Asked what it means to be a woman running the most visited and largest museum in the world, she replied: “Things are really changing for women in the museum world. Of the 70 curators in the Louvre, more than half of them are women. More women are heading museums, especially in Europe. And younger women are much more confident these days.”
A few months ago, it was assumed that Martinez, the Louvre’s president since 2013, was assured a third term. Under his tenure, the Louvre grew past 10 million visitors for the first time. Its Leonardo exhibition, which ended a few weeks before France went into a nationwide lockdown last year, drew rave reviews and a record million visitors.
Yet critics accused Martinez of an authoritarian style that ignored the advice of his curators and a cheapening the museum’s brand by forming partnerships with brands like Uniqlo, allowing a couple to spend a night in the museum as part of a marketing campaign for Airbnb. (The Louvre also leased its space to Beyoncé and Jay-Z to film the music video for their song “Apes**t” and features prominently in the Netflix hit “Lupin,” one of the platform’s most-watched series.)
In March, after a dispute over a new color scheme in one of the Louvre’s galleries became a weekslong talking point in France’s news media, Henri Loyrette, a former president of the museum, threw his weight behind Martinez’s critics. He gave testimony in a lawsuit brought by the Cy Twombly Foundation, which said a new paint job had disfigured a ceiling mural by the abstract American painter.
Martinez will continue at the museum, which reopened on May 19 after months of being closed, until Aug. 31. He will then become a heritage ambassador, responsible for coordinating France’s participation in international projects.
Des Cars learned of Macron’s decision on Monday, when she was visiting the Musée d’Orsay with her parents and other family members and received a call on her cellphone from the culture minister, Roselyne Bachelot. “My heart beat much faster,” she said. “The Louvre is the heart of Paris. The building itself goes back 800 years. It’s a former royal palace that became a public institution that belongs to the culture of France and also to the citizens of the world. It was quite an emotional moment.”