Grande Salle Ginsberg-LeClerc inaugurated with musical and literary performances

The Grande Salle Ginsberg-LeClerc, built at Reid Hall in 1912, has been extensively renovated thanks to the generous support of Judith Ginsberg and Paul LeClerc.

June 08, 2023

On Thursday, June 8, friends and colleagues gathered at Reid Hall to celebrate the inauguration of the Grande Salle Ginsberg-LeClerc. (View the full event program here.)The space has served as a dining room, a wartime hospice, an art gallery, but most notably as Reid Hall’s premier lecture hall and performance space. (View the space through the decades via the inauguration photo slideshow.) Today, it hosts a variety of programming, including symposia, concerts, film screenings, and classes for undergraduate and graduate students.

Restored to its full glory, the Grande Salle Ginsberg-LeClerc will continue to foster social, intellectual, and artistic exchanges, reflecting the dynamic spirit of the era when the room was originally designed – when Montparnasse was the epicenter of artistic innovation and creation in Europe. Learn more about this fascinating history through Thierry Grillet’s article in the program, “Montparnasse in 1912: Territory of a new modernism.” (Read it in French.)

Montparnasse Neighborhood, 1893 – 1914

Built between 1911-12, the Grande Salle was designed by French-American architect Charly Knight, as part of a larger expansion project financed by Elizabeth Mills Reid, philanthropist and spouse of Whitelaw Reid, ambassador to France from 1889 to 1892. The recent renovation was led by heritage architect Matthieu Gillet of Perrot & Richard Architects, who recounts the process in his article “Restoring Reid Hall’s Grande Salle in the Spirit of the Belle Époque.” (Read it in French.)

Renovation of the Grande Salle Ginsberg LeClerc - Photos by Caroline Detroyat-Richard

The evening of performances examined the role that the Grande Salle has had, and will continue to have, in the Montparnasse arts scene. Reid had acquired this property in 1892 in order to cater to the needs of the scores of American women who had come to Paris to cultivate their artistic talents. Once the lively site of avant-garde thought, what is the role of the neighborhood, and thus, of Reid Hall, now? Mark Mazower, Ira D. Wallach Professor of History and SNF Director of the Institute for Ideas and Imagination investigated this question in the program with his article, “Where did the Avant-garde go? Montparnasse a century on.” (Read it in French.)

Avant-gardistes at Reid Hall

Iconic minds of the avant-garde were present across media, showcasing the sleek capacities of the renovated room, including an overhaul of the electrical systems, lighting, flooring, audio-visual equipment, and HVAC. A recording of Gertrude Stein from the Columbia archives played, preceded by readings from Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast by current Columbia in Paris undergraduate student Victoria Johnson. The inauguration also included musical performances by Magdalena Stern-Baczewska, pianist, and her student Sasha He, cellist, who played a selection of Erik Satie’s Gymnopédies. Former Institute Fellow Anuk Ardupragasam read passages from his novel Excerpts from A Passage North. Actor Matthieu Marie read passages from Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.

This inauguration celebrated the generous contributions of Judith Ginsberg and Paul LeClerc for the renovation of the Grande Salle, as well as the gifts of Maarit and Thomas Glocer, Laura and Gerald Rosberg, Amelia J. Alverson and the estate of Gloria Gardner Lemay.

We were honored by the presence of Denise Campbell Bauer, U.S. Ambassador to France, and Gerald Rosberg, senior executive vice president of Columbia University. Wafaa El-Sadr, executive vice president of Columbia Global, shared remarks from President Lee C. Bollinger. The latter was unable to join us that day, but we salute his steadfast and substantial support throughout his two decades at the helm of Columbia University. His leadership has helped us transform Reid Hall into a vibrant and magnetic center for teaching, research, and public engagement. We also welcomed the directors of Columbia’s other Global Centers and the many friends of Reid Hall who came from different parts of the world to mark this important occasion.

Inauguration of the Grande Salle Ginsberg-LeClerc