Haus der Stiftungen in NRW | Düsseldorf

The painter and sculptor Imi Knoebel has been awarded a very special honour: the French Ambassador to Germany, Philippe Etienne, has personally presented the artist with the medal of an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters. The presentation ceremony was held on Saturday, 9th July 2016 in the Johannes Rau Saal at Kunststiftung NRW – an appropriate venue as the Kunststiftung had played a decisive role in bringing the project to fruition which formed the basis for this distinguished award.

Imi Knoebel was responsible for a symbol of Franco-German friendship and European peace last year by donating three stained glass windows he had created himself to the Joan of Arc chapel at Reims Cathedral. On 11th May 2015 the project’s joint patrons, Laurent Fabius, at the time still Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development of the Republic of France and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany, gave their endorsement to the historical significance of this cultural-political event by attending the inauguration ceremony.

From left to right: Philippe Etienne, Imi Knoebel | Photo: Susanne Diesner

A century after the First World War, the primary catastrophe of the Modern Age, the transfer of this work by a German artist to the French state symbolized the closure of a wound which German troops inflicted on the cultural heart of France in 1914. This gesture of restoration and reconciliation was supported by the spirit of the project: the desire to strengthen Franco-German friendship, to make a statement for peace, create a symbol of hope and above all to bolster younger generations in thinking beyond borders in framing and living in a Europe of culture and shared human values. In its acceptance of this gift, which will outlast generations as part of its national cultural heritage, France has given its emphatic support to this concept.

From left to right: Laurent Innocenzi, Dr. Ursula Sinnreich, Imi Knoebel, Philippe Etienne | Photo: Susanne Diesner

Since then the windows’ beautiful colours and strong light have had a magical influence on the atmosphere of what was once the coronation site for the Kings of France. Flying, floating and glowing particles elevate themselves above all languages, address all cultures and religions and communicate a sense of unity within diversity.

The Knoebel family | Photo: Susanne Diesner

Kunststiftung NRW supported the Reims project by Imi Knoebel together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Both institutions played a key role in its realisation.

From left to right: Dr. Ursula Sinnreich, Dr. Marc Jan Eumann, Philippe Etienne, Imi Knoebel | Photo: Susanne Diesner

The Ordre des Arts et des Lettres has existed since 1957. It is awarded to those who have distinguished themselves in artistic or literary fields or through their contribution to the dissemination of literature and the arts in France and around the world. Holders of the order from German-speaking nations include; Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Max Frisch, Michael Haneke, Hans Hartung, Wolfgang Wagner and Peter Zadek.

Further information about the project in Reims can be found here.