Festival Albertine 2016 Opening Night

November 14, 2016 | By French Culture

On Wednesday, November 2, 2016, Cultural Counselor Bénédicte de Montlaur welcomed guests to the opening night cocktail reception for the 3rd Festival Albertine, an annual festival that brings together French and American artist, authors and intellectuals to discuss topics that impact both countries. 


Good evening,

As Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy, it is my great pleasure to welcome you to the third annual Festival Albertine here at the French Cultural Services. 

And we are so thrilled that this festival has continued to evolve and expand over the years. Festival Albertine was conceived in 2014 when we inaugurated the Albertine bookstore. Our goal at the time was to create much more than a bookstore. We wanted to offer a place where people could find books in both French and English translation in New York City. But we also wanted to establish a cultural hub, and a space for French-American dialogue and debate around literature and the arts. Today this vision is alive and flourishing. Since Albertine opened its doors two years ago, we have hosted hundreds of events and welcomed thousands of guests. We only have you, the public, to thank for this success. 

Festival Albertine reflects the French Embassy and Albertine’s commitment to fostering intellectual and cultural exchange through conversation. We firmly believe that literature and the arts are powerful tools for rigorous inquiry into social and political issues. And this is especially important in moments of great division. In this time of growing extremism and intolerance around the world, dialogue is more essential than ever. 

Each year, we have invited an American intellectual leader – or several – to curate the festival program and to bring together important voices from both sides of the Atlantic around issues that are relevant to both France and the United States. This year we are extremely fortunate to have Ta-Nehisi Coates as curator. Ta-Nehisi is a keen observer and major voice on issues of race and identity in the U.S. 

We approached Ta-Nehisi more than a year ago. It was just before he received the National Book Award for his book, Between the World and Me. At the time, he was studying French and preparing to move to Paris for a fellowship. After a year in France, Ta-Nehisi comes to us with a fresh perspective on the issues that he has investigated for years. Throughout the festival, he and a host of panelists from both the U.S. and France – artists, novelists, choreographers, lawyers, filmmakers, historians, journalists, and the like – will examine national identity and how race is considered in our two countries with singular yet parallel histories.  

Literature and the arts are more important than ever in these troubled and unsettling times. It is my sincere hope that the festival will give rise to fruitful and inspiring discussion.

Before I wish you all a wonderful evening, I would like to take a moment to thank our generous sponsors: the Rencanati-Kaplan Foundation, Susannah Hunnewell, Air France, Van Cleef & Arpels, the Insitut français, the Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University, Champagne Pommery, and The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel. Without you, none of this would have been possible.

I would also like to thank our Media Sponsor: the French radio station, Radio France Culture. They will be transmitting the entire festival live in France through their website. 

I would like to give a very warm thank you to all of our guest panelists. I know that many of you have flown to New York from abroad just for the occasion. We are very grateful for this. 

Ta-Nehisi, I thank you for your dedication to this project, and for your involvement over the past year leading up to the festival. It has been a pleasure working with you, and I hope that this will give rise to further collaborations in the future.

Finally, I would like to take a moment to thank my team. 


With that, I wish you all a fantastic evening and hope to see you at other events this week!