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France’s famed Louvre art gallery gets new boss

Fresh from being interviewed by French President Francois Hollande himself, Jean-Luc Martinez, an expert in Greek sculpture, was named on Wednesday as the new boss of the famed Louvre museum.

France's famed Louvre art gallery gets new boss
Photo: Zoetnet/flickr

Fresh from being interviewed by French President Francois Hollande himself, Jean-Luc Martinez, an expert in Greek sculpture, was named Wednesday as the new boss of the famed Louvre museum.

The 49-year-old takes charge of one of the world's biggest museums and will oversee a number of projects including the controversial opening of a Louvre outpost in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, slated for 2016.

The deal has stirred debate in the French art world with critics raising questions about Abu Dhabi's record on the treatment of dissidents and the immigrant workers employed on the construction of the new museum.

"The Louvre, it's my life, my childhood dream, my teenage passion," Martinez told AFP after his nomination at the head of the museum, which attracts some 10 million visitors a year.

France's culture minister had reportedly leant towards appointing Sylvia Ramond, head of the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon in southeastern France, who would have become the Louvre's first female director.

But in the end – and after three finalists were interviewed in person by Hollande – Martinez, director of the Louvre's department of Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiques since 2007, was finally chosen to head up the museum.

Born in 1964, Martinez comes from a modest background. His mother was a caretaker in a French apartment building, his father a postman, and they lived in a council estate just outside Paris.

He first visited the Louvre with his secondary school class and was blown away. It was "a real shock. It changed my life," he said. As a teen, he would often go to the museum, copying drawings of Greek vases.

He went on to pass his high school exams with flying colours, studied history, history of art and archaeology at university, worked as a history and geography professor and an archaeologist in Greece before joining the Louvre in 1997.

Martinez speaks Latin, ancient and modern Greek, English and Spanish, as well as a little Italian and German. He has also started learning Japanese.

He succeeds Henri Loyrette, who has been credited with doubling visitor numbers from five million per year when he took over in 2001 to around 10 million this year — half of them under-30s.

Loyrette also oversaw the opening in 2012 of the Department of Islamic Art and of a Louvre satellite branch in the former northern mining town of Lens, aimed at bringing high culture and visitors to one of France's poorest areas.

Culture minister Aurelie Filippetti recently told AFP that she wanted "a change from a logic of expansion of the Louvre", which could indicate an end to the opening of museum outposts such as the one planned in Abu Dhabi.

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TOURISM

New guide to Paris museums – showing only the nudes

There are lots of guides to the visual splendours of Paris' museums and art galleries - but for those with a short attention span comes a new one, showing only nude or erotic artworks.

New guide to Paris museums - showing only the nudes
Find your way straight to the most erotic works in Paris galleries. Photo: Guiseppe Cacace/AFP

The online guides to the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay museums are produced by the porn website Pornhub and provide a list of the best erotic artworks in each museum, plus directions of how to get there – so you don’t need to waste your time looking at paintings of people in clothes.

The Classic Nudes series has been ruffling some feathers since it was posted online earlier in July, with the Uffizi museum in Florence threatening to sue. Bosses at the Louvre have said only that they are ‘dismayed’, while the Musée d’Orsay has remained silent on the subject.

The guide for the Musée d’Orsay lists 11 erotic artworks, together with a tongue-in-cheek commentary, and a location for each piece within the museum.

The Sleep by Gustave Courbet. Photo by FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP

Among the works featured are;

  • Le déjeuner sur l’herbe by Edouard Manet (1863) – which features a group having a picnic in which the woman has lost her clothes (the men remain fully dressed in three-piece suits and ties).
  • Un combat des coqs by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1846) – a nude couple watching a cock fight (that’s cockerels fighting, just to be clear).
  • L’origine du monde by Gustave Courbet (1866) – more than 150 years after it was first painted, the intimate close-up of female genitalia is still making waves. In 2019 Facebook had to pay damages to a French teacher whose account was closed when he posted a picture of the famous artwork.

The guide for the Louvre includes:

Nude young Man by Hippolyte Flandrin. Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP
  • Portrait of Madeleine by Marie Guillemine Benoist (1800) – groundbreaking in several senses, this painting is one of the few on the list by a woman, and shows a topless black woman, painted just six years after the abolition of slavery in France’s colonies. 
  • Diane sortant du bain by François Boucher (1742) – one of many paintings on the list showing women having a bath, this features the Greek goddess Diana and her favourite nymph apparently surprised by the artist in the process of drying off after a bath. 
  • Le Jeune homme nu by Hippolyte Flandrin (1835) – most of the flesh shown in both the galleries is female (because that’s the patriarchy for you) but here we have a more rare male nude, a study of a young man sitting and looking rather sad and pensive.

As is hopefully clear, the Pornhub guides are explicit in nature and not suitable for children.

Both museums, however, form a great day out for all the family and contain a lot of fully-clothed artwork too. At present both are operating reduced visitor numbers due to health rules, so advance booking to recommended.

IN DETAIL: When do France’s top tourist sites reopen?

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