Culture / Art Republik

US Couple Donate Art Collection to Musee d’Orsay

Having fallen in love with art after a trip to Paris, an American couple is donating a portion of their collection to the famed Paris museum.

Oct 24, 2016 | By Vimi Haridasan

The Musee d’Orsay has recently been gifted 187 works of art that are estimated to be worth $188 million, which certainly makes it one of the most generous gifts in the world of art and museums. Apparently, this gift will keep on giving because it is only the first instalment of a donation from businessman Spencer Hays and his wife Marlene. Why? Well that is not entirely clear at the moment. What we do know is that the US couple first started their love affair for art in 1971 when they first visited the French capital, which is why they selected a French institution such as the Musee d’Orsay.

The donation, that includes works by Edgar Degas and Amedeo Modigliani, is just a fraction of the 600 works that the couple have collected. Spanning from the late 19th to early 20th centuries, their total collection is said to be valued at almost 350 million euros. When completed, this will mark the largest foreign foreign collection donated to France in 60 years.

“When Marlene and I grew up in a little town in Gainesville, Texas, even visiting France was far beyond our great expectations. But in 1971 we made our first trip to Paris, and our love affair with this wonderful country began,” Hays told a crowd which included President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace.

“The people who know you know your collection gets bigger around July 14 and December 7, because those are your birthdays. And this year, once again, Marlene, you gave Spencer a Matisse, and you, Spencer, gave Marlene a Modigliani… It wasn’t easy to live up to that!” Hollande said. The President added that the couple had given France not only their collection but also “access to culture for everyone”.


“Your act, your donation, honors the French Republic,” he said during a ceremony in which the couple received the distinction of commander of the Legion d’Honneur, one of the country’s highest honors.

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