For the first time in The Louvre’s 228-year history, a woman will be leading as its president

by Jessie Tu

Laurence des Cars is an art historian and has been president of the Musée d’Orsay and L’Orangerie in Paris since 2017.  France’s president, Emmanuel Macron officially appointed des Cars this week, who is the daughter of a journalist and writer, and the granddaughter of the novelist Guy des Cars.

Taking on the role of head of the world’s most visited museum, des Cars will bring her expertise in 19th and early 20th-century art, and became part of the 67 percent of the country’s national museums which are headed by women, according to the countrys culture ministry. When the Minister of Culture, Roselyne Bachelot, rang des Cars to tell her the good news, Des Cars said her heart was “beating very strongly.”

“It was a joyful and emotional moment,” she told France Inter. “I will never forget that call.” 

“What I want to do is think about what we consider a ‘universal museum’,” she told The Guardian. “This is the label we stick on the Louvre, wrongly as it happens because it’s not quite that. Its purpose is to be universal, and that’s what interests me.” 

“The Louvre can be fully contemporary, it can open up to the world of today while telling us about the past, giving relevance to the present through the brilliance of the past.”

“We need time, we need perspective, we are coming out of a destabilising crisis, we are living in exciting but complicated times … We are all a little bit at a loss for direction. I think the Louvre has a lot to say to young people, too, who will be at the centre of my concerns as president of the Louvre.”

When she was asked about the future placement of the Louvre’s star exhibit, La Joconde (the Mona Lisa), Des Cars replied firmly that it would not be travelling. 

“No, it is a very fragile work. It’s also one of the joys of the world’s great museums to go and see certain works knowing they will not have been moved,” she said.

Des Cars also used news of her historic appointment this week to praise the work of her predecessor, Jean-Luc Martinez. “I congratulate him on the work he has done over the last eight years. I’m very happy to be working with him over the next few weeks and months, because there will be a transition period.”

Des Cars will begin her post in September this year. 


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