Histoires secrètes

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How it all started with a lottery

Lille, 1892. A brand new building devoted entirely to fine art is unveiled with great ceremony. A journalist writes: "Nowhere in France, not even in Paris, are statues, busts and groups so grandly accommodated or shown to better effect"!  But this fine palace, loved by so many visitors, very nearly never saw the light of day... 

The story begins ten years earlier. The art collections are crammed into very unsuitable buildings. It is time to create a museum especially for them, but the city is broke...

No problem, the mayor decides to run a great lottery. Five million tickets, to be sold for one franc each, are printed to finance the works – the precursor of crowdfunding!

But despite publicity in local newspapers, the tickets sell badly. The draw is even postponed for three months. Nothing they do seems to help, and the lottery is a failure: the pot barely inches over half of the expected total...

Never mind, they will have to make do! The architects, Bérard and Delmas, begin construction. Unfortunately, very soon they find themselves short of money. The press needs no further invitation to thunder: "The architects of the new Museum of Fine Art, where building work advances at a snail's pace, have displayed the crassest ignorance of how to lay out a museum". The attacks are so virulent that one of the architects, Bérard, resigns from the project. 

In the end, after abandoning half of his initial design, Delmas completes the building alone, his work richly rewarded by the success of the inauguration! 

Histoires secrètes
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