Carl Andre and Paula Cooper honoured by France's Order of Arts and Letters
Sculptor Carl Andre and gallerist Paula Cooper have reportedly been honoured by France’s Order of Arts and Letters.
The Order, which boasts a rich history, aims to recognise those that make substantial contributions to French arts and culture.
According to ArtNews.com, Cooper has been promoted to officier of the Order, having previously been named chevalier in 2002, while Andre has been named a commander.
Two figures working together
Andre’s work, which often consists of laying wooden blocks out in grids, has been something of a mainstay within Cooper’s Soho gallery in New York since 1968, appearing in its first exhibition, a benefit show for the student arm of the anti-Vietnam War movement.
Both have since gone on to become well-respected figures in minimalist art, with Cooper himself providing a space for many talented individuals to express themselves, branching out into conceptualism and contemporary art, including names like Sophie Calle, Christian Marclay, and Walid Raad.
Calle and Céleste Boursier-Mougenot have both done work for the French Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, further enhancing their reputation.
Cultural counselor Bénédicte de Montlaur said in a statement that “as a team and as individuals”, both Cooper and Andre had “transformed art and the way the public encounters art.”
The significance of the Order is not just restricted to honouring artists, but is sometimes used as a means of generating debate in wider cultural and political domains.
Since the attacks in Paris in November, tensions between France’s various ethnic groups have been strained further than ever before, giving rise to the far-right, which has primarily been led by Marine Le Pen’s National Front.
Le Pen, campaigning ahead of the first round of regional elections in Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, penned an open letter in an attempt to reach out to local artists.
It read: “I wanted to speak directly to you to tell you how, as artists, you count in my eyes for the region, the bustling cultural life and creative effervescence that it must boost.
“I also know how artistic creation participates in the national and even international reputation of a large region like ours, in the centre of Europe.”
But any rapprochement between Ms Le Pen and France’s artistic establishment seems highly unlikely, with a group of artists responding in an open letter of their own, published in Le Monde.
Signed by over 650 artists, including Christian Boltanski, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, Daniel Buren, Valérie Jouve, Bertrand Lavier, Annette Messager, and Martial Raysse, the letter dismisses any possibility of sympathising with Le Pen’s nationalist cause.
It reads: “Everything between you and us is incompatible, and only traitors and fools will believe for a moment that creative freedom has any meaning for your political party. Do not imagine for a second that we are not aware that our society suffers from terrible morale and that the victims of November 13th demand justice.
“However, whereas you think we need to ‘clean up’ our country and find courage by closing doors and windows, we believe, in contrast, that we have to open them in order to bring air to the troubled souls that see, in you, a remedy.
“We work and create in France as well as elsewhere, the liberty of creation is first of all an openness towards others—those who are not me, but who are equal to me, no matter what the color of their skin, their nationality, or their religion.”
It seems the identity held by the Order transcends that of being just about art, it also holds a deeply-rooted political and moral code that is immune from outside influence even in the face of what many would perceive as a wider social decay.
It is an institution that many in France will hold dear, particularly during one of the most turbulent times of its modern history.