Cultural Minister Aurélie Filippetti and Spencer Hays © Nicolas Krief féféphoto

A Passion for France: The Marlene and Spencer Hays Collection

Our members were the first to get a private preview of the exhibition, “A Passion for France: The Marlene and Spencer Hays Collection.” Marlene and Spencer Hays, founding AFMO board members, led a group of forty Paris-based and visiting AFMO members through their collection on Monday, April 15th. This special tour was scheduled the morning of the museum’s exhibit preview and VIP cocktail that evening.

Mr. Hays told the group about their first trip to Paris in 1971. They were so taken with Paris that they have been back every year since. Marlene and Spencer’s love for Paris, the French people, and the French culture, continue to grow. This adoration for the French led to the start of their phenomenal impressionist collection, featuring Vuillard, Bonnard, Odilon Redon, Edgar Degas, Aristide Maillol and Amedeo Modigliani.

This outstanding collection of 19th century and early 20th century works includes the seventh panel of Édouard Vuillard’s Public Gardens (the Musée d’Orsay currently has five of the nine panels), as well as works by Bonnard, Ranson and Roussel.  In addition, there are decorative panels by Maurice Denis and Symbolist masterpieces by Redon. The 1860s and the Impressionist period are well represented with works by Fantin-Latour, Tissot, Caillebotte, Berthe Morisot and Eva Gonzalès. The Hays have assembled an impressive collection over the years, each piece being extremely unique on its own, yet as a collection, working harmoniously. Spencer and Marlene focused a large part of their collection on the “Les Nabis” movement, from 1890 – 1900. Many of these masterpieces are being exhibited in France for the first time, made possible by this exhibition.

Following AFMO’s private preview tour with the Hays, the day continued with an extremely special ceremony, commemorating Spencer Hays and his passion for French art and culture. Mr. Hays was decorated with the Officer badge of the Legion of Honor by French minister of Culture, Aurélie Filippetti. As Spencer Hays thanked the French Republic, everyone present was touched by the humble and poignant speech Spencer gave. He provided Guy Cogeval, his close friend and the director of the Musée d’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie, with a special thank you, as Guy was instrumental in bringing the Hays’s collection to the Orsay for this exhibit.

The “A Passion for France: The Marlene and Spencer Hays Collection” exhibit will be at the Orsay through August 18th. The museum and AFMO are very excited and proud to showcase the private collection of a founding AFMO member. The exhibit is truly moving, emotional and inspiring.

Listen to the npr interview with Spencer Hays, Guy Cogeval (President of the Orsay and Orangerie Museums) and curator Isabelle Cahn.

View photos of the events: