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France/ 7. Public institutions in cultural infrastructure  

7.1 Cultural infrastructure: tendencies & strategies

The French model of cultural policy is characterised by:

  • the importance of public intervention; and
  • the institutionalisation of a territorialised cultural governance based on partnership and agreement.

Even if the role of the State and the Ministry of Culture remains essential, the responsibility of the territorial authorities (municipalities, départements, regions) gradually increased following, in particular, the various phases of the devolution process: in 1982-83, in 2003-2004, and since 2009 a new step to devolution has been announced (see chapter 2.1, chapter 3.3 and chapter 6.2).

The cooperation between the institutions of cultural policy is based on multi-level partnership and agreement procedures: at all levels, it expresses itself by contractual procedures: between State departments (inter-ministerial agreements), between territorial authorities and State departments, between the different territorial authorities themselves, between public authorities and cultural institutions and structures.

Public institutions are more and more autonomous. This modifies the supervision process conducted by central State administration, with the development of agreements that link the allocation of resources to the achievement of certain objectives (contrats d'objectifs), in particular any increase in matching funding. It is the case, in particular, for the great national institutions like Musée du Louvre, Georges Pompidou Centre, Musée d'Orsay or Versailles Palace.

The State cultural institutions are concentrated in the region of Paris (Île-de-France) for historical reasons. They are encouraged to open decentralised branches, in France (Louvre-Lens in the region Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Georges Pompidou Centre in Metz in the region Lorraine, Museum of Civilisations of Europe and the Mediterranean in Marseille…) and abroad with for instance the project Louvre Abu Dabi (see  chapter 3.4).

The institutions that belong to territorial authorities face the same issues: increase in matching funding objectives, decentralised actions in order to foster the cultural animation of the territories.

Another trend is the multiplication of labels that are assigned by the national, regional and local authorities in all the domains of cultural life: maison des illustres ("house of the renowned", jardin remarquable ("remarkable garden"), patrimoine du XXe siècle ("heritage of the XX century"), ville et pays d'art et d'histoire (cities and regions of art and history), grands sites ("great sites"), scènes nationales, scènes des musiques actuelles, centre des arts de la rue, etc. Many observers notice that labelling can be a guarantee of quality and visibility, and sometimes excellence, but at the same time this trend can reveal a certain financial disengagement. Indeed labelling does not necessarily lead to an important financial contribution and can simply be a marketing operation.

In 2014 the Ministry set up a Communal Statistical Database on Cultural Facilities (Base statistique communale des équipements culturels), available online:

The database lists the main cultural facilities in 2012, in the following domains: Historical Monuments (classified and registered), Museums (labelled Musées de France), Theatres and performing arts venues, Cinemas, Libraries, Schools and Academies.

It must be regularly updated and expanded to other cultural domains.

Chapter published: 18-05-2017

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