Jean-Louis Forain retrospective at the Dixon Gallery
Menphis, October 6, 2011
Governor Haslam and Madame Haslam, thank you very much for joining us tonight;
Mayor and Mrs Luttrell,
Dear Mr. Reynolds (Chairman of the Board of the Dixon Gallery);
Dear Mr. Sharp (Executive Director of the Dixon Gallery);
Dear members of the Board and friends of the Dixon Gallery;
Chère Madame Florence Valdès- Forain – as the French representative in this country I am so proud of you;
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure and an immense honor for the French Consul General in Atlanta Pascal Le Deunff, for my delegation and for me to be here with you tonight. I have been the French Ambassador to the United States for only 7 months, it is my first visit to Memphis and I am already very impressed by this vibrant city.
I feel very privileged to have been invited to visit the Jean-Louis Forain retrospective, here in Memphis at the Dixon Gallery, and to have the rare opportunity to meet with the group of people, from both sides of the Atlantic, who made this exceptional exhibition possible. Thank you all very much.
You have produced amazing work, offering the people of the City of Memphis, the State of Tennessee and beyond the pleasure to discover and enjoy spectacular masterpieces by one of the most admired French Impressionist painters and illustrators of all times.
Since the end of June, more than 25,000 visitors and 40 tour groups have seen this impressive Forain show, making Memphis one of the most attractive Cities of the Arts in the American Southeast.
Not only has this very special Jean-Louis Forain exhibition been very successful, but it has also been an excellent example of what the best collaborations between French and American institutions can produce. The sharing of collections and expertise between the Petit Palais in Paris and the Dixon Gallery, as well as the high quality of the team led by the Curator of the exhibition and the Director of the Gallery, have given Memphis an opportunity to be the only city in the United States to present this exhibition.
Tonight, I came to Memphis to congratulate those of you who, back in 1993, supported the Dixon Gallery in its acquisition of a major collection of works by Jean-Louis Forain and other French Impressionist painters. This crucial and visionary decision is indeed at the origin of the present success of the Dixon Gallery. Bravo!
I also wish to congratulate Mr. Stephen Reynolds, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Dixon Gallery, all the members of the Board and the Forain family, for their strong support to this wonderful project and for making this event possible.
I would also like to extend my deep appreciation to two individuals, who are the chief architects of this exhibition: Mr. Kevin Sharp, and Madame Florence Valdès-Forain. Without your energy, your passion and your strong personal commitment, this project would not have come through. You can be very proud of the splendid outcome of all your work!
May I express my warmest congratulations to each and every one of you: together, you raised the international reputation of the City of Memphis and showed the world how much this great City appreciates fine arts. You made Memphis one of the leading cultural capitals of the French-American relationship.
Ladies and Gentlemen, one of my goals as French Ambassador to your country is to make sure that economic and cultural cooperation between France and Memphis will continue to grow stronger and stronger. We are here to make it possible.
In the business area, many French companies like Sanofi-Aventis, Alstom, Nissan, Lafarge, already have a strong presence in Tennessee. Fedex, which is an important contributor to this Forain exhibition, is a strong link between Memphis and France. The hub established by Fedex at the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport is today Fedex’s largest outside the US.
That relationship between Memphis and France was strengthened last April, with the visit of the French Minister of Urban Affairs, Mr. Maurice Leroy, to Memphis. He signed an important agreement establishing solid cooperation between the airports of Paris and Memphis, in order to attract new crossed investments and create jobs in both areas.
In this respect let me underline that we are experiencing a booming entrepreneurship in France (…).
Now in the cultural and scientific domain, I am sure that there will be other opportunities for the Dixon Gallery to cooperate with France and I hope that you will continue to support these projects. May I invite you to also partner with French and French-American institutions and support other major initiatives.
We have put in place innovative tools to promote stronger partnerships between our two countries.
To give you an example, we have established the “Partner University Fund”, which is a public – private partnership between the French government and private donors from the US and France to promote innovative collaborations between French and American universities and research centers.
Partner University Fund projects are state-of-the-art in a broad range of research fields: the humanities, science, art, business and law. For those of you who are interested, I would be delighted to help and put you in contact with the right people and universities.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In a broader perspective, I have good news tonight: French-American relations have never been closer than today (…). Against this backdrop it should come as no surprise that the largest commemoration of September 11 ever organized outside of the U.S. took place in Paris, in front of the Eiffel tower one month ago to commemorate the tenth anniversary of this tragedy.
This reflects the long-lasting friendship between our two countries, a friendship profoundly anchored in the values that we share.
Let’s never forget that France and the U.S. owe each other their very existence as free Nations and that from Yorktown and Lafayette to the battlefields of World War I and the beaches of Normandy, and today in the skies of Libya and the mountains of Afghanistan, our two countries have always stood shoulder to shoulder to promote the values of freedom and democracy that we together gave the world more than 200 years ago.
And these values remain today our best tool, our best moral compass, to confront together the current and common challenges we face.
Again my warmest thanks to all of you for your welcome and for your commitment to the Arts.