Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and Musée de Louvre Announce Major Accord

Agate ewer

Ewer, ca. 1650. Paris, France. Agate with enameled gold mounts. Musée du Louvre, Département des Objets d’Art, MR 231. © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

SAN FRANCISCO (November 15, 2012) -- Officials from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Musée du Louvre today announced an exclusive agreement in which the two institutions will collaborate on a series of exhibitions and exchanges. The agreement will include plans to share significant works of art from both museums’ collections with audiences in San Francisco and Paris during the next five years.

The international accord, signed amid much fanfare today before the opening of the new exhibition Royal Treasures from the Louvre: Louis XIV to Marie-Antoinette at the Legion of Honor, marks a unique partnership between the two museums that will include collaborations on publications, art conservation projects, and public education programs.

Under terms of the agreement, the Louvre and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which comprises the Legion of Honor and the de Young Museum, will work together to identify art works to be made available for short- or long-term loans from their respective collections. The loans and exhibitions “would take the form of antiquities, paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, prints, drawings, and textiles,’’ says the accord.

Curators at both museums said that while specific works of art were still being discussed, the loans may include whole exhibitions or single objects that could augment parts of their permanent collections.

“It is incredibly exciting to be involved in bringing to the public, both in Paris and San Francisco, great works from our two illustrious institutions,’’ said Richard Benefield, deputy director of the Fine Arts Museums. “The accord will not only bring forth new scholarship through the collaboration of our colleagues, but it will also give our visitors the opportunity to see great works of art from both museums in ways that would otherwise not be possible.’’

The accord, signed by Henri Loyrette, director of the Musée du Louvre, and Diane B. Wilsey, president of the Board of Trustees of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, is the culmination of a series of discussions and exchanges that began nearly two years ago when Loyrette and John Buchanan, the late director of the Fine Arts Museums, put together the plan to bring Royal Treasures from the Louvre to San Francisco. This unparalleled collection of decorative objects includes numerous pieces that have never left France, and many prized holdings of the French monarchy from the reign of Louis XIV to the 1789 Revolution.

The accord also underscores the desire of both institutions to broaden their outreach internationally. Other examples of these efforts include a pact with the Musei Capitolini in Rome that recently brought the Baroque masterpiece The Medusa by Gian Lorenzo Bernini to the Legion of Honor, the anticipated January 2013 opening of Girl With a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis at the de Young, and the planned opening of a satellite museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi, intended to help put more of the Louvre’s massive collection of art on display to the public.

“Given the diverse nature of their collections, the Musée du Louvre and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco agree that it would be beneficial to develop joint educational programs that explore art, historical, technical and ethical issues that affect the international museum community today,’’ states the agreement. The leaders of the two institutions said that the accord is “guided by a desire to develop international cultural cooperation and strengthen ties between the French and American people.’’

The pact comes on the heels of the recent signing of an expanded sister city agreement between Paris and San Francisco, a focal point of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s stated goal to broaden the city’s international standing.  

Under terms of the accord, a committee composed of representatives from the two museums will meet once a year to determine what exhibitions, pieces from their collections, or educational programming will be exchanged. The partnership between the curators and conservators of the two institutions, as outlined in the agreement, “will result in a cultural exchange that is broader and deeper than either institution could achieve on its own.’’

Royal Treasures from the Louvre: Louis XIV to Marie-Antoinette, opening Saturday, November 17, is the “first important step of this collaboration,’’ Loyrette said. Another major exhibition from the Louvre is expected to open in San Francisco no later than 2016–2017.


About the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, comprising the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, is the largest public arts institution in San Francisco.

The de Young is housed in a copper-clad landmark building designed by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron. It showcases the institution’s significant collections of American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the 17th to the 21st centuries; art from Oceania, Africa, and the Americas; a diverse collection of costumes and textiles; and international contemporary art.

The Legion of Honor’s Beaux-Arts style building designed by George Applegarth is located on a bluff overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Its collections span 4,000 years and include European paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts; ancient art from the Mediterranean basin; and the largest collection of works on paper in the American West.


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Ken Garcia
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