First woman to lead the Louvre in its history

September 1, 2021 will mark the first day of Laurence des Cars in her new role as President and CEO of the Louvre. Here at Convelio, we are taking this opportunity to celebrate the milestone of the first woman to ever be nominated as the head of the Louvre in its 228 year history.

Laurence des Cars

The Mona Lisa may have taken a temporary backseat as the most-talked-about woman at the Louvre. The President of the Republic has appointed Laurence des Cars as President of the largest and most visited museum in the world, replacing its leader of eight years, Jean-Luc Martinez.

As a group aiming to represent the directors of the world's leading museums, which periodically brings together its members to exchange ideas and share expertise, The Bizot Group had 5 women out of 39 people among its ranks during one of its latest meetings in Mexico. Laurence des Cars is an exciting nomination, inspiring change for more women with a seat at the table. This inauguration signifies an important shift taking place at the Louvre, a museum historically conservative in its presentation.

The newly appointed president holds a number of highly distinguished positions in the art world, being the current President of the Musee d'Orsay and Musee de l'Orangerie and General Curator of Heritage. She was previously the Director of the Musée de l'Orangerie, and a scientific director of the Agence France Museum in charge of the Louvre Abu Dhabi project. At 54, Laurence des Cars has a solid profile as a curator of international caliber and has shown through her work at the Musée d'Orsay that she knows how to manage large institutions.

Des Cars has advocated for more women to be called on for leadership roles. In 2018, she told the New York Times, “It’s a consequence of official institutions not reaching out to women enough, or not giving them enough confidence. We’re talking about cultural habits that are deeply ingrained in our societies…. Women need to overcome their personal doubts, and to tell themselves: ‘I’m capable of this. It’s coming at the right time in my life and in my career. I’m ready for this.'”

Having shown great results in acquiring new audiences and revitalizing its program of exhibitions at Musée d’Orsay, she will be centering her work at the Louvre around broadening the museum’s audiences and fostering a “dialogue between ancient art and the contemporary world”. She has already announced one of the first steps in this direction - the extension of the opening hours of the museum, which currently closes its doors at 5.30 pm, in order to attract younger visitors.

It’s important to note that before the Covid-19 pandemic, the Louvre depended on international tourists who accounted for around 70% of visitors. The Covid-related decrease of tourist flow showed the side effects of the reliance on the international public and the need to review the policy of attracting local audiences.

The press is torn over their perception of Jean-Luc Martinez's performance as the Louvre’s president, whereas he managed to increase the number of visitors to more than 10 million per year, attracting new audiences. The successful opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi, which reinforced the international influence of the museum, also happened during his years of leadership. Jean-Luc Martinez will now be appointed Ambassador, in charge of international cooperation in the field of heritage starting from 1 September 2021.

At Convelio, we are looking forward to the developments of this new leadership and the exciting exhibitions to come. To mention, those initiated by Laurence des Cars at Musée d’Orsay are an acclaimed 2019 exhibition on representations of Black female figures in 19th-century Western painting and a show on the impact of Darwinism on the arts of the time. A très bientôt - au Louvre !

June 14, 2021

Anna Kopylova