Laurent Le Bon, the head of Paris’s Musée Picasso, has been named the president of the Centre Pompidou, the city’s biggest and most important institution focused on modern and contemporary art. He is set to take the reins at the museum on July 19.
At the Pompidou, Le Bon succeeds Serge Lasvignes, who has been the institution’s president since 2015. Lasvignes is expected to leave his position next week.
“Laurent Le Bon has a very special relationship with the Centre Pompidou, since he was curator there before leading, with great talent, the Centre Pompidou-Metz,” Lasvignes said in a statement. “His attachment to the originality of this institution bodes very well for me, and I wish him every success in a period that will be crucial for the future of the Centre Pompidou.”
Since Lasvignes’s announcement last year that he would retire from Paris institution, many had grown hopeful for a figure who would shake up the museum. But it is unlikely that such a disrupter will be found in Le Bon, who is known in France for his glossy presentations of work by modern and contemporary artists whose fame is already cemented.
It is also a conservative choice compared to other recent appointments at some of Paris’s top museums. In May, Laurence des Cars became the first woman to lead the Louvre in its 228-year history. And in 2020, Emmanuel Kasarhérou, who is Kanak, became the first Indigenous person to lead the Musée du Quai Branly–Jacques Chirac.
Le Bon’s most famous exhibition is his massive Dada survey, held at the Centre Pompidou in 2005. The show, which later traveled to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, featured more than 400 objects and received universal acclaim.
In the years that followed, Le Bon got widespread recognition for splashy exhibitions that included solo shows for Jeff Koons and Takashi Murakami, both at the Palace of Versailles, in 2008 and 2010, respectively. The year he organized the Murakami show, he became director of the Centre Pompidou-Metz, a sister museum in northeastern France, and in 2014, he took over at the Musée Picasso, during a particularly chaotic period that saw staff dissent and financial difficulties.
Over the past few months, many have speculated about who might succeed Lasvignes. In April, the Times of London reported that the museum was searching for a female president—a “Madame Pompidou.” Only one woman has ever led the Centre Pompidou since its founding in 1969: Hélène Ahrweiler, who oversaw the museum from 1989 to 1991. On Friday, Le Monde reported that Bourse de Commerce director Martin Béthenod and Musée de l’Orangerie director Cécile Debray had been in consideration.
It is not the first time Le Bon has been considered for one of Paris’s top institutions. He had been up for consideration to succeed Henri Loyrette at the Louvre when the president left in 2010, though Le Bon lost the job to Jean-Luc Martinez, who departed the museum earlier this year.
Le Bon takes the top post at the Centre Pompidou as the museum gets ready to close for four years amid renovations. It is currently expected to be shuttered from 2023 to 2027. During that time, the museum will open a new satellite museum in Jersey City.
Le Bon’s appointment was not the only Pompidou-related announcement on Friday morning. Kanal, a Centre Pompidou outpost that opened in Brussels in 2018, said it was seeking to reverse a decision made earlier this week to have two artistic directors lead the museum: Kasia Redzisz, senior curator at Tate Liverpool, and Bernard Blistène, the Pompidou’s outgoing director. (Blistène’s replacement for the directorship has not yet been announced.) Artists and art professionals in Belgium and France decried that dual appointment, claiming that it was sexist to install a man alongside a woman who was capable of taking up the role on her own.
A final decision on that front will be announced by Kanal’s board on July 21. “It will be proposed that the collaboration fully integrates Kasia Redzisz as Artistic Director, while allowing the Foundation to benefit from Bernard Blistène’s experience in the context of the Kanal’s partnership with the Centre Pompidou,” the museum said in a statement.