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Director of Morgan Library & Museum Named Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters

NEW YORK.- On Thursday, September 18, Kareen Rispal, Cultural Counselor of the Embassy of France, confered upon William M. Griswold the insignia of chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters during a reception at The Morgan Library & Museum marking the opening of the exhibition, Drawing Babar: Early Drafts and Watercolors. Dr. Griswold, who has directed the Morgan since February 2008, is being recognized in particular for his key role in the French Regional & American Museum Exchange (FRAME).

The FRAME coalition fosters bilateral exchanges between French and American regional art museums. This includes loans of works of art and partnerships in technology, research, and other initiatives designed to make the resources of the member museums available to a wider public. From 2005 to 2007, Dr. Griswold was Director and President of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, a member of FRAME.

According to Kareen Rispal, "Dr. Griswold is a tireless promoter of the visual arts and has brought us many significant collaborations between the finest art institutions in France and the United States. As a curator and director, Dr. Griswold has always remained true to his commitment to design museums as lively places available to a wider public."

“I am deeply grateful and honored to receive this distinction from the Order of Arts and Letters,” said Dr. Griswold. “France and the United States have a long and distinguished history of cultural exchange, and I am happy to have helped further it through the French Regional & American Museum Exchange. Of course, in my current position as director of The Morgan Library & Museum, I will continue to look for opportunities to share the cultural riches of our two countries. This exhibition on Babar—the creation of two great French artists but a figure of universal appeal—is a wonderful example of this.”

Dr. Griswold’s career is lined with cultural achievements. Before heading the Morgan, he served as Director and President of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (2005-7) and as Acting Director and Chief Curator of the J. Paul Getty Museum (2004–5). He co-authored 18th Century Italian Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Jacob Bean and has written extensively on Florentine drawings of the early Renaissance. In 1998 he curated a historically significant exchange of exhibitions between the Morgan and The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, and the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow. In 1999 he co-curated New York Collects, the Morgan’s first major exhibition devoted to twentieth-century art, and in 2002 he was co-author with Jennifer Tonkovich of Pierre Matisse and His Artists.

Dr. Griswold currently serves on the boards of the American Foundation for The Courtauld Institute of Art, American Federation of Arts, American Friends of the Shanghai Museum, and the scholarly journal Master Drawings. He is a member of the Association of Art Museum Directors.

Drawing Babar: Early Drafts and Watercolors, on view from September 19, 2008, through January 4, 2009, will include more than 170 works acquired by the Morgan in 2004, with manuscript drafts, sketches, and watercolors for the first book by each of Babar’s two authors, father and son Jean and Laurent de Brunhoff. The exhibition explores the working methods of these two men, who, fifteen years and a generation apart, created an iconic fictional character, French in style but universal in spirit, whose green suit and yellow crown have become recognizable to children and adults throughout the world.

The Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of the Arts and Letters) was created in 1957 to recognize eminent artists and writers, as well as individuals who have contributed to the recognition of French culture in the world. The Order is given out twice annually to only a few hundred people worldwide. Recent American recipients of this award include Paul Auster, Ornette Coleman, Morgan Freeman, Marilyn Horne, Keith Jarrett, Richard Meier, Robert Paxton, Robert Redford, and Meryl Streep.

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