The Louvre turns the page, for the first time a woman at the wheel – The female stars of the Louvre are no longer just the Mona Lisa and Nike from Samothrace. For the first time in its 228-year history, the Paris museum – one of the most famous and most impressive, as well as the first in the world for number of visitors, in 2019 over 9.6 million – sees a woman reach its top . And the art historian Laurence des Cars, who will lead the Louvre from 1 September, having behind him the direction of the Musée d’Orsay, a post he leaves after four years, and the Orangerie, famous for Claude Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’.

The new president of the gallery on the banks of the Seine, 54, succeeds Jean-Luc Martinez, and was chosen for her “international stature”, as the Elysée stressed. Moreover, her destinies had already intertwined with those of the Parisian museum: she was among those who contributed to realize the project for the Louvre in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, on which she worked from 2007 to 2014.

Daughter of the journalist and writer Jean des Cars and granddaughter of the writer Guy des Cars (himself second son of the fifth duke des Cars), the art historian after her studies at the Sorbonne and the Ecole du Louvre began as a curator at former Orsay station in 1994. Expert in nineteenth and early twentieth century art, she has organized major exhibitions such as the one on Corot’s “Origin of the World”, a vast exhibition on Gustave Courbet which also caused a sensation at the Metropolitan in New York , as well as a tribute to the Marquis de Sade (also at the Orsay Museum) and an exhibition journey around the poet Guillaume Apollinaire.

Her essays include a text on the Pre-Raphaelites from 1999 and a volume on “French Art of the 19th Century” from 2008. The previous year she was also appointed scientific director of the French Museum Agency. It does not lack ambitious projects, as the new president of the Louvre has already hinted in an interview with the broadcaster France Info, saying that she aims to make it a “sounding board for society” withaim to attract more young people to visit the collection of over 480,000 masterpieces. Among the first steps, the creation of a new section of the museum dedicated to Byzantine art and Eastern Christianity is planned.

French Minister of Culture, Roselyne Bachelot, hailed the appointment as “the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the largest museum in the world”. This challenge is not taken for granted given that after the coronavirus crisis the Parisian institution “will have to reinvent itself and become even more a place of contemplation and reflection open to all”.

The Louvre was first opened to the public in 1793 in the wake of the French Revolution. While its predecessor, the archaeologist Martinez, focused on logistical and structural issues such as the changes to the Louvre entrance, Des Cars intends to focus above all on offering new exhibitions, even if it will not be easy to break the record of almost 10 reached millions of visitors two years ago. However, for her the important thing is to launch “new bridges” between the past and the future.



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