Museums France

Director of the Louvre to step down

Henri Loyrette will leave next April after 12 years at the helm

Henri Loyrette

The director of the Musée du Louvre, Paris, Henri Loyrette, has announced that he will leave the museum next April after 12 years in the post. “Loyrette has informed the president of France and the minister of culture of his decision not to seek a renewal of his mandate,” the Louvre said in a statement yesterday (17 December), adding that under his tenure, visitor figures are expected to reach a record high of almost ten million visitors by the end of the year (compared to 5.1 million in 2001).

The announcement comes just days after the launch of the Louvre's long-awaited €150m outpost in the northern French industrial town of Lens. The satellite, spearheaded by Loyrette, aims to throw new light on the Louvre’s encyclopaedic collections with more than 200 major works on loan from the Paris museum. The Louvre hopes no doubt that the branch museum replicates the success of another northern French satellite, the Pompidou-Metz, which welcomed 555,000 visitors last year.

Loyrette also championed the construction of new Islamic art galleries, which opened across two levels in the Louvre's historic Visconti courtyard in September.  Crucially, the Islamic world rallied round in a major stroke of cultural diplomacy. The €98.5m project received state funding of €31m, as well as €17m from the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation founded by the eponymous Saudi prince.

The project demonstrated Loyrette's fundraising skills. Since he was appointed in 2001, he has made no secret of his enthusiasm for raising private funds, pushing for closer ties with US institutions and aiming to increase sponsorship revenue (most French national museums have been allowed to supplement their income with non-governmental funding since the introduction of a new law in 2003).

In 2007, Loyrette defended a loans-for-cash collaboration between his museum and the High Museum in Atlanta. Under the terms of the three-year arrangement, more than 185 works from the Louvre, including Raphael's portrait of Baldassare Castiglione, were loaned to the High Museum; the Louvre was subsequently paid $6.4m, which went towards restoring its 18th-century furniture galleries. Writing for The Art Newspaper, Loyrette said: “It is regrettable that some commentators... have only focused on the financial element. This partnership is a global, scientific and cultural partnership, sharing the presentation of our collections, research and the spreading of knowledge.”

Other notable initiatives launched under Loyrette include a contemporary art programme, resulting in a monumental installation by Anselm Kiefer (2007) and a ceiling mural by Cy Twombly (2010). Other artists who have shown their work at the Paris museum since 2003 include Anish Kapoor, Wim Delvoye and Giuseppe Penone.

Loyrette will not see the Louvre Abu Dhabi completed under his watch. The Jean Nouvel-designed museum, to be built on Saadiyat Island, was launched in 2007 and originally due to open in 2013 but is now delayed until 2015. The Paris museum will receive €400m over 30 years from the United Arab Emirates authorities for the use of its prestigious brand name.

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