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Banque de France

Based on a proposal by Fred Forest, always a great source of ingenious ideas, the Collectif d'art sociologique decided on an emblematic and high-profile operation at the Banque de France branch in Paris, on the corner of rue de Sèvres and Boulevard Raspail.

Dépôt du musée Beaubourg à la Banque de France

Dépôt du musée Beaubourg à la Banque de France


Opening an account and depositing the Pompidou document

On a proposal from Fred Forest, always a great purveyor of ingenious ideas, the Collectif d'art sociologique decided on an emblematic and media-friendly operation at the Banque de France branch in Paris, on the corner of rue de Sèvres and Boulevard Raspail.

The action consisted of the Collectif tabling the plans for the construction of Beaubourg, which was to be a flagship venue for art in France and had just been made public at a press conference the previous week by Georges Pompidou himself. The members of the Collectif have taken up this document.  Since the 1973 law, known as the "Rothschild law", named after the bank from which the former President of the Republic, Georges Pompidou, came, the State has been obliged to use the private banking system to finance its debts. Before becoming President of the Republic, Pompidou was an employee of the Rothschild Bank. The Collectif is planning to deposit this document in a safe: a symbolic action designed to highlight the close links between power, money and art. Naturally, the nature of this action will be followed by widespread media coverage to the benefit of the Collective and sociological art...


  1. Publication of a press release
  2. On the day they planned to carry out their action, 5 January 1975, the three artists met in front of the Banque de France's RASPAIL branch, at the corner of Boulevard Raspail and 111 rue de Sèvres, not far from Le Bon Marché, where the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei would be exhibiting his dreams and chimeras, no doubt as a tribute to the Collectif d'art sociologique given the close proximity of the two locations...
  3. At the agreed time, with a smile on their faces, our three "sociological artists" met up in front of the Banque de France branch.
  4. The three of them now found themselves inside to complete the very strict administrative formalities required of anyone wishing to rent a safe deposit box at the Banque de France.
  5. Accompanied by a sworn officer of the Bank, they now take the stairs deep into the basement to the vault room. They are now faced with an enormous armoured door that is opened by a series of complicated manoeuvres involving turning a handwheel attached to it. A double steering wheel, like the ones you see in submarines in underwater tragedy films. With the armoured partition now wide open, the agent steps back before us, before we silently enter the holy of holies, this sacred place where the walls are lined with small floor-to-ceiling wall safes. The agent, holding a key in his hands, opened one of the safes and nodded, inviting us to put our treasure inside, namely this vulgar Pompidou document, printed at the time on the wrong copier and the wrong paper, and which for years will now be stored next to real fortunes put into small boxes similar to ours by rich heiresses, in the form of small bags of diamonds or gold coins. Enough to dream like Ai-Weiwei now, just like him, on the other side of the square. The Banque de France official, in a ritual that is part of his service, ostensibly turned away out of professional discretion as we placed the Pompidou document in its box for all but eternity. The Banque de France agent, our mentor for the day, before closing the safe we had rented from the Banque de France, escorted us back upstairs. Once there, he gave us a brief nod before going over to the counter. There we were given the only key to the safe, which Thénot, being closest, took hold of.
  6. For the record, twenty-seven years later, when the Collectif had been buried for a long time, I received a message from Jean-Paul telling me about his embarrassment with the Banque de France, which was asking for this damn key that he had mislaid a long time ago... Our tenancy had been suspended, however, due to non-payment of the rent, as not using the safe hardly spares the tenant any payment... I advised him not to reply, which he did, and we never heard from the Banque de France again! ! !

Le Bon Marché is a French department stores' located in a quadrilateral framed by rue de Sèvres, rue de Babylone, rue du Bac and rue Velpeau in the 7th arrondissement of Paris. It was called Au Bon Marché for 151 years, until 1989.


Fred Forest has a special place in contemporary art. Both by his personality and by his pioneering practices which mark his work. He is mainly known today for having used one by one most of the communication media that have appeared over the last fifty years. He is co-founder of three artistic movements: those of sociological art, the aesthetics of communication and ethics in art.

He represented France at the 12th São Paulo Biennale (Communication Prize) in 1973, at the 37th Venice Biennale in 1976 and at Documenta 6 in Kassel in 1977.