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Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner Receive Insignia of Officer of the Legion of Honor

New York, May 22, 2017 – Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner, New York-based entrepreneurs, leading patrons of the arts, and steadfast advocates for French culture in the United States, were awarded the insignia of Officer of the Legion of Honor by French Ambassador to the United States Gérard Araud, on Tuesday, May 22nd, in a ceremony held at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York.

The Legion of Honor was founded by Napoleon Bonaparte and is France’s highest award. It is a Presidential award that honors those individuals who have distinguished themselves through their outstanding achievements either on behalf of France or in support of its ideals.

Dedicated to the promotion and diffusion of modern and contemporary art around the world, Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner donated over 850 works by European and American artists to the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 2012. This donation represents a massive influx of works of art for both museums, infusing each with a challenging and edgy collection of international contemporary art.  

“Thea and Ethan Wagner are visionary collectors with a firm commitment to supporting young and emerging artists in the U.S. and across Europe,” said French Ambassador to the United States Gérard Araud. “We are deeply grateful that the Centre Pompidou in Paris was one of only two institutions, along with the Whitney Museum of American Art, to receive such a generous donation from the Westreich Wagner Collection, thus enriching the French cultural landscape with an invaluable collection of 20th century artworks.”

A native New Yorker, Ethan Wagner co-founded his own public affairs consulting firm in California in 1976, after a decade serving in senior positions in the California Legislature. In the early 1980’s, while residing in Northern California, he began to collect outsider art and ceramics, and became involved with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. His focus soon turned to collecting contemporary art and publishing artists books, interests which he continues to pursue today together with his wife, Thea Westreich Wagner.

A native New Yorker, Thea Westreich Wagner became a member of the administrative council of the American Ballet Theater, the National Ballet, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in the 1970s. In the 1980s, she launched her own agency to advise on art collecting in Europe and the United States. Over the past decades of the 20th century, she supported the work of many artists, including Christopher Wool, Mike Kelley, Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, and Jeff Koons at the beginning of their careers. Among the many publications the couple has produced is an artist book by French artist Sophie Calle and a monographic catalogue on the French artist Martin Barré, who will have a major show at the Centre Pompidou next Fall. They also co-authored Collecting Art for Love, Money and More (2013, Phaidon Press).

The Order of the Legion of Honor is the highest award bestowed by the French government. Founded by Napoleon Bonaparte to recognize outstanding achievement in the military as well as in the public and private sectors, the award recognizes those who have rendered over twenty years of eminent service to France or, more broadly, it commends persons whose achievements uphold France’s ideals. American honorees include William Christie, Renée Fleming, Barbra Streisand, and the late Elie Wiesel, as well as hundreds of World War II veterans.

The Cultural Services of the French Embassy promotes the best of French arts, literature, cinema, digital innovation, language, and higher education across the US. Based in New York City, Washington D.C., and eight other cities across the country, the Cultural Services brings artists, authors, intellectuals and innovators to cities nationwide. It also builds partnerships between French and American artists, institutions and universities on both sides of the Atlantic. In New York, through its bookshop Albertine, it fosters French-American exchange around literature and the arts. www.frenchculture.org

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Media Contact:
Camille Desprez: +(212) 439-1417
camille.desprez@diplomtaie.gouv.fr
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