Internationally Renowned Sculptor and Artist Richard Serra Receives French Legion of Honor

June 1, 2015 | By French Culture

NEW YORK, June 1, 2015 – American artist Richard Serra was awarded Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor by Ambassador of France to the United States Gérard Araud at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York on June 1. This award pays tribute to Serra’s extensive collaboration with French art institutions, museums and galleries, keen ability to marry his monumental creations with French urban and natural landscapes, and great contribution to contemporary art. Serra, who “fashions elegant, gargantuan art out of steel” (The New York Times) is known for his lead, rubber, and giant steel creations and is one of the most important artists of modern times.

Serra’s works have made a major impact in France, from Clara-Clara (1983), two identical steel conical sections inverted relative to each other that were originally installed in the Tuileries, Place de la Concorde, to a 73-ton weatherproof steel vertical sculpture called « Promenade » in Paris’ Grand Palais during the Monumenta exhibition (2008). Serra’s art has also been displayed at several different locations in Paris – the Centre National de L’Art Contemporain, the Louvre, the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, La Défense, and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris – as well as at other institutions around the country: the CAPC Musees d’Art Contemporain in Bordeaux and Lyon, the Musée du Brou in Bourg-en-Bresse, and in Saone-et-Loire, France.

Said French Ambassador to the United States Gérard Araud, “For the French, Richard Serra is among the greatest sculptors today. His commissions like the Octagon for Saint Eloi and Philibert et Marguerite, and of course Promenade at the Grand Palais, transform and give new meaning to the landscape through their magnitude, singular material, and the unique relationship they cultivate between the space and the viewer. In the long legacy of French artistic history, Richard Serra’s contributions are undeniable. His style has impacted all of our artists, art historians and theoreticians

Richard Serra’s (b. 1938) first solo exhibitions were held at the Galleria La Salita, Rome, 1966, and, in the United States, at the Leo Castelli Warehouse, New York, in 1969. His first solo museum exhibition was held at The Pasadena Art Museum in 1970. Serra has since participated in Documenta 5 (1972), 6 (1977), 7 (1982), and 8 (1987), in Kassel; the Venice Biennales of 1980, 1984, 2001, and 2013; and the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Annual and Biennial exhibitions of 1968, 1970, 1973, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1995, and 2006.

Serra has had solo exhibitions at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1977; the Kunsthalle Tübingen, 1978; the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, 1978; the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 1980; the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, 1984; the Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, 1985; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1986; the Louisiana Museum, Humlebæk, 1986; the Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Münster, 1987; the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, 1987; the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 1988; the Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, 1990; the Kunsthaus Zürich, 1990; CAPC Musée d’Art Contemporain, Bordeaux, 1990; the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 1992; Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, 1992; Dia Center for the Arts, New York, 1997; Centro de Arte Hélio Oiticica, Rio de Janeiro, 1997-98; Trajan’s Market, Rome, 2000; The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, St. Louis, 2003; and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Naples, 2004.

More recently, in 2005 eight large-scale works by Serra were installed permanently at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and in 2007 The Museum of Modern Art, New York presented a retrospective of the artist’s work. His work was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris in 2008 (MONUMENTA 2008: Richard Serra: Promenade); in 2011-12 the exhibition Brancusi-Serra traveled from the Beyeler Foundation, Riehen to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao; and a traveling survey of Serra’s drawings was on view in 2011-12 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Menil Collection, Houston (the exhibition was organized by the Menil Collection).

In 2014, the Qatar Museum Authority presented a two-venue retrospective survey of his work at the QMA Gallery and the Al Riwaq exhibition space, Doha; also in Qatar, a new permanent, site-specific work, East-West/West-East was installed in the Brouq Nature Reserve in the Zekreet Desert. An exhibition of recent works on paper by the artist was presented at the Instituto Moreira Salles, Rio de Janeiro.

The Legion of Honor (Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur), France’s premier award, was founded in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte to recognize eminent accomplishments and great services rendered to France. A Presidential award, the Legion of Honor may be given to non-French citizens in recognition of actions benefitting the country of France or, more broadly, achievements which uphold its ideals. American honorees include John Ashbery, Renée Fleming, Wynton Marsalis, Barbra Streisand, and Elie Wiesel, as well as hundreds of World War II veterans. 

The Cultural Services of the French Embassy provides a platform for exchange and innovation between French and American artists, intellectuals, educators, students, the tech community, and the general public. Based in New York City, Washington D.C., and eight other cities across the US, the Cultural Services develops the cultural economy by focusing on six principal fields of action: the arts, literature, cinema, the digital sphere, French language and higher education. www.frenchculture.org

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