The world is for him a garden of adventures. A vast playground in which he distills works of contemporary art. Numa Hambursin, artistic director, art critic, poet in his spare time, loves the sublime, the surprise, “In wonder, as in darkness”. Under a vertiginous nave, under the high ceilings of a monument or on the walls of a more intimate villa, he plays with places.
Under a sumptuous work by Jan Fabre, set with thousands of beetle elytra with shimmering reflections, he is jubilant by revealing his latest challenge: in the Richer de Belleval hotel, a palace in the heart of Montpellier, the grandiose creations of Marlène Mocquet, Abdelkader Benchamma, Jim Dine and Jan Fabre sit enthroned on the high ceilings of a five-star hotel which will soon open its doors.
Then, Numa Hambursin will turn a new page in his professional life. In a few weeks, he will take on the jacket of director of MoCo, the artistic ecosystem of the Montpellier Metropolis bringing together the School of Fine Arts, two exhibition venues, the La Panacea art center and the Hôtel des collections. At the end of April, he left his position at the head of the Modern and Contemporary Art Center in Cannes, which he had occupied since 2018.
While the MoCo depends on the finances of the community, Numa Hambursin is committed, for this new challenge, to the public service mission entrusted to it. “Working for the public service implies accepting to work with all audiences, he warns in a confident voice. We should therefore not be satisfied with offering works reserved for a handful of initiates. I will go to conquer the popular public with the teeth. ”
In this, he breaks with his predecessor, Nicolas Bourriaud, who aimed more at international notoriety of exhibitions without having succeeded in seducing the inhabitants. A generation separates them. Numa Hambursin sets the tone: “The mission of an artistic director is to be in phase with the place he directs but also and above all with the population”.
At 41, he has already imprinted his paw in the past. At the Carré Saint-Anne, a contemporary art space that he directed from 2010 to 2017, the people of Montpellier remember the gigantic works installed in the heart of the nave of this desecrated church. The explosive canvases of JonOne, the eccentric universe of Jonathan Meese or the gripping deluge of Barthélemy Toguo, whose hopeful flowers clung to the top of the columns. In all his proposals, Numa Hambursin seeks to flatter the place as much as the artist.
Rewarded in 2018 by the Aica-France prize (French section of the International Association of Art Critics) for his presentation of Marlène Mocquet’s work, he fights jargon, self-referenced speeches “Too often used” in contemporary art. “This art can be anchored in the news, in the concept, but we must not hide that it can also be in the beauty. My desire is to restore this balance. ”
As a mediator or curator of an exhibition, Numa Hambursin prefers to talk about “Ferryman”. Among his projects for the MoCo, he plans an exhibition of monographic works “Probably from this summer”, then another which he will call “Urban and Orbi.”
Dismissed in 2017 from his post at the head of Carré Saint-Anne by former mayor Philippe Saurel, Numa Hambursin is making a heckled return to the Hérault capital. Qualified as“Illegal” by the students of the School of Fine Arts represented on the board of directors of the MoCo, his election is the subject of a referral filed with the prefecture. It is up to the prefect to decide whether to file an appeal, which does not seem relevant so far.
While waiting to take office, Numa Hambursin uninstalled Facebook from his phone so as not to read bad comments – he never had a Twitter account but kept Instagram. Nostalgic for a world “From libraries and without social networks”, he feels stuck between two eras and quotes Chateaubriand – ” I met between two centuries, as at the confluence of two rivers … »- to define himself.
When he is not in front of a canvas, the young forty-something is at the edge of a river, a fishing rod in his hand, alone or with his two boys. As a family, they take the tangent, aimlessly, in search of an unknown playground. “Are we going to the right, to the left?” Then we see what happens to us… ”