Museum

Musée d'Orsay to be renamed in honour of former French president Giscard d'Estaing

Former French presidents Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and François Mitterand at the opening of the Musée d'Orsay on 1 December 1986 in Paris.
Former French presidents Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and François Mitterand at the opening of the Musée d'Orsay on 1 December 1986 in Paris. © AFP/Derrick Ceyrac

One of the French capital leading museums, the Musée d'Orsay, will soon carry the name of former president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing who oversaw its creation.

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The transformation of the former Orsay railway station into a gallery, renowned for its impressionist and post-impressionist collections, straddled three presidents between the 1960s and 1980s.

It was Georges Pompidou (1969-1974) who saved the station on the banks of the Seine from demolition by giving it heritage status and outlining plans for a museum.

But it was the "determined work and engagement" of his successor Valéry Giscard d'Estaing that saw the project through, the culture ministry said in a statement.

Construction agreed in 1977

The official decision to start work and to dedicate this museum to the arts of the 19th century was the result of the decisive action of Giscard in 1977. 

The museum was finally opened in December 1986 by President François Mitterrand.

In a statement, Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot said Giscard was "a man of culture, passionate about arts and literature of the 19th century" who had carried out an "audacious act of heritage and architecture" by overseeing the project.

The official name will now be "Les Musées d'Orsay et de l'Orangerie Valéry Giscard d'Estaing", since the institution also includes the nearby Orangerie Museum which houses some of the most famous paintings by Claude Monet, such as The Water Lilies.

France is fond of renaming its institutions after past presidents: the Centre Pompidou is France's foremost modern art museum, while the National Library is dedicated to Mitterrand.

The Musée du Quai Branly, featuring indigenous art from around the world, recently added Jacques Chirac to its name.

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