Gallerist Michael Werner Is Given France’s Highest Cultural Honor

The German dealer has made his mark on the cultural life of France.

Michael Werner. Photo: Film still via YouTube.

Veteran art dealer Michael Werner was awarded France’s Legion of Honor in the rank of Chevalier on Wednesday. The German gallerist accepted the award in a private ceremony in Berlin in recognition of his contributions towards promoting the country’s culture and fine art.

The German gallerist has been an influential figure in the European art scene since opening his gallery in Berlin in 1963 where he represented a generation of radical German painters including Georg Baselitz, Markus Lüpertz, and A.R. Penck. In 1990 he expanded to New York, moving into Leo Castelli’s historic former Upper East Side location, and in 2012 he opened a space in London’s Mayfair.

Throughout his five-decade career Werner has enjoyed a long and close relationship with France and its cultural institutions, culminating in the donation of 130 artworks to the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris, a gesture described by director Fabrice Hergott as “the most significant enrichment of the Museum’s collection since the bequest was made by Dr. Maurice Giradin in 1953, which led to the creation of the institution.”

Indeed, Werner compared his first visit to the museum to a “religious conversion,” saying that it “profoundly changed my understanding of and relationship to art.”

In 2015 the gallerist collaborated with the museum on a large-scale retrospective of Markus Lüpertz’s work. And he has been a fervent supporter of influential French artists throughout his career, including Francis Picabia and Eugène Leroy.

The Legion of Honor is France’s highest distinction of merit awarded to individuals for their service to the nation for 20 years or more. France assigns the honor to approximately 3,000 French citizens and 400 foreigners annually. The distinction is awarded in three ranks, Chevalier, Officier, and Commandeur.

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