Muséum D’historie Naturelle du Havre or, Le Havre Museum of Natural History honors Australia in its exhibition L’intimité d’un lien (1801-2021) – The Intimacy of a Bond (1801 – 2021). The exhibition centres around 220 drawings by Charles-Alexandre Lesueur and Nicolas-Martin Petit from Napoleon Bonaparte’s expedition to Australia (1800 – 1804). Alongside these drawings, is a monumental 18 piece installation of ghost net artworks from artists in Australia’s north-east including Anindilyakwa Arts’ own Maicie Lalara. Her Baby Monster Fish, woven from ghost net and marine debris joins a shoal of Australian marine life ghost net sculptures.
Set on a major port in Northern France, Le Havre was the beginning point of Bonaparte’s Voyage of discovery in the Southern Territories. The exhibition explores the 200+ year period since the expedition, with Australia’s heritage, nature, environment and people featured both with traditional artefacts and objects and contemporary art forms.
While COVID-19 restrictions mean international audiences and the Australian artists themselves will be unable to see the exhibition in person, French locals will be able to visit up until November. The full description of the exhibition can be found at Muséum D’historie Naturelle du Havre as well as translated into English below:
‘In 1800, two boats left the port of Le Havre for New Holland, the name then given to Australia. Projected by Captain Nicolas Baudin and ordered by First Consul Bonaparte, the Voyage of Discoveries to the Austral Lands lasted nearly four years, during which the corvette Le Géographe and the barge Le Naturaliste crisscrossed the southern seas. These names illustrate the different objectives of the exploration: geographic, cartographic, zoological, botanical and anthropological. The Baudin expedition is the first detailed geographical exploration of the coasts of southern Australia which notably constituted the first inventory of marine flora and fauna ever carried out on this continent.
This trip is also the birth of a strong and lasting bond between two regions of the world. A link that continues to this day: because the collection of 8,000 drawings and manuscripts by Charles-Alexandre Lesueur kept at the Le Havre Museum constitutes a major ensemble for Australian history, but also because the Museum continues to engage in dialogue with communities of South Australia, Tasmania and the Torres Strait, around this exceptional heritage and contemporary creation. This new exhibition features more than 200 drawings by Charles-Alexandre Lesueur and Nicolas-Martin Petit produced during the expedition, presented alongside the museum’s heritage collections and 46 contemporary Australian creations. The exhibition gives a voice to communities on preoccupying environmental themes, but also allows them to make known or revive ancestral traditions.’
The museum has also created a video of the exhibition for the enjoyment of those afar: