versailles and the City of Arras, celebrating their third collaboration with Hauts-de-France this autumn. We wanted to amplify it and make it echo throughout the region, through "Hors les murs", a project presented by the Hauts-de-France museums and "Résonance", proposed by its main cultural agents. The Region has involved them all in this ambitious exhibition so that they can follow in its wake.
The Hauts-de-France areas welcome Napoleon in unison, with an enthusiastic and creative spirit. In the third millennium, this cultural invitation is amazingly modern."