History of the CEAAC

CEAAC (Centre Européen d’Actions Artistiques Contemporaines / European Centre for Contemporary Art Actions) was founded in 1987 at the behest of the Alsace Region, the Bas-Rhin General Council and the City of Strasbourg with the aim of democratising contemporary art for a wider public and supporting the artistic production of artists in the region. Its founding President was Robert Grossmann, a Municipal Councilor and former General Councilor.

At the end of the 1980s there was a strong desire to rethink cultural policy and the relationship between artists, citizens and political bodies in particular : the first big project carried out by CEAAC was an analysis of these new issues through the organisation of the seminar ‘‘Artists in the city, a new place for art in the city’’ (1988) which brought together the major actors in this social development. The seminar texts, published by CEAAC publishing, are illuminating in terms of the ambitions that were developed and the CEAAC’s given mission : to create a new space for everybody to encounter contemporary art, take artworks out of closed spaces – such as galleries and museums – and integrate them into the life of the city.

CEAAC’s first historic mission : installing artworks in public

In 1988, CEAAC started putting the first milestones of the Contemporary Art Route in place in order to take artworks out into the open, in the city or the countryside, where walkers can rub shoulders with them on a daily basis or come across them by accident. The inaugural installation was Les Arborigènes by Ernest Pignon-Ernest in Pourtalès park, a big landscape garden which today displays nine contemporary art sculptures.

When the artist places his work outside, in a thoroughfare or a walking area, he or she provokes states of surprise or revery in the passerby – these emotions also stem from the particular outdoor context in which the passerby instantantly becomes a viewer. For this game to be fruitful, CEAAC became rapidly conscious of the necessity to accompany encounters with contemporary art : guided tours and teaching workshops enable even the youngest visitor to understand the artwork and numerous books and brochures have been published to accompany each and everybody in the discovery of the installations.

The CEAAC Art Centre, for the exhibition and promotion of contemporary art

In 1994, CEAAC moved into new premises in Rue de l’Abreuvoir, in the Strasbourg neighbourhood known as the Krutenau, near the University and the Decorative Arts School. The building was readapted by Eric Gauthier to house contemporary art exhibitions, presenting both recognized international artists and local young hopefuls.

For twenty years, CEAAC made its commitment to up and coming Alsatian artists apparent by awarding prizes and annual grants in its own right and on behalf of the Alsace Region, the Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin General Councils and the cities of Strasbourg, Colmar and Mulhouse. More than one hundred artists have been Laureats and have had an exhibition and/or a studio placed at their disposition by CEAAC.

The CEAAC international artists’ residencies network

At the beginning of the 2000s, CEAAC started setting up a network of foreign residency partnerships through which local artists are offered the possibility of going to a foreign country for a period of one to three months where they are supported by structures comparable to CEAAC. They can thus carry out projects that are specific to the place where they are staying and discover the contemporary art scene there. Reciprocally, CEAAC receives foreign artists in residence at the International Apartment adjoining the Art Centre and places a workspace in the International Studio at their disposition.

Often these exchanges are followed by the publication of a catalogue or an exhibition, thus enabling these young artists to make a name for themselves abroad. Until 2009, CEAAC presented the work of the artist residents in an exhibition space situated in Rue de Rosheim in Strasbourg, near the International Studio where the artists carried out their projects. Since then, these exhibitions have been held in the International Space in the CEAAC Art Centre itself, in Rue de l’Abreuvoir in Strasbourg, in order to give greater visibility to current creation. Every year, around thirty artists participate in these international exchanges.

History of the building

The building which today houses CEAAC was formerly a glass and porcelain shop called Neunreiter, built in 1902 by the architect Ferdinet Karlweit, the painted decor of which was carried out by Adolphe Zilly.

In 1995, the building was readapted by the architect Eric Gauthier, which brought him honours in the Grand Prix Rhénan d’Architecture in 1997. The original Art Nouveau elements  have been preserved, with columns and a monumental ceiling painted with plant motifs, richly decorated woodwork and stairs with cast-iron railings.

The Art Centre, CEAAC’s main space, covers two floors and almost 300 m2. Since 2009, the International Space, a smaller exhibition space assigned to the work of the CEAAC’s young artists in residence, has been opened on the second and third floors of the building.

Founding members of CEAAC :

  • Juliane Meyer, Responsable Arts Plastiques Direction de la Culture de la Ville de Strasbourg
  • Catherine Trautmann, Conseillère municipale de Strasbourg
  • Robert Grossmann, Conseiller Général du Bas-Rhin et Adjoint au Maire de Strasbourg
  • Hervé Busse, Conseiller Général du Bas-Rhin
  • Philippe Garing, Directeur Général des Services de la Région
  • Philippe Thouviot, Chef du Bureau de l’action culturelle du Conseil Général du Bas-Rhin
  • Jean-Yves Bainier, Conseiller aux Arts Plastiques DRAC Alsace
  • François-Georges Dreyfus, Adjoint au Maire de Strasbourg
  •  Guy Sautter, Vice-Président du Conseil du Conseil Régional d’Alsace
  • Fernand Cotleur, Conseiller Régional d’Alsace
  • Germain Muller, Conseiller municipal de Strasbourg
  • Roland Recht, Conservateur en chef des Musées de Strasbourg
  • Benoît Choquet, Directeur Régional des Affaires Culturelles
  • Alexandre Zahnbrecher, Conseiller municipal de Strasbourg