Couple with Fort Worth ties pledge $380 million art donation to France

PARIS (AP) — France’s President Francois Hollande is honoring an American couple for pledging the largest foreign collection of art to be donated to France since World War II.

Texans Marlene and Spencer Hays are bequeathing to the Musee d’Orsay in Paris some 600 works dating from the second half of the 19th century to the first half of the 20th century.

France’s culture ministry has estimated the value of the collection, which includes pieces by Modigliani and Maillol, at 350 million euros ($381 million).

Spencer Hays is scheduled to speak at a donation ceremony on Saturday night, when Hollande plans to award Hays and his wife the Legion of Honor — France’s highest civilian award.

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The wealthy couple began collecting art in the 1970s and intends to donate the works posthumously.

Spencer and Marlene Hays have been involved in Fort Worth for many years, as Spencer graduated from the Texas Christian University with a B.S. in Commerce in 1959. In 2014, the Hays made a $30 million gift to TCU. The gift is a foundation gift in a $100 million facility expansion for the Neeley School of Business.

Spencer Hays is an Emeritus TCU Trustee. The couple previously made the naming gift for TCU’s Marlene and Spencer Hays Theatre.

Hays is or has been involved in businesses in several areas, including publishing, clothing, insurance, financial planning, school fundraising and real estate. They include the Tom James Company, the world’s largest manufacturer and direct seller of custom clothing. He is executive chairman of the Southwestern/Great American Company, where he began a lifetime profession of direct selling as a TCU student selling books door to door for the company. – Additional reporting by FWBP’s Robert Francis

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