0330 GMT August 07, 2020
The self-financed museum dedicated to the works of Auguste Rodin is facing a mountain of challenges. Tourists were scarce as it reopened Tuesday after four months of virus-enforced closure, and a return to the good old days is a long way off. Signs seeking donations now line its walls.
But a measure of relief may come from a century-old system set up by Rodin himself allowing the museum to sell up to 12 replicas of select sculptures every year. The bronzes are cast in special workshops in a process overseen by the museum and bought by art galleries, private collectors or other museums. Rodin's priceless originals are mainly carved out of marble, france24.com reported.
The sales have helped his artworks reach a worldwide audience, but up to now, they've produced uneven results. Given an expected lockdown-related budget shortfall of three million euros ($3.4 million) this year, the museum wants to turn the bronze sales into a bigger and more regular source of revenue.
So it is expanding its catalogue and reaching out to new markets. It’s already sold out of this year’s copies of The Thinker and The Burghers of Calais, among the sculptor’s most famous works.
Museum director Catherine Chevillot said it has completed 1.4 million euros in sales of bronze replicas of Rodin statues so far this year.
Prices for the statues vary from 50,000 euros to millions of euros, meaning a few big sales or many smaller ones are needed to make the target.
The museum has sold a total of 5,000 such works over the last 100 years. Many have gone to buyers in Europe and the US, but sales in those traditional markets have diminished in recent years. So the museum is now turning to Asia, Latin America, and Gulf countries for new clients.
In addition, Chevillot said the museum has now quadrupled the number of works it is allowed to produce, from 30 to 120. It is also pursuing new partnerships, including one with the Gagosian Gallery in the US.
Rodin donated all of his works to the French state, allowing for the creation of the museum that is set amid a tranquil garden filled with Rodin originals in the shadow of Paris’ gold-domed Invalides monument.
“It’s the third year that things are difficult: the first was the yellow vest protests, the second year strikes and this year the (virus) crisis,” Chevillot said. “Each year we’re digging into our reserves, so I wouldn’t like there to be a fourth and fifth year.”