French Art Institutions Unite in Support of ‘Charlie Hebdo’

Versailles even rehung a portrait of Voltaire.

Cover of the monthly magazine Charlie (1972), by Guido Crepax.

French organizations have quickly responded to last week’s terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo, where gunmen killed 12 people, including some of the satirical magazine’s top journalists and cartoonists.

The first response came from the French government. The day after the shooting, the culture minister, Fleur Pellerin, pledged €1 million to Charlie Hebdo, to ensure the magazine could keep running. A day later, Charlie Hebdo was appointed an “honorary citizen” of Paris.

The Centre Pompidou was also swift to respond. A day after the attack, the museum’s Bibliothèque Kandinsky opened an exhibition showcasing old issues of Charlie magazine (predecessor of the current Charlie Hebdo) from 1969 to 1986.

This week, the Château de Versailles rehung Nicolas de Largillière’s portrait of Voltaire (1724), the revered French Enlightenment intellectual, whose 1763 essay Treatise on Tolerance has become a best-seller in France since last week’s attacks.

Voltaire is widely credited with the statement “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” (The sentence, echoed by many in recent days in support of freedom of speech, was in fact penned by Evelyn Beatrice Hall in her 1906 biography The Friends of Voltaire.)

Nicolas de Largillière, <em>François-Marie Arouet, known as Voltaire</eM> (1724). Collection of the Palace of Versailles.

Nicolas de Largillière, François-Marie Arouet, known as Voltaire (1724). Collection of the Palace of Versailles.

The Château de Versailles has also posted Voltaire’s portrait on its website’s home page, accompanied by the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag and a genuine Voltaire quote: “Let us support the freedom of the press. It is the grounds of all other freedoms, that by which we are mutually enlightened.”

According to the Art Newspaper, Paris’ mayor Anne Hidalgo has announced the creation of an international illustration festival in Paris, which was the long-held dream of the slain cartoonist Bernard “Tignous” Verlhac. Hidalgo explained that the event could be organized in partnership with the École Boulle and the École Estienne in Paris, the art and design schools where “Tignous” and his Charlie Hebdo colleague Jean “Cabu” Cabut studied.

Meanwhile, the International Comic Festival in Angoulême, attended yearly by 200,000 visitors, has announced the creation of the Charlie Prize for Freedom of Expression. The 42th edition of the festival will kick off on January 29, with reinforced security measures.

Last night, the charity art exhibition, “Charlie Hexpo,” opened its doors in Paris, featuring works created in response to the terrorist attacks that shook the French city. Proceeds from sales of the exhibited works will be given to the families of the victims.

Anonymous citizens are also contributing to the Charlie Hebdo cause. This week’s edition of the magazine, which had a special print run of five million issues, sold out within minutes in newsstands across France.

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