Monday, June 9, 2008

Fédéric Mitterand Named Director of the Villa Medici

Rome's newly elected right-wing mayor, former neo-fascist Gianni Alemanno, will probably not be best pleased by the French Président's nomination, last week, of an openly gay man at the head of the prestigious French Academy in Rome. "I respect homosexual people, I know a few and I am not saying this out of discrimination but I fear that Gay Pride is something else, an act of sexual exhibition, and I am opposed to all form of exhibition, homosexual or heterosexual," said Alemanno, adding that the city would make sure the event did not offend anybody.

Frédéric Mitterand, 60, nephew of former French Président François Mitterand, a former History, Geography and Economics teacher and a well known author, director and broadcaster in France, has been chosen by Nicolas Sarkozy from a shortlist of three candidates to become the latest name in a prestigious list of artistes going back to 1666 when the Academy was founded by Louis XIV.

Mitterand is perhaps most famous for his series of television programmes where he explored the lives of iconic cinema stars with trade-mark lyrical sentences delivered in the languid and monotonous tones of his unmistakable acidic voice. He is a former broadcast director for TV5 and a presenter on the French gay TV channel Pink TV. He is a Chevalier de la Légion D'Honneur, one of the highest civil honours in France.

The Academy represented until the 19th century the culmination of their studies for select French artists who, having won the prestigious Prix de Rome (Rome Prize, which was discontinued in 1968), were honoured with a 3, 4 or 5-year scholarship (depending on the art discipline they specialised in) in the Eternal City for the purpose of studying its art and architecture.

The Academy was housed in the Palazzo Capranica until 1737, and then in the Palazzo Mancini until 1793. In 1803 Napoleon Bonaparte moved it to the Villa Medici, its current home.

Since the 1970's, the boarders no longer belong solely to the traditional disciplines (painting, sculpture, architecture, medal-engraving, precious-stone engraving, musical composition) but also to new or previously neglected artistic fields (art history, archaeology, literature, stagecraft, photography, movies, video, restoration, writing and even cookery). The artists are no longer recruited by a competition but by application, and their stays vary from six to eighteen months and even, more rarely, one or two years. The Villa present exhibitions and shows created by its boarders.

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