Obituary: Dominique Bozo

Dominique Bozo, museum curator: born Alencon 2 January 1935; teacher 1959- 65; staff Ministry of Culture 1966-68, 1986-90, President, Centre National des Arts Plastiques 1986-90; staff Musee National d'Art Moderne/Centre Georges Pompidou 1969-75, 1981-86, 1990-93, Acting Director 1973-74, Director 1981- 86, 1990-91, President Centre Georges Pompidou 1991-93; head of the Musee Picasso 1976-84; married Chantal Bamberger (one son, and one stepson); died Paris 28 April 1993.

DOMINIQUE BOZO was the outstanding museum director of his generation in the field of modern art. He became famous through his creation, between 1976 and 1984, of a new national museum, the Musee Picasso in Paris. And it was very much his creation, down to the last detail: he selected the works from the formidable holdings which the artist had retained; he supervised the conversion and furnishing of the 17th-century building which was to house them; he was responsible for their initial

installation.

One of his strengths showed in his constantly subtle handling of delicate negotiations with the intestate artist's several families. Another showed in the flair with which he solved the problem of the design of the furniture and lighting fixtures which had to mediate between the edifice and the art: as designer he chose Diego Giacometti, whose style had nothing in common with that of either. And his choice and installation of the pictures and sculptures were exemplary, except in that, as he later freely admitted, he did not choose enough works of the artist's last 10 years.

As to this, even some time after, when he became Director of the Musee National d'Art Moderne at the Centre Georges Pompidou and we were working together on the 'Late Picasso' exhibition for that museum and the Tate (1988), I felt that he tended to baulk at Picasso's more extreme wildnesses, that his responses were slightly limited by a Gallic love of restraint and that this was the one flaw in his marvellous eye. On the other hand, he did greatly like the most strident work of Frank Stella and he insisted against strong opposition that MNAM acquire one of Francis Bacon's most brutally forthright paintings.

Among those close to Picasso who were highly satisfied with the realisation of his monument was his dealer, Louise Leiris. Her admiration for Bozo was combined with affection and a certain maternal protectiveness, and when he accepted in 1981 the directorship of MNAM - he virtually directed both museums at once for some time - she confided misgivings. It seemed to her that he was too private a face for so public a place, too sensitive, too honourable, too vulnerable. She turned out to be partly right and partly wrong (or so it seemed from where I sat as a member of MNAM's Acquisitions Committee).

She was wrong inasmuch as he proved greatly to relish working on a large scale. She was also wrong in that he well knew how to use his intelligence and guile in winning battles with powerful personalities and still remaining liked as well as respected. He was not unaware that he was a charmer. (His attractiveness to women was legendary. Photographs do not convey his sex appeal: they reflect his wit but not his warmth.)

The quiet force of his personality was manifest in the radical alterations he made to the interior of MNAM, which sorely needed revision, as the Centre Pompidou is an architectural masterpiece but a poor museum building. Bozo hired the architect, Gae Aulenti, who was later to turn the Gare D'Orsay into a museum and to do so disastrously, if the purpose of a museum is to show great art well. Yet this same architect, working under Bozo's instructions and supervision, did a handsome job at his museum.

But Louise Leiris was right inasmuch as Bozo proved unable to bear with the bureaucratic peculiarities of the Centre Pompidou. He found it intolerable that the director of a great museum should not be master in his own house, that he should be subordinate, especially in budgetary matters, to someone whose expertise lay elsewhere - the President of the Centre in which the museum was located. In 1986 he resigned and was promoted to a post with a resonant title at the Ministry of Culture which involved being in charge of a whole range of visual arts activity throughout the nation. He was like a brilliant field commander playing the unwilling role of chief of staff. Running up and down the country, he worked feverishly hard and with considerable success at a job he didn't want. He often talked about giving it up to write a book on Leger.

After four years of this waste he was brought back to the Centre Pompidou and in 1991 was appointed its President. He was intending, of course, to subsume into his responsibilities some of the normal functions of the museum's director, including the key role of Chairman of the Acquisitions Committee. At this moment of finally establishing a position where he could realise his vision of the future of Europe's greatest museum of modern art, he discovered that he was suffering from lung cancer and had not got long to live.

He went on working as if his vision could still be fulfilled under his charge. At a meeting of the Acquisitions Committee four weeks ago he was a sharp and powerful presence, but it was terrible to see how he was having to struggle at every moment against pain and exhaustion. That struggle was equally poignant when we met privately and he talked with intense enthusiasm about what he wanted to see accomplished at the Centre over the next five or six years.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week