Obituary: Patrice Bachelard

Patrice Bachelard was one of the most distinguished and amiable members of that younger generation of art historians and museum officials in France, which is profoundly European in education and cultural allegiances but, unlike their predecessors, refreshingly open to developments in New York or London.

In 1980, when we first met in Paris, Bachelard was an active and committed curator at the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. From 1977 until 1982, he worked with his special blend of enthusiasm and probity on several important projects, exhibitions of work by Hayden, Morellet, Honegger, Chryssa, Geer van Velde and Derain, and collaborated with colleagues at the Centre Georges Pompidou on shows for Daniel Spoerri, Raymond Hains and Yves Klein: all artists - including Derain in his day - at the cutting edge of art. In 1979, he provided the official link for an ambitious show of British art organised by the British Council in Paris, and in 1980 served as a Commissioner for the big Agam retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum, New York.

But in that same year Bachelard was already discussing his plans for leaving the Musee d'Art Moderne and founding a new monthly art publication, a broadly based review of the arts in Europe. This he achieved in 1983 with the creation of Beaux Arts, a glossy monthly magazine of considerable elegance and style in appearance and presentation.

Bachelard was still in his twenties. Since the heyday of L'Oeuil, a comparatively luxurious magazine of ideas with a rather chic concern for ethnography as well as art and architecture, art reviews published in Paris had on the whole been consigned to utilitarian-looking newsprint, however serious the paper. Beaux Arts was attractive in appearance and from the beginning managed to be extremely informative about art events and news in Europe, with obvious priority for France but with newsletters and articles from New York and London.

From the beginning, Beaux Arts was a journal of information and critical exposition for the general public rather than providing a platform for artists or the more specialised reaches of critical dialectic. Within these boundaries, it functioned well, providing for instance a lot of fresh information in the cut and thrust of the early Eighties about the background and purposes of the new art foundations in France and elsewhere, such as the Fondation Cartier.

Good-looking and up to date, Beaux Arts became an indispensable purchase for visitors to Paris. As a frequent visitor to London, Bachelard publicised the main British art events of his period as editor, 1983-88, and proved a good friend to English artists.

As a frequent visitor to Paris, I looked forward to our meetings: Bachelard was unfailingly cheerful, friendly and free of cant, with a clear eye on artistic developments as well as the not infrequent nonsenses which play such a persistent role in these events. He utterly disproved, as so many French people do, the English notion that the French are stand- offish and unhelpful to foreigners. Dashing across Paris on his motorbike, Bachelard kept up with many friendships as well as practical commitments in the art world, writing and broadcasting, and was conspicuously helpful and friendly, I observed, to an older generation of critics, artists and gallery personnel.

In 1988 Bachelard moved on from Beaux Arts, which had reached a satisfactory circulation, and founded a new review, Museart, with an emphasis on the decorative arts, in 1990. But, in just over a year, he seemed to need the freedom of broader horizons in serving as Commissioner, appointed by the Ministere Francais des Affaires Etrangeres, for a series of exhibitions in Prague and Bratislava and, for Luxembourg, Lisbon and Taiwan, a large retrospective of paintings by Zao Wou-ki. There were other shows, including an extremely important assembly of Derain's sculptures which circulated among French museums.

He wrote an excellent book on Derain, Un Fauve pas ordinaire (1995), and continued to work with his old friend Josette Hayden on the catalogue raisonne of her husband Henri Hayden's paintings. But by 1993 his American friend and partner Gregory Usher was ill - Usher was an authority on food and gave courses in cooking along revised Cordon Bleu lines at the Ritz Hotel in Paris - and Bachelard was forced to change their shared apartment, which had no lift, and to modify his working commitments in order to spend more time at home, both in Paris and a charming house in the country. He continued to serve as a member of the Conseil International des Musees and, through his work on Derain, became Vice-President des Amis d'Andre Derain. He was made a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres.

In February 1994, Gregory Usher died, a victim of the Aids virus, and within weeks of his death Patrice Bachelard learnt that he too was infected. He lived through his final months with great courage, helped by the companionship of his younger sister, Isabelle Bachelard, a gifted authority on wine; his family are arboriculteurs and hotel and restaurant owners in the Saint- Germain-en-Laye region.

Bachelard's memorial Mass at the church of Saint Roch in the rue St Honore was packed with representatives of the art world in Paris, when it was made clear in one of several moving addresses that his work on Derain and Hayden would be continued. His friend and sometime colleague Daniel Abady, now Director of the Jeu de Paume, has organised a special show of art and documentation as an "Hommage a Patrice Bachelard", which runs concurrently with the main exhibition at the Jeu de Paume until 24 September.

Patrice Bachelard, art historian and curator: born Saint- Germain-en-Laye, France 1952; died Paris 10 May 1995.

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

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform