Art-loving couple give their billion kroner collection to Paris

French President Francois Hollande (L) embraces American collector Spencer Hays (R) as his wife Marlene Hays (partially hidden) stands near after they were named Commandeur de la Legion d'Honneur (Commander of the Legion of Honour) following their donation of painting masterpieces to the Musee d'Orsay at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France October 22, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Samson/Pool

An American couple who discovered their love of art during a trip to Paris in 1971, donate all of their billion kroner collection to the French capital.

Businessman Spence Hays and his wife Marlene were in Paris on Saturday to present the first works of art. Among the 187 pieces were Edgar Degas and Amedeo Modigliani, worth 173 million euros (about 1.5 billion Norwegian kroner) to the Musée d’Orsay.

‘Marlene and I grew up in a small town in Gainesville, Texas, and visiting France was exceptional.

Arriving in Paris in 1971, we began our love affair with this wonderful country,’ Hayes told an audience that included the French President François Hollande.

‘Your donation honours the French Republic’, the president said at a ceremony where the couple got one of the highest honours: Commander of the Legion of Honour.

The couple, who are both in their 80s and have been married for 60 years, have a collection of around 600 works of art from the late 19th and beginning of the 20th century, worth 350 million euros (about 3 billion Norwegian kroner).

‘After our death, our collection is a gift to the French people, and art lovers worldwide can enjoy it. But more importantly, it is our heritage’, said Spence Hayes.


Source: NTB scanpix / Norway Today