For the first time since its creation after the French Revolution in 1793, the Louvre Museum in Paris will be led by a woman: Laurence des Cars , 54, current president of the Musée d’Orsay, will be in charge of directing its reins. “My heart was beating very fast […] I will never forget that call,” summed up, this Wednesday, the art historian specialized in the 19th century when she announced her appointment.
It took 228 years of history for a woman to assume the presidency of the largest and most visited museum in the world. The appointment of Laurence des Cars marks a turning point in the history of French art and also in his own career.
The historian began her professional career in 1994 as a curator at the Musée d’Orsay, a position she held until 2007 when she was appointed head of the France-Muséums agency, the government agency responsible for the creation of the Louvre Abu Dhabi. In 2014 she became the director of the Parisian art gallery l’Orangerie and three years later she assumed the same position in another effigy of art worldwide: the Musée d’Orsay .
An artistic and social commitment
Under his baton, the Musée d’Orsay, known for its rich collection of Impressionist works, became the first French institution to voluntarily restore a piece looted by the Nazis; Stolen in Vienna in August 1938, Gustav Klimt’s ‘Rose Bushes Under the Trees’ returned to the hands of Nora Stiasny’s heirs.
“A great museum has the duty to look at History in the face including the history of our institutions”, commented Laurence des Cars at that time, showing his artistic and social commitment.
Using a program inspired by the great challenges of society, the number of visitors to the Musée d’Orsay has continued to increase since its arrival at the management, reaching 3.7 million visits in 2019 and a level of self-financing of the 64%.
With a show of daring, in the midst of a pandemic, Laurence des Cars launched “Orsay grand ouvert”, a project aimed at expanding the art gallery, including an educational center and a research center open to the international community, thanks to an anonymous donation of 20 million of euros.
“The Louvre can be fully contemporary”
The historian will face great challenges at the helm of the Louvre Museum, a collateral victim of the health crisis. In 2020, their visits plummeted 72% and their revenue losses amounted to more than 90 million euros . To relaunch his attendance, Laurence De Cars will play an asset that, throughout his career, has always been essential: young people.
“The Louvre has a lot to say to young people, and they will be at the center of my concerns as president . The Louvre can be fully contemporary, open up to the world of today and at the same time tell us about the past, ”he insisted on Wednesday morning to the France Inter antenna. The now president of the museum par excellence is already reflecting on the possibility of extending its opening hours to allow young workers to visit its antechambers.
“The museum is at the heart of society. It has always reflected the world around it. The Louvre is the home of all the arts and of all artists ”, summarized Laurence des Cars, thus ensuring the continuity of the fight against the elitism that surrounds the institution, a battle started by his predecessor Jean-Luc Martinez.