Italian-made glass safes protect the Art Nouveau treasures of the new Musée Lalique in Alsace

01 Jul 2011

Goppion produced the display cabinets for the museum dedicated to the great French designer beloved for Belle Epoque ladies. In the north of Alsace, some 60 kilometres from Strasbourg, a new museum designed by Jean-Michel Wilmotte celebrates one of the greatest exponents of Art Nouveau, René Lalique. A master of glassmaking art and brilliant designer, Lalique gave an original interpretation of the style in vogue between the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th, drawing inspiration from the forms of nature and the feminine silhouette.

From the creation of jewels, with the experimentation of materials that were unusual for the time, to the study into the expressive possibilities of glass and its applications in the sectors of furnishing and decorative arts, the multi-faceted activity of René Lalique is today documented in a public museum at Wingen sur Moder, where at the turn of the 20th century the artist established one of the factories for the company he had founded, thereby becoming a successful industrialist in the glassmaking sector.

The museum has been realised thanks to the joint initiative of regional and local institutions and built with an investment of 15 million euros. Inaugurated on 1st July, it is one of the national museums of France and is directed by Véronique Brumm.

The architectural project by Jean-Michel Wilmotte has included a glassmaking plant of 1715 within a horizontal complex, partly dug into the ground and characterised by pure volumes clad on the outside with anthracite-coloured granite.

Within, the prevalently artificial lighting of the rooms and the predominance of black create appealing contrasts that highlight the characteristics of the articles on display: 650 pieces, comprising jewels, bottles of scent, vases and cups, glasses and carafes, decorations, lamps, sculptural details, miniatures and original drawings by the artist.

For the technical side of things, planned together with the museography by Wilmotte and Ducks Scéno, the museum made use of the assistance of the Italian Goppion company, which produced and installed the high-technology cabinets for the displays.

An ideal reference to the striving for perfection and spirit of innovation of René Lalique himself, the special Goppion cabinets represent the state of the art as regards display cabinets. They are designed to “vanish” from the visitors’ sight and at the same time assure the greatest reliability and flexibility for the curator, to assure the best display and preventive conservation of the artistic heritage on show.

Every single cabinet installed at Wingen sur Moder was first assembled and tested at Trezzano sul Naviglio and three teams of Goppion technicians alternated to install them. The assembly of the components in situ and completion of the systems required 15 individuals, working together like members of an orchestra.

Assemblers, carpenters and electricians made use of the technology available today for a detailed check of the processes: the 3D technical diagrams consulted on a monitor in real-time, enabled the team to check down to the level of each single screw and handle with ease the construction of systems that can consist of up to 3000 pieces.

A museum display cabinet is a sophisticated machine designed not only to show the works but also preserve them from potentially dangerous atmospheric agents. One of the fundamental elements for a correct conservation of the works is the seal of the cabinet containing it.

Dozens of sketches drawn by Monsieur Lalique that are part of the museum’s collection can today be seen by a wide public in total security, within Gobbion cabinets equipped with systems regulating temperature and relative humidity, to avoid any attacks on the precious drawings from moulds and bacteria.

In a museum, the battle against time is won thanks to the work of curators and conservators, whose handling and care must be effected in full safety. Set out in rows making it possible to appreciate the different variations on the theme, vases, brooches, cups and chalices designed by Lalique are displayed in Goppion table cabinets, protected by transparent bells weighing 200 kg that can be easily lifted by one person, thanks to an automatic pantograph system that the architect, Wilmotte, wished to leave in sight.

The Technical Museums Laboratory, Goppion’s research centre, has produced technical cabinets of various types – vertical, horizontal, island and wall-mounted – and defined every aspect of the industrial design that has been personalised by the designers and curators. Placing itself at the service of the museum’s cultural message, producing “invisible” and indestructible display cabinets as faithful interpreters of the museums themselves: this is the secret of the success of a company representing an Italian point of excellence around the world.