Chris Dercon, the former director of The Volksbühne Theatre in Berlin will soon be in charge of the Grand Palais and Musée du Luxembourg in Paris, starting January 2019.
His appointment makes him the head of France’s cultural body, Reunion des Musées Nationaux-Grand Palais (Rmn-GP for short), responsible for the landmark and iconic venues as well as their programs. This was recently confirmed by the French culture minister, Franck Riester.
Established in 2011, when the Grand Palais and the French Association of National Museums merged, RMN-GP hosts around forty cultural events every year and actively acquires works for national art institutions.
Prior to Dercon, Sylvie Hubac held the post but recently left to take over the Conseil d’Etat, the government’s legal advisory department. Dercon has been appointed a five contract during a particularly significant time for the Grand Palais as its been scheduled to undergo a major overhaul starting in 2020. The reported $500 million overhaul of the historic venue, which hosts major art events like FIAC and La Biennale Paris as well as major fashion shows by Chanel and Hermes, will take approximately four years to complete. The Grand Palais will be closing its doors in late 2020 and is set to reopen in 2024.
Dercon’s appointment marks a new era for the Grand Palais, with his role typically filled by administrators and not curators. This won’t be Dercon’s first position outside the realm of curation, as he was most recently the head of the Volksbühne Theatre in Berlin but was forced to resign after a short year due to opposition to his heavily visual programs. Dercon was criticised by members of the Berlin art world for his lack of direct experience in theatre as well as his overall vision for the historic venue. Prior to the Volksbuhne however, Dercon led the Tate Modern in London and was the director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich.
“Chris Dercon will take up his duties in a context of transformation of the institution, in a changing museum sector and with the implementation of the master plan for restoration, upgrading, and development of the Grand Palais,” Franck Riester said in a statement. “With his experience at the head of prestigious international institutions, with his vision of art and the role of cultural institutions in the twenty-first century, Chris Dercon will give the new Grand Palais a unique place in France and around the world, and further expand the public of this great institution.”