Like everywhere else, decisions are being made and it is about time a woman ran things. I can already hear the sound of Laurence des Cars’ heels tapping the marble floors as she walks past the hundred years of history within frames at her newest project: the Louvre. Starting September 1 2021, she will be the first female leader of the most famous museum in the world. Her appointment is even more impressive because she is the first female director in the museum’s 228-year history. Yet, this isn’t her first time making history in the art world, she is also the first female curator of the famous Musee D’Orsay.
The Louvre itself has witnessed more history than many other structures have. Today, it still does with over 2,000 employees and an annual budget of 240 million euros. Of that 240 million, 87 million euros consist of ticket sales alone. Now that is a lot of responsibility for one woman to handle, even for one as impressive as she is. However, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the number of visitors has dropped by 72% in the last year alone.
It is her job to do better than her predecessor, Jean-Luc Martinez. He brought in more than 10 million people annually and created quite a reputation for himself. She plans to allow more working-class people to visit the museum by opening the hours past 5:30 pm. Additionally, she wants to bring in younger visitors to the museum by introducing exhibits that correlate to current debates. Finally, she plans on paying tribute to history by commissioning the restoration of many pieces stolen by the Nazis.
Her prominence in the art world has only grown the more time she’s been in it. Following her graduation from Paris-Sorbonne University and the Louvre’s school, she hit the ground running. With a concentration in 19th and 20th-century art, she has worked at the Musée d’Orsay and L’Orangerie for many years. It would seem that her new position will more than suit her with over 380 thousand exhibit objects and 35,000 works of art.
In a statement, Des Cars told France Inter that “the museum is an echo chamber of society, it is at the heart of society. [It] has always reflected the world around him. It is not just a place of conservation, it is a place of transmission. You have to transmit, listen to the public and the sensitivities.” Mme. Des Cars has experience in this through her crucial work regarding the formation of the Louvre Abu Dhabi. The historic museum rose after an unprecedented partnership between France and the UAE. Their goal was to “combine the UAE’s bold vision of cultural progression and openness, with France’s expertise in the world of art and museums.” Her project that accomplished a similar goal was in 2019, called “Black Models: From Géricault to Matisse.” The objective for her exhibit was to “[explore] the identity of these neglected figures in the history of modernity and attempts to reinstate their names, reveal their stories, and restore them a visibility.”
If you’re talking about women in the modern art world, you have to include the Guerrilla Girls. Since 1985, they have worked anonymously to illuminate “gender and ethnic bias in politics, art, film, and pop culture.” They do this through a number of ways: political campaigns, exhibitions, etc. Below is one in Hong Kong. You might find their slogans spray painted across windows, or billboards.
Not only are female curators almost nonexistent, the disproportionate female representation is blasphemous. Clare McAndrew, an economist, found that of 820,000 exhibitions in 2018, only one third are by female artists. An even more alarming report by the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) aimed to answer three distinct questions:
- What is the current state of women in art museum directorships?
- How has the gender gap in art museum directorships shifted in the past three years?
- What are some factors that may drive the gender gap?
Based on the research, Madame des Cars is most likely going to earn 71 cents for every dollar Martinez made. These findings remain steadfast within museums such as the Louvre, where the annual budget is over $15 million a year. The opposite is true for museums with annual budgets under $15 million. In these cases, where women hold 48% of these leadership roles, they make $1.02 for every dollar a man makes. This is by no means okay because it is only when all paid positions are equal, can our economic systems run smoothly.
Now that Laurence des Cars made history twice, the next step is for her to help other women do so too.