Douglas Gordon Named Commander of Order of Arts and Letters

It's the highest cultural distinction awarded by France to civilians.

Douglas Gordon. Photo courtesy Colin Davison/Great North Run Culture/Locus+ Archive.
Douglas Gordon. Photo courtesy Colin Davison/Great North Run Culture/Locus+ Archive.

Douglas Gordon will officially accept the title of Commander of the French Order of Arts and Letters in a private ceremony on February 15.

Gordon is one of the few fine artists to receive the decoration, and the second Scotsman to do so after Sean Connery.

Gordon was originally given the Commander title in 2012, but this ceremony will make it official. He will be awarded the gilded medallion and green–and–white striped ribbon by the French Ambassador to Germany. The ceremony will take place in Berlin, where Gordon lives and works.

The Order of Arts and Letters (Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) is awarded each year by the French Minister of Culture to significant figures in the arts and literature.

Honorees must not be French themselves, but their work must be deemed to have enriched French culture. The order has three grades, increasing in prestige from Knight, to Officer, and to Commander.

Up to 20 people can receive the title of Commander each year, making Gordon party to an exclusive list of cultural figures including Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Meryl Streep, Audrey Hepburn, and Patti Smith.

The number of contemporary artists who hold the commander title is even smaller: Anish Kapoor, William Kentridge, Richard Serra, and Nan Goldin are among them.

Gordon first rose to prominence in the 1990s as part of the Young British Artists group (YBAs). In 1996, he was awarded the Turner Prize, and represented Britain at the Venice Biennale the following year.

Among the Scottish artist’s most-known works are 24 Hour Psycho (1993), a manipulation of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho slowed down to play for 24 hours; and Zidane, un portrait du 21e siècle (2006), about French soccer player Zinedine Zidane. Shot with 17 cameras during a single match, the film follows the athlete’s every move in real time.

In France, he has exhibited his work at such venues as the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville in Paris, La Collection Lambert in Avignon, and the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris.


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