Jacques and Anne Kerchache

testimonies

portrait of Jacques Kerchache
portrait of Jacques Kerchache © musée du quai Branly, photo Sophie Anita

Jacques Chirac, Former President of the Republic

« I do not know what I liked the most about him: his sharp viewpoints, strong convictions, immense generosity. A romantic figure, he lived life with passion and voluptuousness. He bore his dreams with a rare obstinacy, surmounting all the obstacles, galvanizing all the energies»

Stéphane Martin, President of the musée du quai Branly

« Jacques Kerchache had the spontaneous enthusiasm of those who do not wish to grow old. Filled with dreams and desire, he responded with passion to all who requested his help. His conversation was extraordinarily absorbing. He spoke abundantly and expressed unbridled joys and violent dislikes in bursts, masking a great deal of vulnerability exalted by a profound sense of sensitivity behind his abrupt outspokeness; it is thanks to this sensitivity that he developed the honed and exacting eye of an artist over the course of time and through the observation of forms».

interview extracts

Jacques Kerchache - Interview for the Dada journal in June 2000

«The main thing is the plastic quality of a work irrespective of its origin or its pedigree. What touches me the most is being able to perceive a shape, the creative act of an artist through it».

«One cannot ignore the fact that a better knowledge of the cultures of the world also allows us to gain a better understanding of those who are its representatives».

biography

A connoisseur with an eye deemed to be infallible, an advisor to the greatest collectors, Jacques Kerchache was a tireless champion of the cause of the primal arts. Born in 1942, he married Anne Diagne, with whom he had two daughters Maïa and Déborah. Between 1959 to 1980, he conducted several study trips in Africa, Asia, America, Oceania, during which he drew up a critical list of the great sculpture collections.

In 1960, he opened his first gallery in Paris on the rue des Beaux-Arts and he settled subsequently on the rue de Seine up to 1981. He exhibited contemporary artists (Malaval, Pol Bury, Sam Szafran...) and «primitive» art alike: Primitive Art-North America (1965), Fleuve Sépik – New Guinea(1967), The Lobi (1974)

During that time, he met Max-Pol Fouchet and André Breton who influenced him a great deal.

In 1978, he was appointed as a technical advisor for the President Senghor for the project of the musée des Civilisations noires of Dakar. An expert of arts from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas, he took part in various important exhibitions all over the world, as curator or consultant.
In particular, he conceived and organized African sculpture as a homage to André Malraux at the villa Médicis in 1986, the Art of the Taïno Sculptors, in 1994 at the Petit Palais on Jacques Chirac's request and Picasso/Africa: State of mind at the centre Georges Pompidou in 1995. Besides this he was also the expert and consultant of the exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Primitivism in 20th century art in 1984, as well as in London during the exhibition: Africa, the art of a continent, in 1995. He is the author of several articles on sculpture and also on modern and contemporary artists. He is the main architect of the seminal work: African Art, published by Citadelles & Mazenod (1988) along with Jean-Louis Paudrat. This out-of-stock book has just been reedited in an updated version.

In 1990, he launched a manifesto entitled:« The masterpieces from the whole world are born free and equal», which led to the creation of an eighth section at the Louvre Museum, devoted to the arts from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. He received nearly 150 signatures in favor of the project.

In 1996, he was appointed by the President of the Republic, Jacques Chirac, to the Planning Board of the public authority for the future musée du quai Branly.

From 1997 onwards, he selected and subsequently organised the museography of 120 masterpieces from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas, which were exhibited at the Pavillon des Sessions, in the musée du Louvre from April 2000 onwards. At last, primal arts had a prestigious place dedicated to them, while awaiting the opening of the musée du quai Branly in June 2006.

Jacques Kerchache passed away in 2001, 5 years prior to the opening of the musée du quai Branly. Jacques Kerchache was a Knight of the Legion of Honour and Knight of the National Order of Merit.

Anne Kerchache (Anna Douaoui) is currently a member of the governing body of the musée du quai Branly.

 

27 exceptional pieces were donated to the musée de l’Homme, the musée national des arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie as well as the musée du quai Branly. These 27 donations enriched the musée du quai Branly's Africa and Insulindia collections.

donations of objects from Africa

Jacques Kerchache's donations

  • An anthropomorphous Kota helmet mask (Gabon) donated in 1967 to the musée de l’Homme as well as its print exhibited permanently in the Jacques Kerchache Reading Room (donated in 2007 by Arnaud Baumann to the musée du quai Branly)
  • A Yoruba mask (Nigeria) donated in 1968 to the musée de l’Homme
  • A Mama mask (Nigeria) donated in 1975 to the musée national des arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie

Anne and Jacques Kerchache's donations

  • An apex of Yombe sceptre (Congo) made of elephant ivory donated in 1998.

This work has been exhibited at the Pavillon des Sessions of the Louvre Museum since April 2000: view the object's description.

It has been reproduced in the book: "Sculptures Afrique Asie Océanie Amériques" (Réunion des musées nationaux, 2000).

apex of Yombe sceptre (Congo) - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
apex of Yombe sceptre (Congo), Elephant ivory, 19th century, Donation Anne and Jacques Kerchache, © musée du quai Branly, photo Hughes Dubois

  • 18 Ibo anthropomorphous statues (Nigeria) donated to the musée du quai Branly in 2001 before Jacques Kerchache's death (including 3 exhibited permanently in the Jacques Kerchache Reading Room)
Jacques Kerchache Reading room, Ibo anthropomorphous statues - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Jacques Kerchache Reading room, Ibo anthropomorphous statues, Donation Anne and Jacques Kerchache, © musée du quai Branly, photo Antonin Borgeaud

Anne Kerchache's donations:

  • A Bamiléké drum (Cameroon) donated in 2005 to the musée du quai Branly
  • A Suku mask (Congo) donated in 2005 to the musée du quai Branly
  • A Mumuye statue (Nigeria) donated in 2005 to the musée du quai Branly and described in the book: "Musée du quai Branly – La Collection" (Skira Flammarion, 2009):

This exceptional statue is an oracular and a warring figure. It dates back to the 19th century and was sculpted on Mumuye land, north-east of Nigeria. It has a typical Mumuye style: slim with a long body and a small head, a long neck, a long torso and arms and very short legs. It is a «speaking figure», which was probably erected outside a hut or inside a building. It is used for revealing the identity of thieves or other criminals. A medicinal plant's juice was applied on the statue's mouth, which would then «speak» to the human being listening to it, just like an oracle. Mumuye statues were also used for curing rites at the time of epidemics such as smallpox.

It is probable that European artists such as Giacometti were inspired by Mumuye statues and had adopted their elongated shape and refined style.

Mumuye statue (Nigeria) - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Mumuye statue (Nigeria), 19th-20th century, Donation Anne Kerchache © musée du quai Branly, photo Patrick Gries

donation of an object from south-east Asia (Insulindia)

Anne and Jacques Kerchache donation:

An Ifugao sculpture donated in 1999 

This sculpture is part of the 120 masterpieces exhibited at the Pavillon des Sessions, an antechamber to the musée du quai Branly at the musée du Louvre: see the work's description.

ifugao sculpture
ifugao sculpture, North of the Luçon island, Philippines, 15th century, Anne and Jacques Kerchache donation © musée du quai Branly, photo Hughes Dubois