The 6th edition of La Nuit des Idées was held on January 28, 2021 on the theme "Close by". In view of the health crisis, the format of the event evolved towards a 100% virtual programme, relayed within the framework of the 24h of Night and Ideas operation produced by the French Institute in collaboration with the cultural services of 103 countries.

More than 5 hours of the global live show produced by the Institut Français were devoted to American programming. For the first time, the ten districts in which the cultural services are represented (New York, Boston, Chicago, Miami, New Orleans, Atlanta, Houston, Washington, San Francisco and Los Angeles) took part in the event by producing, with the help of their local partners, videos that were added to the 5 hours of programming.

The U.S. portion of the global live show was divided into two separate segments: the first from 6:00-7:00 p.m. EST and the second from 10:00-2:00 a.m. EST. During the first segment, four short sequences followed each other, short enough to capture the European audience despite the late hour: a duo of pianists(Dan Tepfer and Thomas Enhco), one in Paris and the other in New York, a fifteen-minute video of writer and musician Patti Smith, combining a visit to her library, a reading of a poem and a private concert, and a discussion between Ambassador Philippe Etienne and Lonnie Bunch, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, on the memorial importance of several Washington monuments and of the Museum of African American History and Culture, which he founded.

The second, longer segment presented a selection of videos on the theme of "Proximity", which each of the constituencies had developed according to the issues affecting their respective territories. These videos questioned the relationship to Space (in Houston with a discussion between astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Michael Lopez Alegria and a visit to the Lunar & Planetary Institute with scientist Candice Bedford), to the city (in Chicago with a walk with architect Jeanne Gang or in San Francisco with a meeting with Mayor London Breed), to the question of migration(cross-border dialogue between Houston and Monterey), art and cultural institutions(discussion between the new curator of the African Art Department of the High Museum, Lauren Tate Baeza, and researcher Robert Barsky in Atlanta, visit to the studio of artist and activist Brandan "Bmike" Odums in New Orleans, interviews with the director of the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington) and many other subjects.

The complete program of this virtual Night of Ideas can be found on the website

In addition to the participation in the global live of the French Institute, two local lives were broadcast on the same date in the United States:
- The post in San Francisco produced a two-hour live, broadcast between 7pm and 9pm (PST) on a dedicated website(, in partnership with many local partners including KQED radio, the SF Moma, the SF Public Library and California Humanities.
- The Brooklyn Public Library, a historical partner of the Night of Ideas in New York, produced its own live stream from 6pm to midnight (EST), broadcast on a dedicated website(

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Project leaders: Gaëtan Bruel, cultural advisor at the French Embassy in the United States and Louise Quantin, cultural attaché and director of the Bureau du Livre & Débat d'idées.