President delivers Eileen Gray address
An Eileen Gray-made wooden screen, used as an apartment room divider, sold at auction in New York for more than $1.8 million last September.
The following is the full text of the speech delivered by President Michael D Higgins at the opening of an exhibition of the work of Irish architect and designer Eileen Gray at the Irish embassy in Paris.
Madame Aurélie Filippetti, Minister for Culture,
Mr. Bernard Cazeneuve, Minister for European Affairs,
Madame Hélène Conway-Mouret, Minister for the French Overseas,
Mr. Alain Seban, President of the Centre Pompidou,
Mr. Merlin Holland,
Mr. Edward Beckett,
Ambassador and Mrs. Kavanagh,
Together with Sabina, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Embassy of Ireland in Paris to mark the opening of the three-month Retrospective Exhibition of the work of Eileen Gray at the Centre Pompidou.
Thank you, Minister Filippetti, for all the support that you and the French government have extended to this remarkable initiative, and we are honoured by your presence this evening. I greatly enjoyed the opportunity that we had earlier this evening to view together the magnificent and evocative exhibits.
I wish also to thank Minister Cazeneuve and Minister Conway-Mouret for your presence and for your support.
Through you, President Seban, let me congratulate the entire community at Beaubourg for your imaginative programming of this Retrospective as well as for the superb standard of curatorship that the entire world associates with one of its leading cultural institutions. Little wonder that half a million visitors are expected to view the exhibition in the coming three months.
It is pleasing that this Eileen Gray Retrospective is at the very centre of the Europe-wide Cultural Programme that the Irish Government and cultural institutions – including the Irish Cultural Centre here in Paris – have put in place to mark Ireland’s current Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The very apt title of this Presidency programme is “Culture Connects”.
In particular, I want to commend the excellent support that Culture Ireland has extended to the exhibition and the partnership it has built with the Centre Pompidou. The National Museum of Ireland and the Irish Museum of Modern Art are also among the institutions which have collaborated in the endeavour. It is my fervent hope that these connections will deepen and grow in the months and years ahead.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There is already a rich tradition of cultural cooperation between Ireland and France. For my own part, I have the warmest personal recollections of the year-long festival “Imaginaire Irlandais” that represented a kind of Année d’Irlande here in France in the mid-1990s, at a time when I served as Ireland’s first Government Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. That collaboration had the enthusiastic support of presidents Mitterand and Robinson and I am happy to say that many fruitful exchanges flowed from it.
There is a venerable and renowned tradition - that of individual Irish artists coming to France, to Paris and finding here the freedom, encouragement and ultimately the recognition that inspires and sustains the artist’s acts of creation.
It is a tradition that is alive and well. In this connection, I look forward to visiting this week the Irish artists in residence at the Irish Cultural Centre. Alongside Joyce, Wilde and Beckett, Eileen Gray is to the very fore of those Irish creative artists who in the twentieth century supped at, whilst also replenishing the well of genius in the Paris of their time. Nietzsche had said just a little while before that:“as an artist, one has no home in Europe, but in Paris”.