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L’Inventaire: Art close-up

Summary : Since 2010 the association, L’Inventaire (The Inventory) has offered opportunities to expand access to contemporary art by setting up a lending service, thus complementing institutional organisations such as museums. The works brought together in their collection travel around the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, particularly among unfamiliar audiences.

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  • Start date : October 2010
  • Implementation site : Regions of North Pas de Calais and Picardie
  • Budget : 131000 €
  • Source and details on funding : Public funds; donations in kind; own resources; private funds.


  • L'Inventaire
  • 144 rue Faidherbe
  • 59260 Helemmes
  • Employees : 2
  • Volunteers : 7
  • Members : 500


Editorial committee

  • Date of proofreading :  06/12/2015 00:00
Solution(s) : Culture, sport and leisure activities Education
Country :  France, Hauts-de-France
Stature of the programme :  Local
Participant :  Association, ONG
  • Beneficiaries :  Universal, Pupil, students, Bottom Of the Pyramid (BOP)
  • Domain :  Culture

Copyright: Licence Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ )
To reference a document published by RESOLIS : Lacroix Clothilde , « L’Inventaire: Art close-up », **Journal RESOLIS** (2015)

Background to the programme

Born in Germany at the beginning of the twentieth century, the concept of an art library was developed in France in the 1980s in order to offer everyone the opportunity to discover works of contemporary art, but more than that, to live with them in the daily intimacy of a workplace or in the home through a service to loan the works. For the most part these public and often unknown organisations make up a disparate landscape in France. The association, l’Inventaire, was thus created in 2009 with the desire to bring art to the heart of where people live and work.

Objectives of the programme

- Offer direct contact with the artworks in real life through daily interventions

- Familiarise people with art, free up expression on the works and develop everyone’s critical thinking

- Promote the autonomy and responsibility of citizens through the loaning of

- Reduce inequality in terms of access to art and culture

Implemented actions

Art Library:

- Creation and distribution of a mobile collection with the aim of presenting a broad overview of contemporary art

- Organisation of a mobile and solidarity service to loan works of art on the same principle as a library where everyone has the opportunity to borrow several original works for months to exhibit them at their home or place of work


- Welcome and education through dialogue but also advice in choosing the works they’re looking for.

- Provision of documentation that offers various points of entry to the world of contemporary art: biographical studies on artists’ work, training materials on the exhibitions, artistic techniques, thematic booklets on the collection, books and magazines with news of new creations and major artistic trends, media excerpts on the works and the artists

- Meetings with artists in the collection

- Educational art workshops with artists in the collection

- Provision of a fun and educational tool "My little contemporary art inventory" for children: a book in the form of a house that can be customised with stickers of the works of art from the inventory. This publication encourages children to give a personal perspective on the artwork and invites them to envisage themselves with the work in their homes and where they play!


- Welcome, communication to and education of the public

- Help in managing the works

- Help with hanging the works in businesses

- Help organising the events

- Help distributing the communication materials

Quantitative and qualitative results from the implemented actions

- The number of works in the collection, brought to more than 1000, demonstrates its evolution which is a result related to all the research and awareness work done with artists in advance. This collection is the basis of the association’s activity.

- More than 10,000 movements of registered works, including 6,577 loans

- 500 members from fifty different municipalities

- Individuals represent the greatest number of members. 2014 figures: 88% individuals, 6% schools and 6% businesses and local authorities

- Each year, a dozen "Ready to go" exhibitions are realised with half of them outside of traditional spaces

- 30 schools exhibited work. Many students, teachers and parents have been educated.

- Obtaining the national prize from the MAIF fund for access to education in 2012

- Addition to the CRESS inventory (Regional Chamber for social and solidarity economy in Nord pas de Calais) in their book L’innovation sociale au cœur des mutations (Social innovation at the heart of change), 2014

- Contribution to the "Livre Militant: 80 paroles engagées pour inventer demain” (Activist Book: 80 engaged opinions to invent tomorrow) edition of Cherche Midi, 2014

Original characteristics

The outside operations offered by the organisation are particularly innovative. It allows access to contemporary art in areas that are poorly equipped in cultural facilities. This work as well as the ability of the Inventaire to form diverse partnerships with multiple actors allows it to reach a diverse audience, especially people who are not familiar with exhibition spaces. The cultural organisations pick up on the complementarity of the art library’s services to their activities to increase access to art. The artists are made aware of the greater visibility of their work, the potential for sales and the circulation of their works outside of the conventional circuits. The borrowers benefit from low cost access to contemporary art in their daily life which allows everyone to gradually form their own artistic path and to have a tool for knowledge and to open out to the world.

Partnership(s) developed in the context of the programme

- At the beginning the EU (via the European Social Fund) and the Foundation de France and the Regional Council of Nord-Pas-de-Calais, the General Council of Nord, the City of Hellemmes and MAIF

- Setting up of regional info relay points through establishing partnerships with organisations well-established in the local fabric (Espace 36 in Saint-Omer, Art School of Douai, the water chamber in the Avesnois, the museum of Chartreuse in Douai, the Maisons Folies in the metropole ...) These organisations host an exhibition of the inventory and manage the loan service.


Difficulties and/or obstacles encountered during the programme’s implementation :

- For many members, the process of borrowing is the fruit of a slow process that can take several years before action is taken. It’s an action that still requires significant work with information, communication and confidence building among people.

- The growing collection requires significant storage space and demanding logistics.

- Difficulties in maintaining affordable pricing given the decline in public funds

Solutions used to overcome the difficulties and/or obstacles :

- Focus on the information, communication and confidence building work among the public and potential members. Set up solid training for employees and volunteers

- Increase own resources to compensate the decline in public subsidies

Suggestions for future improvement :

- Find larger and more suitable exhibition and storage spaces for the works

- Develop the service for businesses to increase revenue

Summary of factors responsible for the programme’s success :

- Communication work based on taking intimate ownership of the work: experiencing life with the work over time is at the heart of the operation. Reception in a private space allows it to be closer to the public.

- Operating outside traditional places: accessing areas that have less cultural facilities

- Inexpensive pricing

- The creation of a general collection that’s in constant evolution and offers multiple perspectives on contemporary art with both known and emerging artists.

The selection of works is entrusted to a working group composed mostly of contemporary art professionals, representatives of partners and users who are welcomed when they want to share their artistic discoveries.

- Values of the initiative (social and solidarity economy)

Ideas for basic or applied research topics, that could be useful to the programme :

- Study on the relationship that can be created between an individual and a work of art through borrowing and buying (study currently ongoing by Frédérique Perron, a researcher at Lille 2)

- Study of the evolution of perspectives and the development of critical thinking with regard to the works of art

To know more


- This fund was built with donations and loans from associations, art publishers, private collectors and numerous artists.

- Housed in Hellemmes

- 1000 eclectic works: paintings, drawings, collages, photographs, engr

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