Chris Dercon, the head of the Grand Palais in Paris, will depart his post to become director of the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, a contemporary art space created by the eponymous French luxury goods company.
Dercon’s departure comes ahead of the first edition of Paris+, par Art Basel, which will open later this month and is the latest in a series of art fairs operated by the prominent Swiss company. Paris+ will take place in the Grand Palais Éphémère, the temporary venue of the Grand Palais, which is undergoing renovations with plans to reopen in 2024.
To obtain a venue with the Grand Palais, Art Basel effectively booted out FIAC, an esteemed annual fair in the French capital. According to the French daily Le Monde, Dercon himself was one of the architects behind the deal with Art Basel. FIAC’s status for this year remains unknown.
In addition to staging Art Basel, the Grand Palais mounts blockbuster art exhibitions. Initially opened in 1900 as part of that year’s Paris Exposition, its permanent space is also known for showing large-scale contemporary art commissions.
The Fondation Cartier, by contrast, is much smaller in scale and prominence. It’s known for a contemporary art program that only occasionally includes shows by blue-chip artists.
Since 2019, Dercon has led the Grand Palais, where he has spearheaded the renovation. The space’s reopening is set to coincide with the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
Prior to joining the Grand Palais, Dercon had led institutions like the Haus der Kunst in Munich, Tate Modern in London, and the Volksbühne in Berlin. His tenure at the Volksbühne was contentious, with the theater’s works decrying Dercon before he even got there over fears that his program would betray its leftist underpinning. He left the Volksbühne in 2018, less than a year after he had begun there.
Dercon’s new role may seem like an unusual move, since the Fondation Cartier is far smaller than the other institutions he has led and since his contracted term with the Grand Palais is not yet complete. But Le Monde pointed out on Thursday that Dercon may have made the jump partially for practical reasons. Dercon is nearing 65, which is the mandated retirement age at state-run French institutions. At a foundation, he is free of that stricture.
He said in a statement, “For almost forty years, the Fondation Cartier has engaged a dialogue across all areas of art, fashion, and the performing arts with a hybrid innovative visionary stance, straddling art and science, as well as art and ecology, under the artistic direction of Hervé Chandès. I am honored and delighted to join [Fondation Cartier president and founder] Alain Dominique Perrin and the Fondation team to write the next chapters of the Fondation Cartier’s history.”