The name of Joana Vasconcelos joins a gallery which includes, among others, Amália Rodrigues, António Vitorino de Almeida, Manoel de Oliveira, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Júlio Pomar, António Lobo Antunes, José Saramago, Joaquim Benite or Tiago Rodrigues. 

The insignia, awarded since 1957 by the French Ministry of Culture, honors those who have distinguished themselves for their creation and/or influence in the arts and letters in France and in the world. The ceremony took place this morning at Palácio de Santos, headquarters of the French Embassy in Portugal, by the hands Ambassador Florence Mangin, who gave the following speech:

«Madam Minister of Culture, Dear Graça Fonseca / Dear Madame Joana Vasconcelos,

Ladies / Gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to Palácio de Santos, to pay tribute to a notable representative of the contemporary art world: Joana Vasconcelos.

The Order of Arts and Letters is one of the four ministerial orders of the French Republic intended to reward personalities who have distinguished themselves through their work in artistic and literary fields or who have contributed to the splendor of arts and letters in France. and in the world.

I begin by mentioning that Joana Vasconcelos has a long history of love with France with constantly renewed reciprocal declarations. Because she was born in Paris, at a time when the lives of many Portuguese had been disrupted by the dictatorship. When democracy returned in 1974, she returned to Portugal with her parents. This is how the French language is hers, as much as Portuguese, and it was this precocious bilingualism that allowed her to become a true polyglot, another asset for the internationally renowned artist she has become. Cosmopolitan, without any doubt, many of her creations are deeply rooted in traditional portuguese themes, in popular knowledge and culture, in crafts and in the country's creative industry. Using more common materials and some more surprising and innovative, from yesterday and today, Joana Vasconcelos creates a world that surprises us with its size, color, message, without excluding its enormous originality for our delight and pleasure. And I will take the liberty of quoting our renowned philosopher Gilles Lipovetsky who devoted some very beautiful pages to her work, describing it in these terms: "A trivial banality whose inspiration borrows common themes and forms and still releases an intense poetry An affirmed presence of tradition, terror, custom and that in no way excludes an exposed contemporaneity, an art of the present time, of the present world, in its planetary and globalized dimension.” France likes this poetic, baroque, provocative work, but also imbued with humour, dear Joana Vasconcelos.

In 2012, she was invited to exhibit at the Palace of Versailles; in 2018, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Strasbourg dedicated a retrospective to her, while the Hôtel Départemental des Arts de Toulon receive her exhibition Exagérer pour Inventer. In 2019, the Coeur de Paris becomes her first work permanently installed in the parisian public space, in Porte de Clignancourt, in the neighborhood where she was born. Then, her exhibition Branco Luz majestically took over Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche. Joana Vasconcelos is a pioneer in the representation of women: she was the first woman to have an exhibition at the Château de Versailles in 2012, to represent Portugal, her country, at the Venice Biennale in 2013, to have been the subject of a retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao in 2018, and so on. And she did all this on its own merit and in perfect harmony with the energy she puts into dignifying the image of women in her work. If her feminism doesn't express any aggression, she is nevertheless an excellent fighter, like the valkyries that inhabit her work, those warrior goddesses who save the brave during combat. Because behind her valkyries and her feminist spirit, there is a true passion, nurtured since childhood, through karate, of which she has held a black belt since she was 17! No doubt she inherited the revolutionary spirit of her parents, progressive intellectuals. Therefore, I believe you will be happy to review the work of Gérard Fromager, closely linked to this period of may 1968, to whom the Berardo Museum dedicates a retrospective, during the opening in Lisbon, of the France-Portugal Season 2022, since february 16. I hope you enjoy this exhibition as much as the french visitors will discover, from may to november 2022, L'Arbre de Vie, an imposing laurel tree (laurus nobilis), her new work specially designed for the Sainte Chapelle de Vincennes, within the France-Portugal Season 2022.

But today, to celebrate your talent and the deep bond that unites us, dear Joana Vasconcelos, “in the name of the French Republic, we make you an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters”.»