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Ethan Wagner and Thea Westreich Wagner. Photo: Bill Orcutt / the Whitney Museum of Art.

France Honors Collectors Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner and Curator Charlotte Vignon

Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner, New York–based arts patrons who have donated more than 850 works by European and American artists to the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and Charlotte Vignon, curator of decorative arts at the Frick Collection in New York, were honored by France this week for their contributions to French culture.

In a ceremony held at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York on Tuesday, May 22, the Wagners received the insignia of Officer of the Legion of Honor. Founded by Napoleon Bonaparte, the Legion of Honor is France’s highest award.

“Thea and Ethan Wagner are visionary collectors with a firm commitment to supporting young and emerging artists in the US and across Europe,” said French ambassador to the United States Gérard Araud. “We are deeply grateful that the Centre Pompidou in Paris was one of only two institutions, along with the Whitney Museum of American Art, to receive such a generous donation from the Westreich Wagner Collection, thus enriching the French cultural landscape with an invaluable collection of twentieth-century artworks.”

For years, the Wagners ran an art advisory firm in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan. While they amassed their holdings of contemporary art, they also helped others shape their own collections. They first announced their plans to donate more than five hundred works to the Whitney Museum and more than three hundred works to the Centre Pompidou in 2012. Among the artists whose works are represented in the gift are Anne Collier, Robert Gober, Jeff Koons, Sol LeWitt, Cady Noland, Richard Prince, Rirkrit Tiravanija, David Wojnarowicz, and Christopher Wool, as well as a significant number of photographers, including Robert Adams, Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, and Eileen Quinlan.

Vignon was recognized in a private ceremony at the Frick the following night. She received the insignia of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters from cultural counselor of the French Embassy Bénédicte de Montlaur. The Order is given out only three times annually. Among the past recipients of the honor are Agnes Gund, Richard Meier, and Frick director Ian Wardropper.

“As the first Frick decorative arts curator, her dedication and groundbreaking research have profoundly enriched our interpretation and understanding of this important area of our holdings,” Wardropper said.

Among the exhibitions Vignon has curated since she joined the Frick in 2009 are “Pierre Gouthière: Virtuoso Gilder at the French Court” (2016), the first monographic study of the French bronze chaser and gilder who worked for Louis XV and Louis XVI; “From Sèvres to Fifth Avenue: French Porcelain at The Frick Collection” (2015); and “Turkish Taste at the Court of Marie-Antoinette” (2011); as well as the institution’s current presentation “Fired by Passion: Masterpieces of Du Paquier Porcelain from the Sullivan Collection.”

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