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Text by By France 24

Latest update : 2011-11-17

Paris' Musée d’Orsay has launched its first-ever American friends association, a move that the renowned art museum hopes will bolster its international outreach.

Paris' Musée d’Orsay launched its first-ever 'American friends Association' on Saturday, a move the renowned French art museum hopes will bolster its international outreach.

Members of the American Friends of Musée d’Orsay (AFMO) pledged to help raise the museum's profile among English speakers both in France and abroad in an event held at the museum’s recently refurbished premises.  
Museum management said they hoped AFMO would help increase revenues from American corporations. The museum has recently undergone a €20 million refurbishment and France's austerity budget is likely to further curtail the museum’s cash flow.


“We are seeking to facilitate access to American donors primarily, more than American collectors,” Guy Cogeval, the museum’s president, told FRANCE 24. AFMO has already secured more than $200,000 in donations from American Express, The Bank of America and Christie’s auction house.
With the exception of Versailles Palace, whose 'American friends Association' was established immediately after the Second World War by the Rockefeller family, these organisations are relatively new to the French museum scene.
AFMO has been one of Cogeval’s flagship projects since he took over as president in 2008, hoping to strengthen the personal and professional relationships he had already developed with American museums and collectors.
Before taking up the post at the Musée d'Orsay, Cogeval,  56, spent ten years as the general director of Montreal's Museum of Fine Arts, where he gained insight into the North American model of art sponsorship and administration.
“My predecessors didn’t speak English,” he says with apparent self-effacement. But he adds that the language barrier was just the tip of the iceberg.
It was also indicative of an overall lack of international outlook - cultural differences, in more neutral terms - that seems to be especially salient when it comes to the French national heritage, where fine arts play a prominent role, Cogeval explained.
Many important collections, however, as well as vast academic expertise in the field of impressionist art, are located in the United States, most prominently at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
“Having ties with the American art sector is very natural,” says Olivier Simmat, the museum’s international relations director. “We have similar taste, and many things in common. We can only benefit from it.”
Simmat adds that some of the world's greatest masterpieces, that Orsay couldn't afford to purchase, are owned by Americans. “Last year, we had a big Monet exhibition in the [Paris museum of] Grand Palais,” he says. “Most of the works came from the US.”
Similarly, the Musée d'Orsay made some 1,300 loans to international museums and galleries, about half of which went to the United States, during its 18-month renovation.
But AFMO does not intend to restrict itself to fundraising and artistic co-operationAround 20 percent of the three million visitors to the French museum are American.
It is to them, together with Paris' large English-speaking community, that AFMO wants to appeal and engage in a wide array of on-site activities in English.
 “English-speaking visitors feel disenfranchised,” says Seonaid McArthur, the organisation’s executive director. “We would like to create all sorts of activities in English, like visits hosted by English-speaking curators, workshops for children, etc. What we want to do is create a community.” 

Date created : 2011-11-17


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