‘L’H du Siège was kind of the dream of a group of friends from the École des Beaux-Arts... That was where I had my studio at the beginning! I stayed there for a few years... at least two. At the time, it was first and foremost a place for artists to exhibit their work, and we hadn’t yet got to discussing the concept of artist residencies. I remember that at the beginning there were no windows - I actively helped to get the place fitted out. I sanded and repainted... it was well before I left for Paris. ’
It’s zero hour! The time when lovers of contemporary art come together...
And at zero hour, I head to L’H du Siège... To what now? L’H du Siège is a former carpenter’s workshop (located on Valenciennes’ Rue de l’Hôpital du Siège, hence the name!) which is home to a gallery, artists’ studios and most importantly a studio-cum-home which can accommodate artists-in-residence. There’s no need to draw you a picture - you’ll have figured out by now that it’s one of Valenciennes’ major sites of artistic production.
The programme of L’H du Siège is handled by Pascal Pesez and Philippe Bétrancourt. It encourages meetings (on a human as well as an artistic level) and is a feature in the lives of artists from all generations. The place puts on 3-4 big exhibitions and offers 3 artist residencies a year and has already displayed the work of around a hundred artists since its establishment in 1996.
Between the exhibitions, there’s a programme of performances thought up by Claude Cattelain, a deeply human artist and performer and himself a major figure on the Valenciennes art scene.
He’s the one who ‘step by step', from the very beginning of winter, is given the task of putting the spark back in the eyes of those who, like me, love this place that’s slightly obscure and a little bit magical, and that allows you to meet artists and above all to get to know contemporary art.
More than 15 years ago, Claude Cattelain left Brussels to settle in Valenciennes. On account of his chosen lifestyle. Because it brought him closer to Paris. You might already have seen him right here, in the town’s Musée des Beaux-Arts, or in another gallery...
The spirit of the place
L’H du Siège was founded in 1996 by the artists’ association ‘Acte de Naissance’ in a highly unusual place. Yann Kempen remembers the beginnings of this adventure, an adventure in which he was a participant.
From the start, L’H du Siège has pursued its artistic and activist mission, committed to building artists’ professional status. A brochure is produced for each exhibition, supplemented by a critical text Its goals? ‘To allow artists to bring audiences face to face with their works; to educate a public unaccustomed to contemporary art; to support, assist and stimulate creation in the visual arts; to encourage the circulation of artworks.’
L’H DU SIEGE
15 rue de l’Hôpital de siège, Valenciennes
Free entrance. The gallery is open on Tuesdays from 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays from 2:30 pm to 6:30 pm
Tél. : 03 27 36 06 61.