Gérard Araud, new president of the Friends of the Louvre

On June 4, no less than four diplomats were candidates for the election of members of the Board of Directors of the Society of Friends of the Louvre. A renewal of profiles, which were still dominated four years ago by collectors and art historians, and which was reflected in the election of the new president of the Society of Friends, on June 11. Gérard Araud, 71, former French ambassador to the United States, to the United Nations, then to Israel, was chosen by the members to lead the association.

Since his retirement from the Quai d'Orsay in April 2019, Gérard Araud has become a media figure, frequently speaking on television sets, appreciated for his newfound freedom of speech after 36 years spent in embassies. With the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, then the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the former diplomat is a privileged interlocutor for the media, distilling his analyzes in front of the cameras, in his regular columns for Le Point, and in books . He thus publishes in April 2024 Israel, the trap of History.

He succeeds the collector Louis-Antoine Prat, who was unable to claim a third term as president of the Société des Amis du Louvre. Several controversies have made it impossible for him to remain at the head of the association, during the year 2023. In the publication of a collection of short stories, the collector of drawings describes a fictional character of a gallery owner using clichés that some have described as anti-Semitic. A character in which the merchant Nicolas Schwed recognized himself, which Louis-Antoine Prat has refuted on several occasions.

A rare wash by Victor Hugo, classified as a national treasure, created a stir when it was acquired by the Société des Amis du Louvre for the graphic arts department at a price of 2.8 million euros. Louis Antoine Prat then accused the seller, the collector Pierre Morin, of engaging in a speculative operation. In his response in the columns of Le Monde, the person concerned did not hesitate to call him into question: “no one is unaware that (Louis-Antoine Prat) does not hesitate to mobilize the internal networks of the Louvre Museum for its personal interest”.

If the context prevented Louis-Antoine Prat from claiming a new mandate, the collector retains a certain influence. The letter thus revealed that Louis-Antoine Prat had 400 delegations of power, in a vote mobilizing only 5 to 10% of the association's 62,000 members. His influence will surely have decided between the candidates in this open election, which Gérard Araud won against Daniel Théry (collector), Gilles Andréani (former magistrate of the Court of Auditors) and Catherine Guillouard (former CEO of the RATP).

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