Celebration of the Centre Pompidou Foundation

March 7, 2016 | By French Culture

On Wednesday, March 2, 2016 Deputy Cultural Counselor Thomas Michelon delivered the following words to honor the accomplishments of the Centre Pompidou Foundation, which has considerably helped strengthening relationships in art communities on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Good evening! It is a pleasure to welcome you tonight to celebrate the achievements of the Centre Pompidou Foundation, which has not only greatly expanded the Centre Pompidou’s collection of American art, but has also helped to establish important collaborations between French and American institutions and artists.

I am delighted to welcome Bernard Blistène, the Director of the Musée national d’Art Moderne–Centre Pompidou and Steven J. Guttman, the Chairman of the Board of the Centre Pompidou Foundation. I would also like to welcome Eliza Osborne, the Executive Director of the Centre Pompidou Foundation, and Florence Derieux, its curator of American Art, who is also curator at large for the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

For more than a century, the visual arts have played an essential role in the relationship between France and the United States. A rich history of aesthetic and intellectual exchange between artists, curators and museum directors on both sides of the Atlantic, has produced a profound intellectual discourse that binds our two countries.

And this commitment is unwavering. In times of conflict and peace alike, the United States and France have welcomed artists with open arms. The role of visionary museum directors and curators in this exchange has been fundamental. Your vision, your ambition, and your intellectual curiosity, have made you advocates of our two countries.

The breadth and depth of the Centre Pompidou’s collection is the result of a clear vision, strong international ties, and the generosity of some of the world’s most important donors and collectors. In this sense, the Centre Pompidou Foundation has been a key factor in helping to foster rich and lively exchange in the arts.

Likewise, at the Cultural Services, our efforts take many forms. Through exhibitions, talks, performances and conferences, we work to encourage discourse and extend the reach of French contemporary art in the United States. We set aside funds to support innovative international artists like the current Anri Sala’s major exhibition at the New Museum, Julien Prévieux at DiverseWorks in Houston, or Vincent Lamouroux’s Projection, a time and site-specific intervention on the Bates Motel in Los Angeles.

Though grant programs such as Étant donnés—the French American Fund for Contemporary Art founded by the French Embassy more than 20 years ago with our FACE Foundation —we have helped to support the work of contemporary artists from France and the US. Étant donnés has facilitated the discovery of emerging talents, while also sustaining interest in established artists whose work inspires younger generations. Among the artists who were first introduced to the U.S. thanks to the support of Étant donnés are Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Pierre Huyghe, Matthieu Laurette and Jean-Michel Othoniel. In France, John Currin, Sterling Ruby, Roe Etheridge, and Diana Thater, among others, benefited from early presentations of their works in solo shows.

And we constantly develop new tools for exchange between artists and institutions. Between 2012 and 2013, “Ceci n’est pas” enabled more than 30 Franco-American collaborations in Los Angeles. In 2014, “Art2” brought together 42 partner institutions in New York. And just last year, we launched a new residency program on the South Side of Chicago, in collaboration with Theaster Gates’ Rebuild Foundation.

This constant exchange of ideas and talent is at the core of our mission and we are thrilled to be part of this process, especially when surrounded by like-minded institutions such as the Foundation and the Centre Pompidou museum.

Since the very beginning, the Centre Pompidou Foundation has helped nurture exchange. You have brought American art and design to France by helping to acquire more than 450 works for the Centre Pompidou’s permanent collection by artists such as Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, Eva Hesse and Richard Avedon to name a few.

Tonight it is a true pleasure to be joined by several American artists whose work has had tremendous influence on artists in France: Louise Lawler, Sam Lewitt, Wyatt Kahn and Cheyney Thompson. We are humbled by your artistic and intellectual talents. On behalf of the whole team, it is an honor to welcome you tonight.

I will now give the floor to Mr. Guttman and our guests.

Thank you and have a wonderful evening!

Notes on the guest artists:

Louise Lawler is a photographer and artist whose work focuses on the representation and marketing of art. She is perhaps most well-known for her series of mid-1980’s photographs of the works of major 20th century artists as displayed in the homes of private collectors.

Sam Lewitt has described his work as an effort to “put constellations of graphic and plastic material into motion around subjects that resist representation.” His works are often a reflection on systems of communication and technology. Lewitt often creates installations that explore the interplay between liquid and solid or new and obsolete materials.

Wyatt Kahn creates spare multi-panel paintings that may seem empty of content but which develop depth through their geometrical complexity.

Finally, Cheyney Thompson’s photographs, paintings and installations challenge general conventions regarding the protocol of exhibitions and techniques of production. 

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