France Reduces the Number of Instituts Français

Maintaining 100 Instituts Français all around the world has a huge cost that forces France to adapt and rethink its cultural network

May 30th, 2016

The first Institut Français opened in 1907 in Florence, Italy. Today, with 98 establishments all around the world, France has one of the largest cultural networks. They depend on the French Foreign Ministry, which coordinates their actions. But the Institutes are very costly and, in the current times of financial crisis, France has to restructure them.

In front of the costs, the French State is trying to sell the Maison Descartes, which used to house the Institut Français in Amsterdam, Holland. The 400 year-old building’s surface was more than 4000m2, a nightmare to heat and take care of. Especially when the building includes a cinema, a library and a book center for translation of French books. The future of the Institut Français is uncertain, some of its activities such as the French language lessons should move to the Institut Français in The Hague.  It is not the first time France tries to get rid of some of its very expensive heritage abroad. In November 2015, the State sold the 3000m2 Institut Français set in Vienne to Qatar for 25 million Euros.

Selling those buildings marks a change of era. The French cultural network, built in the beginning of the twentieth century, was thought in terms of power – the idea was to impress to show the might of the French culture. Nowadays, at a time where you can buy a French book or a French movie online from every corner of the world, things are different. French cultural diplomacy now insists on being present “outside the walls”, based on partnership and multi-states operations rather than maintaining expensive and not so useful structures.

Between 2006 and 2015, the French Foreign Ministry sold for 700 million Euros of buildings, including the sale of the embassy in Kuala Lumpur for 173 million Euros and one of the houses of the Ambassador in Monaco for 50 million Euros. All added together, the value of the French official buildings abroad reaches 5 billion Euros.


Cultural Diplomacy News
Gaspard Fontaine, CD News