Jacques Kerchache (1942-2001) Jacques Kerchache (1942-2001) Philippe Bourgoin Born in Rouen in 1942, Jacques Kerchache was eighteen when he opened his first gallery on the rue des Beaux-Arts, Paris, followed by another on the rue de Seine where, until he closed it in 1981, he exhibited the work of contemporary artists such as Robert Malaval, Pol Bury, and Sam Szafran, as well as tribal art. His exhibitions were often put together from material collected during his travels he made to Africa, Asia, America and Oceania such as Tabar Islands in 1971 and Le M’Boueti des Mahongoue in 1967. He was a passionate collector with a keen eye, always eager to learn, looking for experience in the field. But he was also looking for sculptures, and often acquired them under dubious circumstances, which earned him a nefarious reputation that dogged him all his life and was partly to blame for the arguments that raged around him when the Pavillon des Sessions was inaugurated at the Louvre Museum in 2000. Criticism was leveled at him by ethnologists, who thought these objects had no place in an aesthetic approach to art, and by curators, who were inevitably irritated by the man’s self-confidence and megalomania, despite the obvious sincerity of his approach. Portrait de Jacques Kerchache (1942-2001) par Sophie Anita (détail), avril 2000. © Photo Sophie Anita/Sofiacome. Over the years Kerchache was involved in many exhibitions, either as the curator — in particular, African Sculpture in homage to André Malraux at the Villa Médicis, Rome (1980) and Picasso/Africa: A State of Mind at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1995) — or as a consultant. He also wrote articles and, in collaboration with Jean-Louis Paudrat and Lucien Stephan, authored a reference book African Art, published by Citadelles & Mazenod (Paris, 1988). Kerchache’s determination to persuade the French state to give these arts and civilizations their rightful place led him to publish — in the footsteps of the investigation launched by Félix Fénéon in 1920 — a manifesto “The Masterpieces of the entire world are born free and equal” (Libération, 1990), with the support of nearly 150 artists, scientists, poets, and connoisseurs, pleading for the opening of an eighth section of the Louvre Museum dedicated to the arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas. But it was Jacques Chirac, then Mayor of Paris, who helped him organize the magnificent exhibition The Art of the Taino Sculptors (Petit-Palais, 1994), and who enabled him — then President of the French Republic in 1995 — to put his manifesto into action and bring his dream to fruition, by appointing him, in 1996, to the planning committee for the future museum--the Quai Branly, Paris. From 1997 onwards, he was in charge of selecting the objects and organizing the galleries (designed by Jean-Michel Wilmotte) to display them at the Pavillon des Sessions in the Louvre. This unique individual had an eclectic taste for Amerindian, African, Oceanic, Indonesian art, certain contemporary artists, what were once considered “curiosa” and a fascination for objects that symbolize the dead. In the field of Southeast Asian art, his collection contained objects as diverse as an effigy of a Jorai ancestor, Vietnam; a Bulul statue, Philippines; a funerary monument, Mindanao; a Batak chest, Sumatra and, in particular, a superb bulul cup carrier, Ifugao, northern Luzon Island, Philippines, donated by Jacques and Anne Kerchache in 1999, exhibited today at the Pavillon des Sessions. As a true art lover, we shall always be grateful to Jacques Kerchache for the enthusiasm and determination he devoted to the official recognition of tribal arts in the Louvre and to the great project of the future museum on the Quai Branly, two long-awaited projects that would probably never have come to be without the friendship and esteem the President Jacques Chirac showed for him.