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[Interview] Marion Eybert, temporary exhibition manager at the Cité du Vin

Published 14 May 2020

Creating and setting up a temporary exhibition at the Cité du Vin involves several years of work, and changing a programme which has been set up for months is not easy. Following the postponement of the ‘Drink with the gods’ exhibition to 2021, Marion Eybert, temporary exhibition manager at the Cité du Vin, explains to us the reasons for this decision, how the teams are adapting to working from home and her hopes for what’s to come.

  • Why couldn’t the ‘Drink with the gods’ exhibition go ahead this year ?

The exhibition was originally meant to open to the public on 10 April – in fact, when the lockdown was announced in France on 16 March, the main part of the exhibition was already set up. We were about to start setting up the larger art pieces created for the exhibition, receive the art pieces from other museums and finish up the final touches. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 health crisis meant that we had to reschedule this, as setting up and opening the exhibition is no longer possible.

Considering all of the uncertainty around the development of this global pandemic, the reopening of museums and distributing of art pieces, we decided to postpone the exhibition to next year. It will now be open to the public from 9 April to 29 August 2021.

  • What does postponing an exhibition involve ?

We had one goal in mind, which was simply to not cancel the exhibition after years of preparation!

Each project calls for three years of preparation and it would have been awful not to be able to finish the project and share it with the public. The whole research and writing stage was over, the art pieces had all been curated, the scenography almost finished, and the ‘Archéologia’ special edition was about to be printed. We had to do everything we could to save the collection.

The first step was to notify the various museums lending pieces to the exhibition, such as the Louvre, the National Archaeological Museum in Athens and the Fondation Gandur pour l’art. We are lucky to only have a small number of lenders involved in and supporting the project, which is one of the advantages of this exhibition.

The national and international museum sector is currently in the same situation. We are all facing the crisis together, which will in addition to the health outcomes have an extended impact on the sector’s finances, especially for museums relying mainly on ticket sales, like the Cité du Vin. So far we’ve had positive feedback on the exhibition’s postponement and we hope to be able to display all of the art work as originally planned.

The next step is to get in touch with all of our partners (commissioning parties, scenographers, artists, insurers, editors, transporters and other businesses) – the whole production chain – to undo the whole process and redo it all next year. This extraordinary crisis, its suddenness and the uncertainty around the reopening dates make the current circumstances somewhat unique and calls for more flexibility than usual.

  • What steps have you had to take in order to keep working ?

The exhibition team at the Cité du Vin is a small team of three very autonomous professionals. Therefore we’re used to working from home and remotely as we often have to travel for our various projects.

The tools we needed were therefore already set up so it was easy for us to start working from home from as early as 17 March. As I was saying, the projects we work run over a long period of time so we often work on several at the same time. As each of them are at different stages, we’ve been able to continue working several days a week despite the Cité du Vin closing.

The difficult bit of our work remains the number of partners involved in putting an exhibition together, especially in the year before it opens. However, we have been able to move forward with rescheduling the exhibition as most of our partners are currently working from home as well. For now, some things will have to wait until we can get back into the Cité du Vin, like sorting out where we can store the different parts of the exhibition, as we’ll have to dismantle this all until next year.

  • What can we learn from this lockdown ? 

Our teams have developed a great deal of flexibility to overcome this crisis and continue with their projects. At the Cité du Vin, we’ve become used to adapting the ways we work since the museum opened. We’ve had to create, invent and adjust things based on feedback from visitors and partners.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve had to adapt to the situation more than ever, and we hope that the decisions we’ve made will allow our ambitious cultural programme to continue despite the situation.

When the museum first reopens, we’ll be looking to promote our permanent exhibition first and foremost. This is our flagship product and at present all the energy of the team is currently focused on it, while preparing for the years to come.

On a positive note, I think this crisis will have a sustainable impact on the way we buy, work, travel and engage in cultural activities. The culture and tourism industries will have to become more innovative in a post-Covid-19 world.

What is exciting in spite of the current situation, and which is giving me hope, is that this crisis is revealing people’s need to share things with one another, especially art and culture. Look at the many collective initiatives going around on social media despite the lockdown. This need to socialise and for come together is essential.