Who is Laurence des Cars? Louvre appoints first female president in its 228-year history

The art historian, who is currently president of the Musee d’Orsay and the Musee l’Orangerie, will begin her new post on September 1

Laurence des Cars was chosen to replace Jean-Luc Martinez as the head of the Louvre Museum from September 1, 2021. AFP
Laurence des Cars was chosen to replace Jean-Luc Martinez as the head of the Louvre Museum from September 1, 2021. AFP

France’s Musee du Louvre will have a female president for the first time in its 228-year history.

On Wednesday, French president Emmanuel Macron appointed art historian Laurence des Cars to head up the museum as president-director, a role she will begin in September.

Des Cars, 54, is president of the Musee d’Orsay and the Musee l’Orangerie in Paris, where she helped increase footfall, with both museums receiving their highest number of visitors in 2019.

Visitors queue to enter the Louvre Museum in Paris, France, on Wednesday, May 19, 2021. Europe is waking up from the pandemic with cafes in Paris, gelato vendors in Rome and beer gardens in Bavaria reopening, a major test for the region’s recovery in health and economic terms. Photographer: Nathan Laine/Bloomberg
Visitors queue to enter the Louvre in Paris in May, 2021. Bloomberg

Des Cars studied art history at the Ecole du Louvre, an institution that is part of the Louvre, and is a specialist in 19th and early 20th century painting. She was also involved in the development of Louvre Abu Dhabi as scientific director from 2007 to 2014.

The current museum leader, Jean-Luc Martinez, has served in his position for eight years, but did not succeed in securing a new five-year term. After he leaves his role, he will become a heritage ambassador for France.

Though Des Cars’s agenda for the museum is yet to be laid out, she has previously shown support for the restitution of looted art, specifically in her role over the Musee d’Orsay’s decision to return a Nazi-looted Gustav Klimt painting to a Jewish family.

Des Cars said she will consider adjusting the Louvre’s opening hours to extend it later in the day to allow for visits after work. She has also expressed a desire to work with creators across various disciplines, from writers and filmmakers to musicians, dancers and designers.

Speaking to The New York Times, she said she hopes to develop international partnerships with countries that have experienced conflict and war, citing Sudan as an example. She also plans to establish an additional department for Byzantium and eastern Christianity.

Des Cars joins the ranks of other female leaders in France’s museum circuit, including Catherine Chevillot, director at the Musee Rodin in Paris, and Sophie Makariou, president of the Guimet National Museum of Asian Arts.

Updated: May 27, 2021 07:32 PM

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