France and Claude Lemand awarded the Legion d’Honneur

On Friday, April 5th, the Legion d’Honneur was awarded to France and Claude Lemand at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris by Jack Lang. An opportunity to reflect on a life trajectory marked by war, artistic pursuit, and generosity. The Claude and France Lemand donation to the IMA made history in 2018, contributing over 1,900 modern and contemporary artworks, primarily from Arab artists. Notable artworks by Chafic Abboud, Etel Adnan, Paul Guiragossian, and Abdallah Benanteur enhanced the museum’s collection.

Abdallah BENANTEUR, L’Elu – Al-Mustafa, 1987. Triptyque. Huile sur toile, 150 x 350 cm. Donation Claude et France Lemand. Musée, Institut du monde arabe, Paris copy

Claude Lemand’s keen eye for curating cohesive art collections was celebrated during the event. Their journey in collecting art began in 1981 in Egypt, where they championed Arab artists at a time when Western interest was scarce. Despite facing adversities like the Notre Dame fire and the Beirut port explosion, the couple responded with resilience, using art as a means to foster humanity through creativity and collaboration.

Etel ADNAN, Paysage, 2014. Huile sur toile, 32 x 41 cm. Donation Claude & France Lemand. Musée, Institut du monde arabe.

Jack Lang, in his speech, praised the Lemands’ exceptional contribution to the IMA, noting that their donation had propelled the museum into a new era, making it a leading institution for modern and contemporary Arab art worldwide. He praised their dedication to promoting artists from the Arab world and emphasised the transformative impact of their generosity on the museum’s collections and future direction. Lang concluded his speech by expressing his admiration for the Lemands’ dual identity and their remarkable achievements in bridging cultures through art:

“When Claude Lemand offered me this immense donation, I didn’t hesitate for a single moment; I accepted right away: two times yes! Three times yes! I never imagined such a generous gesture could be made. It’s unique in the history of our museums! It’s a great joy, a great pride, an incredible chance…

“They are French, yes! They remain Lebanese, yes! They possess within them this dual nature, this dual history, this dual culture that I envy! They are not Franco-Lebanese or Franco-Moroccan. We need to invent another word, another concept… They are a different kind of species, and people like me will never reach them! They have achieved a kind of symbiosis, synthesis, and syncretism in the world of culture and arts.

“I had the chance to know Lebanon. I was 17 years old. A wonderful country, with a culture, and an art of living… Lebanon, the Lebanese are an incredible people of energy, of resilience. They fight for love, for life. They inspire admiration…”

Shafic ABBOUD, Confidences, 1981. Huile sur toile, 100 x 100 cm. Donation Claude et France Lemand. Musée, Institut du monde arabe copy

In his acceptance speech, Claude Lemand expressed gratitude to Minister Rima Abdul Malak and particularly to President Jack Lang for the honour. He recounted a tragic yet profound episode in 2013 when Lang’s swift intervention led to the release of Syrian artist Youssef Abdelké, demonstrating Lang’s commitment to freedom of expression and creativity. Lemand dedicated his Legion of Honour to his grandparents who perished during the famine of World War I, emphasising the ongoing plight of innocents in conflicts.

He also honoured his mother, who instilled in him a love for literature and beauty, and the numerous artists they have supported and appreciated over the years. Lemand underscored the importance of cultural dialogue and expressed his pride in being both Lebanese and French, highlighting the richness that comes from embracing multiple cultures.

In her speech, France Lemand also expressed gratitude to the President for bestowing the Legion of Honour. She thanked Ms. Rima Abdul Malak for facilitating it. She dedicated the honour to her loving parents, emphasising their values of openness and generosity. Additionally, she honoured her grandfather, Claude Aveline, for instilling in her a passion for culture and universal ideals. Like the President, André Malraux, and Claude Aveline, she believed in the transformative power of art and culture. She pledged to continue contributing to this cause, ensuring that their legacy lives on through art for future generations. She expressed appreciation to the artists who enriched her life.

Jack Lang and Claude Lemand – Légion d’honneur – IMA 5 avril 2024

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