Pompidou welcomes Daniel and Florence Guerlain’s deferred gift of 1000 contemporary drawings

The Guerlains are mindful of the fate of an ancestor’s impressionist works, having no wish for their collection to be divvied up in the same manner



Leading French collectors Daniel and Florence Guerlain announced in February that they are donating around 1,000 drawings by contemporary artists to the Centre Pompidou in Paris so that their collection remains intact and is not divided by their heirs. The drawings are currently being stamped with an inventory number from the Centre Pompidou but will remain in the Guerlains’ possession until they decide to hand the drawings over to the museum in the next few years.

This arrangement, called donation sous réserve d’usufruit, means that the Guerlains have officially donated the works but retain the rights to keep them as long as they are alive. They can end the arrangement whenever they wish, in which case the drawings would go straight to the Centre Pompidou. This is a fairly common practice in France; the Musée du Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris have also accepted donations on these terms.

“Florence Guerlain and I went through their collection and there were a few drawings that we decided not to take, either because the artist would be over-represented at the Pompidou or because the drawings were not of the same quality as the rest of the donation,” says Jonas Storsve, the head of the Centre Pompidou’s drawings department. “The donation either completes our collection where we have the same artists in both collections, such as Jean-Michel Alberola, or it includes artists that are not already represented in our collection, such as Marcel Dzama and Leiko Ikemura.”

The Guerlains’ collection also includes work by François Morellet, Robert Longo, Richard Prince, Miquel Barceló, Gérard Garouste and Tatiana Trouvé. The couple own a further 350 drawings, and intend to make a second donation to the Centre Pompidou at a later stage. In the meantime, the museum is planning to show part of the Guerlains’ donation in autumn 2013. Work on the exhibition is still in its preliminary stages.

“Daniel’s grandfather, Jacques Guerlain [the perfumer], collected impressionist drawings but his collection was divided up between his children and grandchildren,” Florence Guerlain explains. “We didn’t want this to happen to us and we thought it was more agreeable for our collection to enter a museum.”

The couple established an art foundation in 1996 and have organised exhibitions in their family property in Les Mesnuls, an hour’s drive west of Paris. “We’ve always bought drawings as well as paintings, photos and sculpture and have perhaps bought more drawings since our decision to launch a drawings prize in 2004,” says Florence Guerlain.

The prize was first awarded in 2007. Each year three artists are shortlisted by a committee of six people, including the Guerlains, and the winner is picked by an international jury. Works by this year’s finalists—Jorinde Voigt, Marc Bauer and Marcel Dzama—are due to be presented at Paris’s prestigious Salon du Dessin fair (28 March-2 April). The winner receives €15,000 and the two runners-up each receive €2,500. A work by the winner is presented to the Centre Pompidou.

The Guerlains also intend to lend over 200 drawings by contemporary artists from their collection to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to be included in the exhibition “Spring of Drawings”, which is due to be held from April to June 2013. n Anna Sansom

The US collectors Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner have pledged to donate around 300 works by 27 international artists, including Keith Tyson, Mark Wallinger, Danh Vo and Philippe Parreno, to the Centre Pompidou. Around 500 works by 70 US artists will also enter the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York as part of the proposed gift.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Pompidou welcomes collectors’ deferred gift'