Billionaire Saadé Family Gives Louvre’s New Department a Major Boost

Man and woman dressed in blazers
Tanya Saadé Zeenny and Rudolph Saadé at the Cedre conference at The Foreign Affairs Ministry in 2018. Ludovic Marin/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

A new curatorial department at the Louvre that will be dedicated to the art of Byzantium and Eastern Christianity is set to receive a major financial boost from one of France’s wealthiest families. The CMA CGM Group, a shipping empire run by the billionaire Saadé family, will support the creation of the department as its first corporate sponsor. While Louvre officials didn’t disclose how much the Saadés will donate through the company, it described the amount as “exceptional,” as reported by Bloomberg.

“The creation of a department within the Louvre Museum is a rare event, which cannot be imagined without the support of major donors who share its values,” said Laurence des Cars, director and president of the Louvre, in a statement. The department has been in the works for more than a decade; Nicolas Sarkozy, then the president of France, called for its creation in 2010. The project was put on pause four years later amid concerns about displaying religious artwork and reshuffling other departments, but development picked back up with the appointment of Des Cars in 2021.

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Located in the Louvre’s Denon wing and scheduled to open by the end of 2027,  the Department of Byzantine and Eastern Christian Art will display more than 20,000 works spanning the origin of Christian images to the 19th Century. It will bring together thousands of pieces scattered across the museum’s eight existing curatorial departments, according to Des Cars, who has previously described the project as reflecting “the reality of our collection which wasn’t visible.”

View of large museum with triangular glass sculpture placed in front
The Louvre will open its ninth curatorial department in 2027. Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Saadés run one of the world’s largest shipping companies

The Saadés have an estimated net worth of $22.2 billion, operating CMA CGM in more than 160 countries and overseeing nearly 590 ships. The company was founded by Jacques Saadé, who died in 2018 at age 81. Originally from Lebanon, Jacques moved to France in the 1970s and began his career by founding the ferry operator Compagnie Maritime d’Affretement (CMA). He acquired the shipping line Compagnie Generale Maritime (CGM) two decades later and formed CMA CGM.

“Deeply attached to its Mediterranean roots, our family group is delighted to be able to introduce as many people as possible to the culture and arts of Byzantium and the Christian communities in the East,” said Tanya Saadé Zeenny, Jacque’s daughter and the deputy managing director of CMA CGM, in a statement. The company, which reported revenue of $47 billion last year, is currently led by Tanya’s brother Rudolphe, who was appointed CEO in 2017.

This won’t be the first time it has funneled money into cultural initiatives. In 2016, the company sponsored a shipping and international commerce-focused installation at the 2016 edition of the Monumenta art show at Grand Palais. It also aided the restoration of the Apollo Basin at the Palace of Versailles and contributed towards the creation of a gallery on maritime economies at London’s National Maritime Museum. And in 2021, CMA CGM partnered up with the Parisian National Museum of Arts and Crafts and the French Embassy in the U.S. to help France gift a second, smaller version of the Statue of Liberty that was transported to New York’s Ellis Island by the shipping company.

Billionaire Saadé Family Gives the Louvre’s New Curatorial Department a Major Boost

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