Societies of friends are the new (social) power…

parisdiaArt, Flowers and gardens, Happy moments, Performing arts, Photography7 Comments

Clara Mousseigne wins the 40 th Cercle Carpeaux Prize for ballet in January 2023

Now that everyone spends their time sending text messages and posting on Instagram, physical social life has virtually disappeared from our lives. I find myself enjoying talking to my baker more and more while buying a baguette! But little by little, “the Friends of…” and “Cercle des Mécènes” have developed and created cultural salons focused on specific themes. In music, Cercle Carpeaux at the Paris Opera is the oldest and most exclusive. You have to be sponsored by two members to get in. But the Cercle des Mécènes du Théâtre des Champs Elysées is the most relaxed. Les Amis de Versailles and Les Amis du Louvre compete with Les Amis du Musée d’Orsay. They all also have American branches. Each president or director is a super elegant host(ess) and besides being able to get you priority tickets, free entrances and discounts in many other museums, they organize superb trips abroad with cocktails at the French Embassy and the visit of private houses and castles. When you join, you pay a tax deductible fee which brings you all these advantages as well as a yearly gala dinner with the artists. And great new friends!

Gala dinner of the Friends of Domaine de Chantilly, presided by Prince Amyn Aga Khan, in September 2023

At Chantilly, Les Amis du Musée Condé, presided by Claude Charpentier, restore works of art and acquire many pieces for the curator Mathieu Deldicque. The yearly fee starts at 50€  for the 3 200 members and entrance to the castle and parking are free. They also organize trips on the theme of Duc d’Aumale’s life in Italy and in Great Britain with curator Nicole Garnier as a vip guide. The Friends of Domaine de Chantilly, their American counterpart is run by Patricia Kim and organizes conferences and exclusive visits of the collections during Salon du Dessin and in the autumn with a yearly gala in the castle. Memberships start at 1 000€ but the very elegant group includes mostly benefactors who follow the online conferences on specific themes and help acquire new treasures.

Musée d’Orsay provides special early visiting times for its Friends who are also invited to openings and can join exclusive travels. Memberships start at 200€. The President, Jean Louis Milin, is very active and the yearly Gala is a great social moment.

When you are a friend of Musée d’Orsay, you can see all exhibitions at 9 am before the general public enters the museum, here “Van Gogh in Auvers sur Oise” (detail)

Amis du Louvre is the most important society of friends with over 60 000 members who pay from 80€ each, for conferences, free access to the museum and invitations to the openings. Their trips to Egypt, Texas or Albania are particularly well attended and always guided by chief curators of the Louvre. Members also get reduced tickets for one hundred other museums in France and special invitations to conferences. Presided by Louis Antoine Prat, the association is run by Sébastien Fumaroli. It recently held a fabulous evening of music in the sculpture courtyard of the Louvre.

The entrance to I.M. Pei’s pyramid was paticularly well lit

IMA, Institut du Monde Arabe also offers a membership card. Starting at 85€ you can access wonderful travels like the last one in September 2023, in Uzbekistan and join visits once a month in Paris. There are 1 100 members but no gala yet. The person in charge is Marianne Carion. Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature counts 580 members  and benefactors pay 200€. Presided by Hubert Lebaudy it is run by Isabelle Lépine who organizes great trips like recently in Hamburg with a concert at the ElbPhilarmonie, designed by Herzog & de Meuron and the visit of exceptional buildings. The vice president, Ariane de Courcel, who used to run the Friends of la Maison rouge, organizes visits of artist’s studios and of course there are many garden visits.

Last month, the Amis du Musée de la Chasse visited the ElbPhilharmonie in Hamburg designed by Herzog & de Meuron, photo Denys Laroche

Les Amis de Versailles, presided by Jérôme Plouseau, counts 5 000 members. Prices start at 70€ and you have free access to the castle and special events like evening visits and private tours of the hidden apartments. There is a very strong and intimate relationship between the members and the castle and at the moment the Société is restoring the wood panelings from the chapel’s sacristies which date from Louis XIV. Founded in 1907, the Société des Amis is active in acquiring furniture and paintings for the castle. Le Grand Livre du Mécénat published in 2020 by Olivier de Rohan (who was their president for 20 years) lists all the contributions since the beginning, including the trees offered by thousands of people to plant in the park after the great storm of 1999. Since Christophe Leribault (former president of Musée d’Orsay) is becoming the new President of Versailles on  March 4 th, there might be new events in 2024…

The inauguration of Jean Michel Othoniel’s fountains at Versailles in the gardens designed by Louis Benech on May 11, 2015

Les Amis du MAM, Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, offer a card of Paris Musées which lets you in for free in all Paris museums, and for 80€ a year you can access the private travels organized around art fairs (the Venice Biennale or Art Genève more recently). A big gala dinner is planned every year in October, on the Tuesday preceding Paris Art Basel. The President who succeeded Christian Langlois Meurinne is Jean Paul Agon, Chairman of the board of L’Oréal, who is married to the galerist Sophie Scheidecker.

The Jean Helion retrospective starts at MAM on March 22

The Amis du Centre Pompidou were presided for many years by the extraordinary Sylvie Boissonnas and by her son Jacques, and are now under the helm of Floriane de Saint Pierre who runs a firm of executive search. They organize 25 trips a year in France and abroad for their 800 members and a gala dinner every year. Membership starts at 300€. In January 2025, when Centre Pompidou closes, the card will get you into the Grand Palais for the Niki de Saint Phalle/ Tinguely exhibition. Right now the Friends are traveling in Mexico.

Niki de Saint Phalle, “L’Ange protecteur”, Zürich train station

There are three hundred Museum associations in France which are federated by FFSAM. Each one has a specificity and Amis du Musée Albert Khan, founded and presided by Sylvie Jumentier, is very focused on photography since the creator of the museum was one of the precursors of autochromes in his work “Les Archives de la Planète”, shot around the world in the early XX th century. Special visits of Paris Photo are organized, an exhibition of photography will take place in the fabulous gardens in Boulogne this summer and special trips to Varengeville or Menton, next May, allow members to visit exceptional gardens in small groups. And a photography Prize is awarded.

Les Amateurs de jardins take you to visit privately owned gardens such as the park of Fontaine-la-Soret in Normandy, designed by Russell Page

“Les Amateurs de Jardins”, presided by Cyril Wolkonsky, with Nathalie Brunel as vice president, are a very tight society of garden lovers. Each member is coopted and has to own a garden and be knowledgeable in gardening. Its former president, Aliette Gillet, was a true passionate and elegant lady who turned the association into one of the most elegant in France. Newcomers to the gardening world fought to belong and it has retained this feeling of exclusiveness. This year, two travels are planned to England and to South Africa. And also a number of conferences or private visits of important public gardens. Membership is at 150€.

Jardins Albert Kahn in Boulogne have a particularly famous Japanese garden

On the music front, Cercle Carpeaux, run by the beautiful Catherine de Pimodan, counts 200 members who all know each other and the yearly fee is 300€, with an entrance fee of 600€. A very active group of young members is also slowly taking over. The circle pays 50 000 € a year to the Paris Opera to support their Académie Lyrique and offers a yearly prize for singers and for dancers. A special recital followed by a dinner is organized and it is very moving to see and hear these emerging talents. Carpeaux gives you access to the best seats and the best productions and has a dedicated ticket line for last minute decisions. It also organizes trips abroad for opera.

Théâtre des Champs Elysées is one of the prettiest concert halls in Paris with Opéra Garnier

At Théâtre des Champs Elysées,  members pay from 600€ onwards to get first choice on subscriptions and be invited to rehearsals in mid afternoon. This is what I find most interesting. There are also trips to Germany or Italy organized around an opera and of course the possibility to book last minute tickets. The little parties around the new programs or the sponsoring of operas for underprivileged children are always fascinating because most members are true musicians. The person in charge is Julia Neugebauer with Cécile Devillers.

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