• gerard van weyenbergh

From love of liberty is born the love for art

When Daniel Cordier died, the media's first movement was to talk about the WWII resistant, Jean Moulin's secretary, the penultimate companion of the Liberation.

Cordier, the great gallery owner, the art collector, was only mentioned by those who had a little more than three minutes, a luxury. Certainly, this hierarchy is not absurd. In people's memory, in the history of humanity, Daniel Cordier has fought for this people's freedom, for the freedom of this humanity which certainly weighs more heavily than the trade in works of art. The meaning of History makes it easy to forget the meaning of life. And Daniel Cordier's life definitely changed meaning not from the day he chose "Dissidence" but from the day he met Jean Moulin.

When, in 1989, the Center Pompidou organized a first exhibition on what was in the process of becoming the Donation Cordier, a showcase went almost unnoticed: the one where a few works (mainly drawings) by Moulin were gathered. Because the president of the National Council of Resistance (CNR) was not only a working underground, at the risk of torture and death - which were at the rendez-vous - to bring together in a coherent whole the various and sometimes divergent forces of "Free France." I remember the vaguely surprise of two teenage girls, interviewed on the radio, and discovered that their favorite guerrilla leader had been a prefect in his previous life. I also remember my sur prise when, after hearing Jean-Pierre Azéma saying, a little overwhelmed, about the "secretary of Moulin" who was embarking on the improbable adventure of a river biography of his former boss, I discovered that Daniel Cordier of the CNR and his namesake, famous gallery owner, already entered for me in the history of modern art, was a one and the same man and, better still, that the second was explained by the first.

Because that's how it all happened, in three stages, in the beginning, there was a high-ranking artist who draws, collects, and has a keen eye. Next comes a 22-year-old boy who, without enthusiasm, accepts to welcome the public in the gallery that Moulin, dismissed by Vichy, is opening in Nice, to create his "cover." On arrival, this young boy rushes, as soon as he can, to the Prado Museum and who, after starting to collect de Staël and Dubuffet, opens in Paris, a gallery. During the few years of its existence - until, freely, to everyone's surprise, he decides to close it after being the first in Paris to exhibit Robert Rauschenberg.

Let's put it bluntly: this is one of the most beautiful modern fables, which could be summed up in one sentence: how the love of art is born from the love of freedom. The formula seems agreed, so much does it serve as a passport to any "modern" artist worthy of this overused epithet. But here, the fight for freedom goes through much more terrible places than a buying commission or a prize list. For Cordier it made a double-conversion: that of a young person from Action Française who, in 1940, put his patriotism before his hatred of the republic, that, two years later, of a blind artist whose eyes suddenly open, and which, through art, discovers its own sensitivity. To be complete, it is necessary, in fact, to add to this line of life a third interior revolution, which will hold in the admission that he will be led to make to himself of his homosexuality. Just read the last book he published during his lifetime - Alias ​​Caracalla [2009, ed. Gallimard] - to have the proof that with him all these revolutions come together. It's called a human being. A man I was lucky to meet several times when I was working in France. © Le Journal des Arts