Diane Leighton Ackerman Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor
Ms Diane Leighton Ackerman was bestowed the insignia of Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor by Agnès Hibon on Tuesday November 20, 2012, during a special ceremony held at the Consulate General.
Ms Diane Ackerman is an art advisor whose specialty is in modern art. She is a francophone and a great friend of France, who has been tirelessly working to promote the cultural exchange between France and the United States. As such, she was able to raise the necessary funds for the renovation of the Maison Française at Columbia University, where she sits on the Advisory Panel. She is also the Program Chair and Board member of the Trophée des Arts Gala event.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish you a warm welcome to the Consulate General of France in New York. We are gathered here today to bestow the insignia of Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor upon a grand woman in the field of French-American relations, Ms Diane Leighton Ackerman. I also convey the apologies of our Consul General, Mr. Bertrand Lortholary, who is on mission to Paris and unfortunately cannot be here with us tonight.
In a few moments, Agnes Hibon will present you with a decoration which for over two centuries has been acknowledging great feats made in favor of the French Nation. As you all know, the Legion of Honor was created by Napoleon in 1802. It remains the most prestigious decoration France may give. Today, the French Republic is honoring your great contribution to spreading French culture in the world, and your involvement in the French-American cooperation in the cultural field.
Dear Friends, Dear Diane,
Excuse me for I can only briefly present such a rich career as yours. It all began here in New York, when you studied literature at the prestigious establishment for women, Barnard College. Be it coincidence or fate – and as we all know fate is a great provider – you started out at a French company, Renault, here in the United States, before taking a position at Curtis Publishing whose President at the time was your husband, Martin.
Your passion for Art was consolidated in London, where you moved to in the 70’s. You studied Art History at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, and wrote two books with your husband. Both are biographies of American artists: the painter and illustrator Arthur B. Davies, and the Tenor Maurice Stern. In London you also opened up another career path as a successful freelance journalist, writing both for the prestigious newspaper, The Guardian, and for Art Review magazine.
Back in the States, you collaborated with two well known magazines: the fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar, and Cosmopolitan. Since then you have been an art consultant, specialized in Modern Art. The titles of your latest works disclose the success you gained from your numerous life-ventures. Namely, “Money, Ego, Power”, “Getting Rich: A Smart Woman’s guide to Successful Money Management” or yet “The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need to Marry Money”.
Enriched by your vast experience and success, you have shown an undivided commitment to spreading culture. This is why you created the Ackerman Foundation in the 80’s along with your husband, and donated several hundred artworks to various museums, such as the Smithsonian Institute, and even to universities like St Michael’s College in Vermont.
Very early on, your commitment was directed towards French culture, and we all know you are an undisputed specialist on the matter. In fact, you chose to give a French education to your daughter while living in London and later on in New York – becoming a PTA member at the Lycée Français. In means of education and teaching, the French-American ties are highly indebted to you. It is indeed thanks to your support that the Maison Française at Columbia University – where you sit on the Advisory Board – was able to find the necessary funds for its renovation.
We are also well aware of your essential involvement in the work of various French-American associations here in New York. You are the Program Chair and a Board member of the Trophée des Arts Gala event which is one of the annual high points of the French-American cultural scene in New York. And as President of the annual Bal des Berceaux, organized by the French-American Aid for Children Association, you help financing the most admirable projects. The list goes on, but I would also like to mention your participation in the activities of the French-American Society, the French-American Foundation, or even the Paris-American Club.
As a relentless promoter of French culture here in the U.S., you organize exhibition exchanges between our two countries. You have, by the way, told me of a project you hold close to your heart. You are in fact the Secretary of the Fine Arts Advisory Panel at the Federal Reserve, and as such you recently organized an exhibition about Paris and its festivals, through an artworks exchange between the Federal Reserve, the Bank of France and the Carnavalet Museum. You also support the French and bilingual theatrical production in New York by sponsoring the Studio Dramatique and the UBU Repertory Theater.
Your efforts for strengthening French-American relations also take place in Paris. You have been working for several years now in the field of Visual Arts, in collaboration with the French Ministry of Culture. The Premier Regard project I was told you are particularly fond of consists of helping young French and foreign artists gain reputation in France in order to start off on an international career. Many of them have already become known, and a few even received an award at the Venice Biennale. Your contribution to the artistic creation in our country can also be seen at the Avignon Festival you support, a festival which is very dear to the French, as you know.
Dear Friends, Dear Diane,
You shall agree that such a career, such devotion to promoting our culture, will one day be warranted a major acknowledgement by our country, equal to the great service you have been rendering us.
I will hand over the floor now to your dear friend, Agnes Hibon, who wished to bestow the insignia of Chevalier in the Legion of Honor upon you herself.