Pierre Bergé was born on November 14th 1930 on the Island of Oléron in France. His mother was a schoolteacher and his father a civil servant.
Interested in literature from a very early age, he arrived in Paris in 1948 where he went into business selling literary first editions. He kept company with Mac Orlan, Cocteau – over whose work he holds the moral rights - Aragon, Camus, Sartre and Breton. In 1950 he met the painter Bernard Buffet whose companion he became and whose career he managed for eight years. He also met Jean Giono who would hold a truly important place in his life.
In 1958 he met Yves Saint Laurent with whom he founded the Yves Saint Laurent Couture House in 1961 and which he directed until 2002. He was elected President of the Chambre syndicale du prêt-à-porter des couturiers et des créateurs de mode in 1974, and, in 1986, created the Institut Français de la Mode, a centre for training and excellence for professionals from the fashion and textile world and of which he remains President. Pierre Bergé is today President of the Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent, a state-registered foundation since 2002, whose missions are the preservation of Yves Saint Laurent’s work, the organisation of exhibitions and the support of cultural and educational activities.
A lover of theatre and opera, Pierre Bergé bought the Athénée-Louis Jouvet theatre in 1977 and ran it until 1982 before handing it over to the state. He created a smaller auditorium under the rooftops, designed by Jacques Grange and named after Christian Bérard, devoted to experimental theatre. Under his management the theatre alternated classical works with the discovery of new talents. Along with Danièle Cattand, he set up the Lundis Musicaux de l’Athénée where the world’s greatest voices performed until 1989. Pierre Bergé produced shows by Peter Schaffer, Antoine Vitez, Claude Régy, Marguerite Duras, Peter Brook and Robet Wilson along with concerts by John Cage and Philip Glass. In 1988 he was appointed President of the Paris Opera and remained in this post until 1994 when he became Honorary President.
«Sponsorship, a mission of love»: named «Grand mécène des Arts et de la Culture» in 2001, Pierre Bergé has lent passionate support to projects like the 1988 Musée du Louvre acquisition of Georges de La Tour’s painting Saint Thomas à la pique, the renovation of two rooms in London’s National Gallery in 1998 which now bear the names of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, the renovation and interior refurbishing of the historic collections of the Musée national d’art moderne – Centre Pompidou and the Picasso Erotique exhibition at Paris’ Jeu de Paume in 2001. He is President of the Cercle des Amis du Ring, created on the occasion of the performance of Wagner’s Ring at the Paris Opera in 2010-2011. Pierre Bergé was the principal sponsor of the «carte blanche» Les visages et les corps, offered to Patrice Chéreau by the Musée du Louvre in 2010, and the same year he also chaired the Festival Normandie Impressionniste.
Over the years Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent built up a major art collection which was sold at auction in 2009 at the Grand Palais for nearly 375 million euros. Part of this sum went to the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent and to AIDS research. As early as 1994, Pierre Bergé and Line Renaud created Ensemble contre le SIDA, subsequently known as Sidaction, of which he is the President. The Pierre Bergé endowment fund, initiated in 2009, brings a long-term approach to the battle against AIDS, donating two million euros per year over a five-year period. Pierre Bergé is also an active supporter of associations such as Act’up Paris and SOS Racisme.
As a militant from an early age, Pierre Bergé participated in Garry Davis’ «Citizens of the world» movement. He met François Mitterrand in 1984 and became a close friend, launching the magazine Globe in 1988 which supported the latter’s presidential campaign. In 1990, with Jacques Rosselin, he founded Courrier International and then, in 1995, the gay magazine Têtu. In 2010, in association with Xavier Niel and Mathieu Pigasse, Pierre Bergé became majority shareholder of Le Monde group and was appointed President of the supervisory committee.
Pierre Bergé is the author of numerous works including Inventaire Mitterrand (Stock, 1991), Les jours s’en vont je demeure (Gallimard, 2003), the Album Cocteau (La Pléiade, Gallimard, 2006) and Lettres à Yves (Gallimard, 2010).
After opening the Maison Cocteau in Milly-la-Forêt in June 2010, organised by the Comité Cocteau of which Pierre Bergé is President, in 2011 he launched a restoration project for the Maison Zola in Médan and the creation of a Musée Alfred Dreyfus by the Association Maison Zola – Musée Dreyfus of which he is also Chairman.
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© Serge Tanet / Service Communication Université Lyon 2