The recent destruction of artworks at the Mosul Museum, the terrorist attacks deployed against western tourists in front of the Bardo Museum in Tunisia and lastly the partial destruction of the World Heritage site of Palmyra have destabilized an established certainty perpetuated in Europe since the end of the 18th century. This certainty stated by Schiller in his Letters is the irreversibility of the « esthetical education of humanity ». The European invention of the Museum (London, Dredsden, Paris) gave a new definition to art, that of the cult which became cultural, that of community which became public and that of the reserved which was finally exhibited for the judgment of all. In short, the Museum is the democratic apparatus which invented modern esthetics.
Certainly, from the very beginning, we have the example of Quatremère de Quincy Valéry, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Dubuffet etc., where one was content to render the museum responsable for the end of Art. The fact is, there is no museum without deportation, without the violent movement of revolutionary or imperial conquests. It is the same with the downfall of the traditional world in the name of the emancipation of the artwork. The link between « museum » and « ruin » is essential, as demonstrated in the work of Hubert Robert.
If it is probable that the recent destructions, aside from violently contesting the European Enlightenment, fuel the art market, it is despite these appearences. The museum and money are not complicit.
J.L. Déotte is Professor Emeritus in Philosophie (Université Paris 8-Saint Denis). He is reponsible for the collection « Esthetics at Harmattan » and for the review on-line <appareil.revues.org>.
His philosophical thesis (Le Musée, l’origine de l’esthétique, and : Oubliez ! Les ruines, l’Europe, le musée, at Harmattan) was supervised by J.F.Lyotard.
In the frame of LAB, behind the scenes of Monaco’s art museum.