Using the French flag as its inspiration, the painting features blocks of different colors symbolizing the diversity, dynamism, and manifold perspectives of modern-day France. Agam, who currently lives in New York City, spent his youth traveling between Paris, France and Rehovot, Israel. His work has been exhibited in galleries around the globe and published in periodicals including Newsweek and Time.
“Through the colors and shapes I chose, I wanted to convey the richness of French culture, its diversity, and its energy, which is focused on the future. This is an homage to my country [France]; I consider this painting a great work that incarnates a strong message of brotherhood and hope” explained Ron Agam.
Video from the Opening Reception
Press from the Embassy
Speech given by Ambassador Antonin Baudry, President of the French Institute
Good morning everyone! Thank you for joining us at this early hour to celebrate the extraordinary artist Ron Agam and his exceptional gift to the Cultural Services and our reading room and bookshop, Albertine.
Ron, thank you for this very special, original painting. For the next two years, it will serve as a symbol of the vibrancy, diversity, and dynamism of France within our American-made mansion. Plus it was painted by our very own Chevalier, so it is doubly meaningful.
Ron, this painting – and actually all of your work – has epic gravitas. And I am not referring to the eighty pounds the painting weighs.
You create a kaleidoscope of optical experiments with a deeply human touch. Circles, squares, and dots are your vocabulary. Each juxtaposition of tones and kinetic construction is sublime. Ron, it is easy to become swept up in a torrent of your hues, and after that, we can’t help but see the world differently.
You have a long history of helping us view the Other in a more positive light. Having spent your childhood travelling around France and the Middle East, your international experiences crystallized when you became an adult and took a lead role in building bridges between Jewish communities in America, Israel, and France.
And this diversity brings us back to your painting. The colored blocks on a backdrop of our flag is a metaphor for, as you put it, “the richness of French culture, its diversity, and its energy, which is focused on the future.”
I will take a risk – forego my French modesty for just a second – and say that I agree. France draws its strength from a body of citizens with ancestry spanning our globe. In its deep and pervasive diversity, France finds vibrant unity. We are a nation of writers, poets, scientists, explorers, mathematicians. And it is not because we have the highest number of Nobel Prizes for literature or Fields Medals per capita that France is looking toward the future –though that helps! – We are only as strong as the solidarity that we cultivate among us.
In a climate where universal respect for culture, religion, differing political views, and personal values are tested, Ron’s painting serves as a promise that time and attention will sew the fragile seams of our society.
With our reading room and bookshop – Albertine – our goal is the same. Maybe it’s a French thing, but we really believe that books are vehicles that strengthen mutual understanding. By building a space where all New Yorkers could take time and explore books from 30 different countries, we hoped that understanding, cultivated through French-American intellectual exchange, would light up in New York and around the United States. And I am pleased to say this really is happening.
I haven’t mentioned it yet but Ron has actually offered two generous gifts today. A limited number of his special edition paintings will be available for purchase inside Albertine and benefits will go to supporting its cultural activities. Thank you, Ron, for this kind gesture. I encourage you all to come take a look as soon as they become available.
Ron reminds us that France is more than Descartes and Rimbaud, more than bic and Babar, even more than Haussmann and libertinage.
We are a multi-layered, complex, even contradictory nation with both light and darkness in its past. Ron, your work helps us reconcile the crisscrossing strands of our nationalisms and construct a complete picture of our country. Your technicolor cubes evoke a vision of history that translates to trust, acceptance, and inclusiveness in our present.
Ron, thank you so much for this deeply meaningful gift. I know its reverberations will be felt by everyone who passes through the doors of Albertine.