The collection, a fairly recent heritage after all, started in 1984, has been built up drawing a distinction between photographic works and ‘plastic’ artworks, the former to make up the collection of a Photography Centre in Metz, the latter in the safe keeping of the Musée départemental d’art ancien et contemporain des Vosges.
This first period, which ended when the Metz photography project fell through, led to the presence of a large collection of images (John Coplans, Patrick Faigenbaum, Joël-Peter Witkin … ) and other pieces more for a museum (Daniel Buren, Niele Toroni, Frank Stella, Sigmar Polke…).
Also, the will to support creative work by French and more specifically regional artists determined the acquisition, during this same period, of many artists working in the area (Bertrand Gadenne, Bertholin, Étienne Pressager … ), with painting well represented, all currently housed in the Pierre Noël Museum at Saint-Dié-des-Vosges. Since 1992, numerous works have rebalanced the trends of the earlier period: volume works (Basserode, Thomas Huber, Wim Delvoye, Pascal Convert… ), outdoor works (Tania Mouraud, Thomas Hirschhorn, Jan Fabre), and video works (Philippe Parreno, Douglas Gordon, Pierre Bismuth… ).
The Conceptual and Minimal heritage also received fairly broad coverage during this phase, with the purchase of pieces by Claude Rutault, Élisabeth Ballet, Didier Vermeiren, Karin Sander and Ann Veronica Janssens.
While the work of very young artists was being purchased on a regular basis (Mathieu Mercier, Nicolas Floc’h), the Committee nevertheless favoured a representation in the collection for certain historic figures like Mario Merz, Gina Pane and François Morellet.
Unquestionably the collection became tinged with a degree of militancy starting in 2000, with the appointment of Chris Dercon, Michel Ritter and Didier Semin, notably asserting an exclusively conceptual, feminine orientation. This previously unexpressed will to purchase the output of historic women artists thus came out into the open and this involved a critique of notorious French universalism which in denying differences adds further importance to already dominant positions.
Thus the collection abandoned its stated general approach in favour of specialization, which enabled it to show its militant commitment towards forms not often found in public collections. For in addition to the feminine slant, the collection was heading towards a questioning of the limits of any purchasing policy. The pieces were mostly purchased in the form of straightforward protocols as they involved buying performances (Dora Garcia, Esther Ferrer), cinema film diffusion rights (Marguerite Duras, Chantal Akerman) or ‘just’ conceptual works (Joëlle Tuerlinckx, Ceal Floyer).
However, for all the statements of intent and other claims, a collection is the reflection of an instant ‘t’ around a thought that is all ready to be brought into question. It will always be in the process of becoming, finiteness is its aim and its non-accomplishment.