The Louvre is run by a woman for the first time in its 228-year history

The French Presidency has appointed Laurence des Cars, the current director of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, as head of the world’s largest museum from September 1, the Élysée Palace announced on Wednesday.

Des Cars, 54, was tapped to replace outgoing Louvre director Jean-Luc Martinez, who has been in charge since 2013.

Her appointment culminates a remarkable rise at the helm of France’s flagship museum, just four years after she became the first woman to run the nearby Musée d’Orsay.

The directors of the best public museums in France, including the Chateau de Versailles and the Pompidou Museum of Modern Art, are directly appointed by the French presidents.

This is great news! Laurence des Cars has not only done a great job at Orsay, she has pushed for more women in the arts! https://t.co/U4s0WbApM8

– Kenza (@Kenza_Z) May 26, 2021

As an art historian and specialist of the 19th and 20th centuries, des Cars has garnered praise for her efforts to expand the exhibition spaces of the Musée d’Orsay and introduce more diversity into its shows.

The 2019 exhibition ‘Black models: From Gericault to Matisse’, which focused on the ‘forgotten’ black models that inspired France’s artistic avant-gardes, received critical acclaim and is considered a highlight of her tenure.

Through their programming, “museums must stay in touch with social debates and thereby reach new generations,” Des Cars told AFP in a recent interview.

Earlier this year, the director of the Musée d’Orsay successfully insisted that a painting by Gustav Klimt in the museum’s collections be returned to the heirs of a Jewish family who had to sell it by the Nazis in 1938.

When des Cars took over Orsay in 2017, she was only the second female curator to run a major museum in Paris, alongside Sophie Makariou at the Musée Guimet.

She is now poised to become the first female director of the world’s most visited museum since it was founded in 1793 during the French Revolution.

Des Cars takes over at a difficult time for the Louvre, where attendance plummeted in 2020 due to consecutive Covid-19 lockdowns, just two years after setting a record of more than 10 million visitors for 12 months.

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