France buys part of mime artist Marceau collection

Thu May 28, 2009 5:23am EDT
 
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PARIS (Reuters) - French authorities bought drawings, notes and various art works owned by Marcel Marceau after the late mime artist's collection was auctioned on the order of a court, the culture ministry said on Thursday.

The court sparked uproar among Marceau enthusiasts by ordering the sale to pay off debts left by the world's most famous mime artist, who went bankrupt before he died in 2007, aged 84.

Marceau was best known for his wide-eyed character Bip, a clown whose white face, striped jersey and crushed top hat were immediately recognizable as he danced the tango, struggled against windstorms or picked his way silently through a series of invisible obstacles.

The collection was sold at auction on Tuesday and Wednesday, raising almost 500,000 euros ($697,200), according to French press reports.

Culture Minister Christine Albanel said the state had stepped in to acquire a number of objects including drawings, water colors, photographs, models and notes by Marceau as well as a portrait of the artist in a theater.

"In the name of this artist and his immense talent, I wanted the ministry of Culture and Communication to acquire the objects that belonged to this exceptional artist," Culture Minister Christine Albanel said in a statement.

"I am extremely proud that the memory of the mime artist Marceau should be honored in this way," she said.

The objects, acquired partly by the National Library and partly by the ministry's own heritage fund, will be put on display in the National Library.

(Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Charles Dick)

 
<p>A visitor stands near artwork of late French mime Marcel Marceau and presented on the eve of an auction in Paris on May 25, 2009. REUTERS/John Schults</p>