August 27, 2009

Goodbye, Irène...

Irène Némirovsky and her family, August 1939.
(Courtesy of IMEC)

Seventy years ago the Némirovsky family had no idea of the tragedy that the next years would bring. They were a family intact with successful parents and beloved daughters, who believed that they had every prospect of continuing as they were. The photo above captures the last moments of this family before the beginning of the war that would change everything.

On Monday morning, we will begin to take down our exhibition, Woman of Letters: Irène Némirovsky and Suite Française. If you haven't seen this exhibition, Sunday is your last chance. If you miss it, you will have failed to see one of the most profoundly beautiful exhibitions ever mounted. Just having the opportunity to see the handwritten manuscript of Suite Française would be worth the visit. Seeing it in the context of the richly illustrated story of Irène's life, is an unmatched opportunity.

I am obviously proud of this exhibition and filled with admiration for its curator (and my Deputy) Ivy Barsky and its designer, Amy Forman, and the many others who worked so hard on it, including Sarah Griswold (who was the assistant curator) and Henrietta Foster (who made the brilliant films). My thoughts also turn to Denise Epstein, Irène's daughter, who gave so much, and to our friends at IMEC, who were the best possible partners. The entire experience of creating this exhibition was a remarkable one for all of us -- the things we learned, the friends we made, and the irreplaceable feeling of satisfaction that we did something important and did it so well.

I always feel regret when we take down one of our exhibitions. So much effort goes into them, and they become, for a while, such an integral part of the Museum. This weekend, I will feel not only regret, but a deep sense of loss. Thankfully, we can focus on the good prospect of Woman of Letters opening again (in a modified form) in Paris sometime in the future.

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