Historically and culturally, the ties that have allied the United State and France over the centuries remain to this day in ways large and small. From the Marquis de Lafayette’s incalculable assistance to George Washington during our Revolutionary War, to the Louvre’s loan of the Mona Lisa at the behest of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy in early 1963, and to Freeman’s offering this fall of candelabra attributed to Claude Galle—a gift by Joseph Bonaparte to a prominent Philadelphia family— the bond endures.
Today, the Louvre has strengthened its ties with our country through the American Friends of the Louvre, founded in 2002. With the appointment of Christopher Forbes as Chairman, it opened its New York City headquarters in 2004. Recently, Tara Theune Davis, Freeman’s Senior Vice President, discussed with Executive Director, Sue Devine, the AFL’s activities and triumphs on the tenth anniversary of the opening of its office.
Tara Theune Davis: What is the mission of the American Friends of the Louvre?
Sue Devine: The mission of AFL is to promote the Louvre and its incredible artistic and historic treasures in the U.S. and beyond, and to raise funds to help it further its mission as a global museum.
Of the many accomplishments achieved by the AFL, which one are you most proud?
I am proud that we have secured important funding for projects in each of the Louvre’s eight curatorial departments, for its contemporary art program, its education programs, and its Auditorium.
The AFL recently completed its $4 million pledge to help restore the Louvre’s 18th - century decorative arts galleries. Describe the significance of this project and the efforts taken to restore it.
The Louvre holds arguably the best collection of French 18th-century decorative art and furniture in the world. Its galleries for the decorative arts were closed in 2005 for extensive updating and renovations and just re-opened to the public on June 6th to much critical acclaim. AFL was proud to be one of the major sponsors of this project. Our fundraising efforts supported the restoration of the salon from the Hôtel de Villmaré-Dangé, one of the period rooms featured in the galleries, the restoration of a cupola by Antoine-François Callet, and the English edition of the collection catalogue.
The AFL has also been instrumental in securing funding to protect the Louvre’s collection of pastel drawings. What other conservation and preservation campaigns are the AFL currently supporting?
We are continuing to raise funds for the conservation of the pastel collection and have found that individuals find it very fulfilling to “adopt a pastel” through a contribution of $3,000. One donor adopted a pastel for each of her grandchildren. Donors’ names will be permanently linked to the individual drawings. We have also made a commitment of $1.2 million toward the restoration of the Louvre’s Etruscan and Roman galleries. This will involve conservation work and stabilization of many artifacts and works of art.
Where did AFL hold its annual gala this year and why was that city selected?
AFL held its annual fundraising dinner in Palm Beach last February at a private residence. This is the second time we have held a fundraiser there. Not only do some of our members have winter homes in Palm Beach, but the community itself has many art lovers, Francophiles and philanthropists. We also drew people from the Miami area where two of our board members reside. AFL has organized fundraising dinners in Houston, New York, and Los Angeles, as well as three highly successful Liaisons au Louvre galas at the Louvre in Paris, the brainchild of our Vice Chairman, Becca Cason Thrash.
Last October, AFL members had the opportunity to learn more about the Tuileries Garden at a lecture by Paula Deitz. Why was this topic selected?
Many people may not be aware that the Louvre has been responsible for the management of the Tuileries Gardens since 2005. André le Nôtre designed the garden for Louis the XIV in the 17th-century and it is recognized today as one of the most iconic masterpieces of garden design in existence. The Louvre organized the travelling exhibition, The Art of the Louvre’s Tuileries Gardens, which began its U.S. tour at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta last fall, continuing on to the Toledo Museum of Art, and Portland Art Museum. Garden expert Paula Deitz contributed to the catalogue and presented a moving tribute in words and images illustrating her personal passion for the Tuileries.
Does the AFL have initiatives that encourage young people to participate in its conservation and preservation efforts?
In 2007 the AFL organized the Young Patron’s Circle. This membership group targets people from ages 25-40 who support the mission and goals of AFL. During the year, members are invited to intimate programs ranging from visits to private collections and artists’ studios. They also have the opportunity to participate in art trips to destinations such as Philadelphia, where they were hosted by Freeman’s, and also to Paris. Each year the group holds a fundraising gala benefiting AFL attended by 150 young professionals to raise funds and awareness of the organization. This year’s event celebrated the restoration of the Louvre’s iconic Winged Victory.
While I am confident in my guess of your favorite museum in France, can you indulge us with your favorite museum in America?
The Neue Galerie in New York is a personal favorite of mine because of the historical period in European art upon which its collection and exhibitions are focused, the high quality of its exhibition program, the ambience of its setting, and its wonderful restaurant and shop.
What do you like most about your job?
The opportunity of working closely with committed board members and donors from around the U.S. and the world who have expanded my horizons and enriched my life.
For more information on American Friends of the Louvre, please visit www.aflouvre.org.