Rosemont Art Advisory Exclusive interview with Majid Boustany, founder and director of the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation in Monaco.
This interview is part of series of artist interview, released every month in our newsletter, to receive it, please contact Karolina Blasiak
You brought Francis Bacon alive again by opening your acclaimed Francis Bacon Foundation in Monaco, please tell us what was your inspiration and when you first got involved with the oeuvre of Bacon?
It all started with a Bacon painting displayed at Tate Britain in the early 90s. I discovered Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1944, while taking a short course in history of art in London. Bacon’s enigmatic triptych triggered in me the need to explore his world and my immersion into the artist’s work, life and creative process started in those years and continues to this day. I discovered early on in my reading that Bacon started visiting Monaco at the dawn of the 1940s. The Principality became his main residence from July 1946 to the early 1950s and throughout his life he frequently returned to Monaco and the French Riviera. The creation of a Foundation in Monaco dedicated to this singular artist seemed obvious to me. In 2010 I initiated the project which was supported by H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco. On 28th October 2014, the anniversary of the painter’s birth, the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation was inaugurated in the presence of the Sovereign.
Did he produce any paintings while in Monaco? What can we see when visiting your Foundation in Monaco?
Bacon often mentioned in his various correspondence the work he managed to accomplish in Monaco, despite many distractions. His first attempt at the Pope iconography, mainly inspired by Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, was undertaken in the Principality at the Hôtel Ré in 1946. It was in Monaco that the artist really began to concentrate on painting the human form and started his ‘Head’ series. He also started painting on the unprimed side of the canvas around that time in Monaco, after losing all his money at the Monte Carlo Casino and having no canvas left. When talking about Monaco Bacon stated “At first I found it too distracting but now I love it and find it very good for pictures falling ready-made into the mind. I paint dozens every week there”.
A visit to the Foundation provides a unique way for visitors to immerse themselves in Bacon’s oeuvre, by offering them a guided tour through which they can discover about one hundred pieces of my collection, which now includes over 3000 items. It is the largest private collection in the world dedicated to Francis Bacon. It encompasses paintings from the late 1920s to the 1980s, the largest collection of furniture and rugs designed by the artist during his brief career as interior designer, a unique photographic archive on Francis Bacon, a selection of working documents, correspondence from Bacon to his friends, family and lovers, and official documents. In the Foundation premises we have also built a library holding over 1300 publications, an essential tool for researchers and curators.
What is the focus of the Foundation and what is the range of your activities? Do you loan works from your collection to museums?
The Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation is a non-profit institution dedicated to promoting a deeper understanding of the art, life and working practice of Francis Bacon, with a particular focus on the time the artist lived and worked in Monaco and France. Our Foundation takes a multi-faceted approach to its educational programme: it supports original research on Bacon, sponsors emerging artists and art historians through its scholarship programme and publishes or financially supports books on the British painter. We produce exclusive interviews with artists, photographers and friends of Francis Bacon, exploring their perspectives on the man and his work. We also participate in exhibitions dedicated to Francis Bacon by lending works from our collection to local and international institutions.
How do you see the Foundation in the next 10 years?
Our institution has been very active from its opening in 2014 and will continue to be so. My aim for the coming years is to develop our educational programme by strengthening our links with major art institutions in France and in England. The acquisition policy that I have implemented, regularly enhancing my collection, will continue in the years ahead in order to offer a valuable resource for art historians and researchers.
Which museum would you suggest visiting to see the largest number of Bacon paintings?
I would recommend Tate Britain as they have the largest collection of paintings and archives on Bacon. The Centre Pompidou has also gathered a unique collection of Bacon paintings encompassing a series of unique small portraits.
1- Majid Boustany
2- Foundation exterior
3- Francis Bacon, 'Figure Crouching', 1949 (Copyright The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved)
4- Francis Bacon, 'Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne', 1983 (Copyright The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved)