E9S1 Darren Walker

We first collaborated with Darren Walker, the passionate and articulate President of the Ford Foundation, on a groundbreaking exhibition entitled Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today at Colombia University's Wallach Art Gallery in New York. 

It shed new light on black models in the arts throughout history and was so successful that it was exported to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. With characteristic rigor and enthusiasm, Darren made sure to assemble the best team possible to work on this project, and like a true Francophile, even travelled to Paris for the opening. 

We talked about the role of art in creating an empathetic society (10:42), philanthropy as a catalyst for social change (15:02), controversial funding sources (20:55), the Notre Dame Cathedral fire (18:19), his favorite Francophone artists (24:10), the African diaspora (28:08), and more.

Show Notes

The below notes are designed to enrich the listener's experience by further explaining the more obscure French references mentioned throughout the show.

4:32 Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today / Le Modèle Noir, de Géricault à Matisse

The Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University in New York (October 24, 2019–February 10, 2019) and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris (March 26–July 21, 2019) partnered to present this exhibition from the doctoral thesis of Dr. Denise Murrell.

5:37 Olympia by Édouard Manet

One of the most famous paintings by French artist Édouard Manet. Painted in 1863, Manet’s work was deemed scandalous because it depicted a naked woman for no historical or mythological reason. Dr. Denise Murrell’s thesis shed light on the story of another model, Laure, posing as a black maid preparing a flower bouquet.

8:43 Jacqueline Kennedy and the Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa has only travelled twice: to Tokyo in 1974, and to the United States in 1967. Jackie Kennedy convinced French Culture Minister André Malraux to loan the Joconde to the National Gallery and the Met. Many people opposed the loan, as they feared the painting could be damaged. A temperature-controlled box, armed guards, an air-conditioned armored van, traffic-blocking—no expense was spared on the security of this painting. Half a million Americans lined up to see the Mona Lisa in D.C., and over a million visited her during her stay at the Metropolitan Museum.

18:19 Notre Dame Fire

On April 15, 2019, at about 6:20pm, Parisians noticed smoke in the sky, shortly before learning that Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral was burning. For several long hours, the fate of one of the most iconic monuments of Paris from the 12th century was uncertain. The spire collapsed and the wooden ceiling burned almost entirely. 

National and international support poured in to help fund the reconstruction of this historic jewel, but shortly after, debates emerged around the morality of these contributions amidst grave humanitarian suffering throughout the world. 

21:01 “Behind every great fortune is a great crime”

Paraphrased quote from Le Père Goriot (Father Goriot, 1835) by French novelist Honoré de Balzac. The original quote is: « Le secret des grandes fortunes sans cause apparente est un crime oublié, parce qu’il a été proprement fait » / “The secret of great fortunes without apparent cause is a crime forgotten, for it was properly done.”

24 :20 Seydou Keïta

Great African portraitist born in 1921 in Bamako, Mali. A self-taught photographer, he portrayed Bamako society during the transition from a cosmopolitan French colony to an independent capital with photographs of his family, friends, and inhabitants of his neighborhood.

26:31 Niki de Saint-Phalle

French artist born in 1930. A sculptor, painter, and filmmaker, she was best known for her sculptural female figures and her series Nanas. Her work also reflects her strong social commitment in favor of causes like the universal empowerment of women.

32:20 Le Marais

A famous and trendy neighborhood in Paris, in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, on the right bank of the Seine. It was named Le Marais (The Marsh) because it was built on swampy land. In this neighborhood, you’ll find the Hôtel de Ville, the Musée Picasso, the Mémorial de la Shoah and the Place des Vosges.

32:32 Eurorail pass

Now called the Eurail Pass, this rail pass was created in 1959 and allows ticket holders to travel through 31 European countries. This Eurail pass is available to non-European visitors, while Europeans benefit from the Interrail Pass. Buy a pass for one country, several, or all 31, choose the duration of your travels, and board any train for limited fares! An Interrail adventure is a very popular style of vacation for young Europeans.