2021 Pierre Daix Prize


2021 Pierre Daix Prize

The 2021 Pierre Daix Prize was awarded to Germain Viatte by François Pinault at the Bourse de Commerce.

Pinault Collection is pleased to announce that the Pierre Daix Prize has been awarded, for the 2021 edition, to L’envers de la médaille by Germain Viatte published by L’Atelier Contemporain.

François Pinault created the Pierre Daix Prize in 2015 as a tribute to the memory of his friend, the writer and art historian, Pierre Daix, who passed away in 2014. Since then, the annual prize of ten thousand euros honours a work dedicated to the history of modern and contemporary art.

For the 2021 edition, the prize celebrates the quality of a brave and uncompromising account of a little-known or hidden aspect of contemporary cultural life. This volume is the result of extensive documentary work carried out by a remarkable connoisseur of modern art.



Germain Viatte 

Born in 1939 in Quebec City, Germain Viatte is honorary general curator of national heritage. After having worked in the inspection of provincial museums, he participated from 1966 in the creation of the Centre national d’art contemporain and then of the Centre Pompidou, where, from 1975 to 1985, he was head of the collec-tions of the Musée national d’art moderne at the Centre Pompidou. He was then director of the museums of the city of Marseille (1985–89), head of the general inspection of classified and controlled museums (1989–91), director of the Musée national d’art moderne and the Centre de création industrielle at the Centre Pompidou (1991–97). After participating in its prefiguration, he was, from 1999 to 2005, director of the museological project of the Musée du quai Branly, and at the same time, from 2000 to 2003, director of the Musée des arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie.


L’envers de la médaille

At first glance, Mondrian and Dubuffet, both the men and their works, bear no resemblance. However, the time frames in which they cemented their artistic personalities, and particularly the relationship of public opinion and institutions to their work, present enlightening similarities. Germain Viatte notes that, “both had to face the insistent blindness of opinion, even specialized opinion, and, for Dubuffet, a consenting adversity, which did not subside until the early 1970s, even causing him to fear losing his position as a ‘public enemy’.” 

Based on extraordinarily extensive documentary work that gives the greatest possible space to the individual points of view of the players in the story—artists, writers, dealers, accomplices, amateurs, and museum representatives—L’envers de la médaille (the other side of the coin), as its title suggests, depicts the less glowing side of two brilliant artistic successes: two itineraries marked by an isolation that was sometimes suffered, sometimes chosen, and marked, or crowned, by more or less successful public acquisitions. In this respect, the story of Dubuffet’s “nose-thumbings” to official cultural institutions (the donation of over 150 of his works to the private Musée des Arts Décoratifs, the installation of the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne), or that of the “Mondrian Affair” (a project to purchase forgeries by the fledgling Centre Pompidou in 1978) are only the most sensational episodes of the reconstruction carried out by Germain Viatte, a high-profile witness. Germain Viatte writes: “These two texts have long remained in a drawer, held back by a kind of embarrassment in the face of the contradictions they may reveal in the delicate exercise of museums in a supposedly glorious time, that of the 1960s and 1970s, which saw the erection in the heart of Paris of a truly extraordinary architectural and urban object, the Centre Georges Pompidou.” By perpetuating the memory of these artists’ itineraries, he provides important food for thought on museum policies, at the very moment when the Centre Pompido “will have to deal with a new scope of influence as well as a major architectural renovation.”

This book was published with the support of the Arts commission of the Centre national du livre.

The jury

Jean-Jacques Aillagon, president
Former Minister 
Special advisor to François Pinault

Laurence Bertrand Dorléac
Art historian, publisher, academic
Director of the arts and society laboratory, Sciences-Po

Martin Bethenod
Former CEO, Bourse de Commerce— Collection Pinault Paris

Jean-Marie Borzeix
Former director of France Culture

Jean de Loisy
Director of the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris

Emmanuel Guigon
Director, Musée Picasso, Barcelona

Brigitte Leal
Assistant Director, Musée national d’art moderne

Laurent Le Bon
President, Centre Pompidou

Alain Minc
President, AM Conseil, essayist​​​​​​​

Alfred Pacquement
Former Director of the Musée national d’art moderne

Marie-Karine Schaub
Historian and academic (Université Paris-Est Créteil-Val de Marne)


The shortlist

The jury gathered on 1 July 2021 to shortlist six publications:

Un étranger nommé Picasso
Annie Cohen-Solal 
Fayard, April 2021

Le Miroir magique 
Jean Frémon 
P.O.L, November 2020

Hollywood Arensberg. Avant-garde collecting in midcentury L.A 
Ellen Hoobler, Mark Nelson, William H. Sherman
Getty Publications,October 2020

Hypnose. Art et hypnotisme de Messmer à nos jours
Pascal Rousseau 
Beaux-Arts de Paris éditions en coédition avec le Musée d’Arts de Nantes, November 2020

L’envers de la médaille
Germain Viatte 
L’Atelier contemporain, June 2021

Marius de Zayas. Quand, comment et pourquoi l’art moderne est allé de Paris à New York
Rodrigo de Zayas 
Atelier Baie éditeur, March 2021