The artist Richard Serra will today receive France’s highest honour, the insignia of Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour, at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York. “This is truly an unexpected award and I am very honoured,” Serra stated to the Art Newspaper.
The Legion of Honour was created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte to reward outstanding services rendered to France, and in this instance celebrates the close relationship of the American artist with French art institutions and galleries, as well as his great contribution to contemporary art.
“In the long legacy of French artistic history, Richard Serra’s contributions are undeniable. His style has impacted all of our artists, art historians and theoreticians,” says Gérard Araud, the French ambassador to the US, who will present the prestigious award to the artist.
“For the French, Richard Serra is among the greatest sculptors today,” Araud, said in a statement. “His commissions like the Octagon for Saint Eloi and Philibert et Marguerite, and of course Promenade at the Grand Palais, transform and give new meaning to the landscape through their magnitude, singular material, and the unique relationship they cultivate between the space and the viewer,” he concluded.
Image: Richard Serra’s Clara Clara (1983) installed in Tuileries, Place de la Concorde, Paris Photo via: Flickr
The French have a history of awarding Serra: the artist has already received France’s Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1985), Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1991) and Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2008).
The insignia is a tribute to Serra’s “extensive collaboration with French art institutions, museums and galleries, keen ability to marry his monumental creations with French urban and natural landscapes, and great contribution to contemporary art,” according to a press statement.
In 2008, Serra installed the epic Promenade, formed by five gigantic slabs, each 56 feet high, 13 feet wide, and weighing over 73 tons, as part of the yearly “Monumenta” exhibition at Paris’ Grand Palais. The artist has also exhibited at the country’s most prestigious museums, including the Louvre, the Centre Pompidou, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and the CAPC Musees d’Art Contemporain in Bordeaux and Lyon.
Other Americans awarded the Légion d’Honneur include Miles Davis, David Lynch, and Toni Morrison.