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BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SYNAGOGUE
The CAC - la synagogue de Delme is located in an old, oriental-style synagogue built in the late 19th century. Inaugurated in 1881, its design was modelled after Berlin’s New Synagogue, the architect taking his inspiration from this building, which had been inaugurated only a few years earlier. You find the same type of dome, the same entrance with arches, the geometric patterns…
During the Second World War, the synagogue was partly destroyed by the German army. The outer walls survived and the interior was reconstructed after the war according to the strictest guidelines. Due to a lack of resources, the original dome was replaced by a smaller one. The Delme synagogue held its final service in 1978, and permanently closed to worship in 1981 due to having too few followers. The war and the rural exodus had a detrimental effect on the religious life of the premises.
In 1992, the town of Delme signed a ninety-nine-year lease with the Moselle Israelite Consistory, which retains ownership of the property. As part of a proactive educational and cultural policy, the municipal team, on the advice of the Lorraine Regional Department of Cultural Affairs (DRAC), decided to dedicate this work of architecture to a new purpose, turning the synagogue into an exhibition space whose program would be implemented by an association.
BETWEEN HERITAGE AND CREATION
It would be difficult not to mention these few historical milestones when introducing the Synagogue de Delme, an unusual art centre where history, heritage and contemporary art live side-by-side. Far from placing these elements back-to-back, the aim has been to create a dialogue between them. Through this contemporary art project, a whole chapter of memory is resisting oblivion and indifference, and a history continues.
Whether they do it with reserve or mischief, whether they lay firm hold upon the nature of the premises or its formal aspects (its symmetry, its play of circles and squares, its distinctive light, its acoustics that cause sounds to endlessly swirl…), the artists and the public cannot disregard the environment. This is what makes exhibiting in the synagogue so fascinating, and most of the time allows us to offer exhibitions that have been designed especially for this space. Far from the white-cube neutrality so characteristic of contemporary museums and galleries, the Synagogue de Delme is an extraordinary showcase that each artist can appropriate in a unique way.
THE ARTIST'S PLACE
The first exhibition took place in 1993. In 2013 the Synagogue de Delme celebrated its twentieth anniversary. The past two decades have witnessed a succession of artists of all stripes. Each of them has made a distinctive contribution to the identity and appeal of the place, both regionally and internationally.
To name a few of them: François Morellet, Gottfried Honegger, Jean-Marc Bustamante, Roman Opalka, Daniel Buren, Tadashi Kawamata, Stéphane Calais, Ann Veronica Janssens, Stéphane Dafflon, Delphine Coindet, Pae White, Jeppe Hein, Marc-Camille Chaimowicz, or more recently Société Réaliste, Katinka Bock, Julien Prévieux, Gianni Motti, Yona Friedman, Edith Dekyndt, Eric Baudelaire, Louise Hervé and Chloé Maillet, Erick Beltran, Marie Cool Fabio Balducci, Susan Hiller, Peter Friedl...
But the list is long, and rich in projects that have breathed life into the place and allowed visitors to discover artists from around the world. Over the past twenty years, the CAC - la synagogue de Delme has shown the work of nearly 150 artists through 60 exhibitions (43 solo and 17 group). It has recently opened itself to outside perspectives by inviting curators (artists, independent curators or directors of partner institutions) who are involved in programming for the duration of one exhibition. The art centre has also organised activities outside the synagogue, including exhibitions, workshops and performances.
THE ART CENTER'S MISSIONS
As part of its production, research and prospecting mission, the Synagogue de Delme invites both internationally acclaimed artists and young newcomers, sometimes offering them their first solo exhibition in an institution, thereby supporting emerging art.
In addition to the three or four temporary exhibitions organised each year in Delme, since 2002 the CAC - la synagogue de Delme has been coordinating an artist residency program at Lorraine Regional Natural Park in the village of Lindre-Basse. Every year, three artists come for three months each, to either conduct research or produce a specific project.
The art centre’s mission to support art creation and distribution includes a publication mission. The Synagogue de Delme co-publishes artist books, multiple originals and monographs linked to the exhibitions as a means of giving extra exposure to the work on site.
VISTOR MEDIATION AT THE HEART OF THE PROJECT
Finally, we should mention the Synagogue de Delme’s rural location in the heart of the Lorraine in eastern France, in a town with a population of 1000, thirty minutes from the urban centres of Metz and Nancy. This territorial characteristic leads us to turn our attention with all the more precision and commitment to questions of visitor mediation, awareness and support. All of the activities organised by the visitor service (guided tours, artistic practice workshops, introductions to art and philosophy, artist meetings…) are organised in close connection with the CAC - la synagogue de Delme’s exhibitions, constituting a natural extension. Every visitor, every group can benefit from a tailor-made visit and special guidance.
The 2012 public commission is the culmination of all the efforts of the Ministry of Culture and Communication – DRAC Lorraine, local authorities, as well as art centre staff past and present, to show contemporary art, to develop critical thinking, to break the barriers between fields of knowledge, to offer keys to understanding without imposing a one-way reading, and above all, to enter into dialogue with everyone without exception.