“FRAME grows and adapts to what the demands are between two different cultures. It’s an amazing sort of thing and it’s why I refer to it as cultural diplomacy”
~Elizabeth Rohatyn, Co-Founder of FRAME
Twenty years later!
FRAME, a unique museum network, founded by two exceptional women. Tribute to Elizabeth Rohatyn and Françoise Cachin
by Marie-Christine Labourdette, Director of the Musées de France and Co-President of FRAME from 2008 to 2018
In the co-authored preface for FRAME’s 2007 publication, Elizabeth Rohatyn and Françoise Cachin emphasized “how pleased and proud [they were] to have set up this system of exchanges which grew out of a friendship between two women, one from New York […] and one from Paris […] and their shared enthusiam for the regional museums of both countries.”
Elizabeth Fly Rohatyn (1930-2016) moved to Paris in 1997, when her husband, Félix Rohatyn, was appointed United States Ambassador to France by President William Clinton. In their new role, the Rohatyns crisscrossed the country quickly thanks to a vast network of personal and professional contacts. The wealth of French museums that Elizabeth Rohatyn systematically visited reminded her of beloved American institutions that had benefitted from more than a century of prosperity and collecting which encompassed a veritable treasure of the history of mankind. The idea of bringing these two complementary museological heritages came to mind and was enthusiastically received when shared with Françoise Cachin (1936-2011), the first woman to assume the function of Director of the Museums of France. Ms. Cachin was instrumental in choosing the first museums to become part of FRAME on the French side with special care to foster the development of regional museums and to highlight their prestigious collections. Thanks to these two exceptional women, bilateral partnerships were established as early as 1999, with nine museums on each side of the Atlantic for a total 18 members. There are now more than thirty museums that belong to FRAME, vibrant proof that their initial intuition was right.
I became acquainted with Elizabeth Rohatyn as soon as I became Director of the Museums of France in June, 2008. FRAME had been in existence for almost ten years and had already completed many projects. After Françoise Cachin and Francine Mariani-Ducray, whom I had the honor of succeeding, I too, fell in love with Elizabeth Rohatyn’s radiant personality, both powerful and delicate. Elizabeth was a visionary woman, worldly and caring. With a refined elegance and impeccable manners, she was the model of the American professional woman: informed, determined, and efficient. She had experience in the fields of social, educational, and cultural action, where she knew the issues and relationships. With her husband Félix, to whom I also wish to pay tribute, Elizabeth developed major philanthropic initiatives to provide access to education for young people and higher education for low-income students in the United States.
Françoise Cachin was the artist Paul Signac’s granddaughter, and she became the undisputed specialist on this master of neo- impressionism. A student of the famous art historian André Chastel, Françoise Cachin was a great curator and a woman of strong convictions. Her brilliant career in the service of French museums gave her an unmatched knowledge of the works and collections of France’s museums. Until 2007, she tirelessly worked to inspire FRAME museums in their working relationships. The idea of FRAME has something in common with one of the main principles of the French Museums Act of January 4, 2002, that Françoise Cachin largely helped establish which requests museums to “make [the collections] accessible to the widest public.”
Françoise Cachin’s paternal grandfather, Marcel Cachin, a Front Populaire member, had an influence on her involvement with the French socialist movement. In this regard, access to culture was a logical cause to promote in her mind.
The co-founders believed that FRAME was a unique and valuable way to promote a better mutual understanding of American and French cultures, through exhibitions and interpretation programs organized from the exceptional pool of works held by FRAME museums.
Elizabeth Rohatyn devoted fourteen years of her life to FRAME and it is among one of her greatest accomplishments. She put both her international relationships and considerable resources at the service of FRAME. The Republic of France gratefully acknowledged her service by first knighting her and then by naming her an Officer of the Legion of Honor. During her tenure, our membership in France, Canada, and the United States, worked together to make her vision a reality. This vision came to fruition and flourished thanks to her attention, encouragement, and support. Elizabeth Rohatyn was always willing to intercede and call upon her numerous professional networks in support of projects. This spirit lives on in the network and imbues our work with good will beyond the principles of reciprocity. While scholarly and artistic exchanges seem to be increasingly weighed in light of partners’ ability to reciprocate, FRAME tries to overcome this economic business model logic in pursuing genuine and original partnerships, for the greater benefit of art history, increased access for its audiences, and deeper cultural relations between France and North America.
As French Co-Chair, I witnessed the preservation, maintenance, and growth of Elizabeth Rohatyn and Françoise Cachin’s magnificent legacy over the past ten years. I supported and developed this legacy, built on the core values of cultural exchange, and dialogue between nations, with the help and commitment of all member museums, and FRAME’s Board of Directors and staff in France and North America. I am proud to have contributed to the success of FRAME as it celebrates its 20 th anniversary. I salute this next stage in FRAME’s history under the leadership of William Beekman and Anne- Solène Rolland, the new North American and French Co-Presidents of FRAME. In respect to the vision of FRAME’s two co-founders, may the next two decades keep their spirit vital, and continue the brilliance of the first two decades of this exceptional adventure.