With less than two weeks to go before the first round of the French presidential elections, a group of artists has banded together to express concerns about the cultural program of the far-right political party, the National Front. Calling out National Front candidate Marine Le Pen, a petition signed by actors Jeanne Moreau and Denis Podalydès; singers Renaud and Matthieu Chedid; and the director of Avignon’s annual theater festival, Olivier Py, states: “Freedom to think and create, freedom to invent and affirm, freedom to interpret and criticize the world in its current state, are precious things. As president, Marine Le Pen would put a stop to these freedoms.”
According to Le Monde, Le Pen’s cultural advisor Sébastien Chenu rebuked this accusation saying, “It is possible to have discerning taste. . .our policy is to value and support French culture and its different schools, whatever they are. Our priorities are heritage, identity, and creativity.”
Recent history, however, shows that the National Front has not been particularly kind to artists or cultural institutions. In regions of France where the alt-right party has come to power, many plays, art centers, festivals, and museums have been deprived government subsidies and, in certain cases, have been forced to close due to lack of funding.
In 2015, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen (Marine Le Pen’s niece and fellow National Front party member) announced her intention to deny funding to contemporary art institutions, saying, “ten hipsters pretending to marvel at two red dots is, frankly, not my idea of a worthy cultural policy.”
The first round of the 2017 French presidential elections will be held on April 23, with a run off between the two top candidates set for May 7.