Charlotte Eyerman, Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters
On October 3rd 2014, Consul general of France in Los Angeles Axel Cruau bestowed the insignia of Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters on Executive Director at the Monterey Museum of Art Charlotte Eyerman. The ceremony was held at the Residence of France, Beverly Hills.
The Order of Arts and Letters (Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) was established in 1957 to recognize eminent artists and writers, as well as people who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world. The Order of Arts and Letters is given out three times annually under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Culture and Communication.
Chère Melissa Burnett,
Je suis très heureux, de vous accueillir ce soir, chère Charlotte et chers amis, à la résidence de France.
J’ai connu peu de moments aussi touchants que celui de ce soir, car je décore une amie, une grande dame de la culture et une ambassadrice dont la France est fière.
But if you allow me, dear Charlotte, I will switch from French to English, so that all our friends can share this moment.
I am extremely happy to welcome all of you tonight at the Residence of France to celebrate Charlotte Eyerman, as France inducts her as Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres, an award which honors and celebrates exceptional ambassadors of French culture all around the world.
Charlotte, you are a renowned specialist of modern and contemporary art, and you are committed to celebrating French artists.
Born on a fourth of July in Missouri, France was perhaps not the most obvious destination. Yet, you chose it as your second family, when you became an Art History student in Nantes – a city very close to my heart - a time when you developed some of the strongest ties that link you to our country, included the links with your host family.
You then earned a Master’s Degree, followed by a Doctorate in Art History at Berkeley. You chose 19th century French painting as a field of expertise. Your Ph.D. dissertation on “The Significance of the Woman at the Piano Motif in Nineteenth Century French Culture” confirmed your scholarly excellence on French art and art history.
Daumier, Renoir and mostly Courbet, were your first icons, and still are, as Courbet holds for you a central role in the history of art. I am told that discussions on Pollock or Koons have a way to always end on Courbet!
For many years, you have shared your passion and knowledge, lecturing at museums and universities nationally and internationally, teaching art history in New York, L.A., or in Paris publishing many scholarly articles and books.
It is only fair that you have received numerous awards, recognizing your curatorial and scholarly work, for instance from the Association of Art Museum Curators, the National Jewish Book Award, or the International Association of Art Critics.
Yet, what better illustration of your commitment and love of French express itself to its best through your work as a curator.
Throughout your career, you have always been focused on keeping art alive, by serving for instance on the Boards of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery Associates, the Association of Art Museum Curators, Girls, Inc. of St. Louis, and the Alliance Française de St. Louis.
At the Getty Museum, you chose to purchase works by French painters such as Edgar Degas and Gustave Courbet, just to name a few.
In 2005, still at the Getty, you curated an exhibition dedicated to David and in 2006 you organized a retrospective exhibition of your favorite artist, Gustave Courbet: “Courbet and the Modern Landscapes.”
After your left LA for Saint Louis, you kept your habit of championing French painters : as a curator for the Saint Louis Art Museum, you initiated the acquisition of Les Bords de l’Oise, a painting by French 19th century artist Charles François d’Aubigny.
Finally, at the head of the very famous Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills, you presented retrospectives of major artists such as Louise Bourgeois or Marcel Duchamp revealing another aspect of your passion: modern and contemporary French art.
Just before leaving us for Northern California, you were the head of FRAME (French Regional and American Museum Exchange), continuing to foster interactions between American and French cultures.
You have managed to bring together twenty-six American and French museums so as to initiate partnerships, exchanges of works of art and organize collaborative exhibitions.
And your legacy lives on! a new exhibition on Delacroix’s Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi will be presented at LACMA, in association with the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux, under the auspices of FRAME.
Unfortunately for us, you took your inextinguishable energy to northern California last year to work at the head of the Monterey museum, where, strangely enough, someone programed a French-related exhibition!
This exhibition on French artist Jules Tavernier, who was one of the American West’s pioneering artists, shows your talent at unearthing the deep, cross-fertilizing undercurrents between our two countries.
But you are not only an amazing art professional, chère Charlotte, you also have un grand coeur and I cannot thank you enough for all the help you have given us, through your regular cooperation with the cultural services.
Your help has not only been extremely valuable in the arts field, but also in the promotion of studies in France.
I don’t know if you are all aware of this, but Charlotte does not only have a loving family with her mother who is with us, her husband, Aaron, and their adorable daughter, Ava, a successful and plentiful career but she has also always found time to tell American students about her years in France.
Because indeed some US students are a little worried to leave the US, thinking that they will end up to live with a weird French family drinking muscadet at breakfast eating snails for lunch and bone marrow for dinner, while driving 2 chevaux.
Our cultural team tries hard to explain that France is actually OK, but they will never be as good as you in this Charlotte.
To finish, I would love to quote you once again dear Charlotte. When you write about "the international language" of art and show that Caravaggio can meet with Marcel Duchamp; and that the Mourners of Burgundy can travel to Los Angeles. You speak and teach this language brilliantly fluently, and give us all the power to believe in it.
Thank you once again for your passion, work and commitment to building bridges between our two countries.
I am very happy to honor you and to induct you as Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres, in honor of your outstanding achievements in the field of cultural diplomacy.
We are very proud of counting you among our ambassadors and friends. I know I speak for all of us in the LA area when I say we are quite jealous of Northern California and that we miss you!
Charlotte Eyerman, au nom de la Ministre de la Culture et de la Communication, j’ai l’honneur de vous remettre les Insignes de Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres. "
Axel Cruau, Consul general of France