Chris Dercon, a “disruptive” at the head of the Cartier Foundation

The Cartier Foundation, a glass building that seems to float on Boulevard Raspail in Paris, has found a new captain. On Thursday, October 6, France’s oldest business foundation announced the appointment of its new director, Chris Dercon, alongside Hervé Chandès, who remains artistic director. In the small world of culture, the news should give a lot to talk about. Because the Belgian Dercon is an authority on the matter. Until now, he was the head of the Réunion des musées nationaux-Grand Palais (RMN-GP), a public structure that brings together a dozen museums.

He thus directed the Grand Palais, this gigantic cultural vessel that hosts exhibitions, fairs and parades in the heart of the Parisian Golden Triangle, currently under construction, and whose reopening is scheduled for 2024 on the occasion of the Olympic Games. The same year, the Cartier Foundation is also due to inaugurate its new spaces in the former Louvre des antiquaires, in the heart of Paris. A site that Chris Dercon will now have to oversee.

This assumption of functions is surprising. Why the hell leave a year from the end of his term? His task, justifies the interested party in a sigh, was finished. The works of the Grand Palais were on the right track, and he, he assures, wanted to reconnect with art, artists, exhibitions… What escapes him is that, in July 2023, he will be 65 years old, retirement age for the presidents of the great public establishments. In a foundation, where there is no age limit, nothing will force this art adventurer to take a mandatory break.

A convinced macronista

The man has audacity to spare. You will need it to participate, from your inauguration on December 19, 2022, in the battle waged by private foundations to make contemporary art shine in France, attracting the big names of the public (Suzanne Pagé at the Fondation Louis Vuitton and Emma Lavigne in the Pinault Collection). He intends to throw himself into it with pleasure. Nothing but very normal after all: Chris Dercon has certainly spent his life in the public sector, but he claims, like his friend Emmanuel Macron, “disruptive”.

As recently as January, he rocked French art bowling. The Grand Palais owes its economic survival to the exhibitions, parades and fairs it hosts. In particular, the International Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC) which, for half a century, has given the capital a pulse. In December, without prior notice, he launched a call for tenders in this niche. Parisian merchants tremble with concern. Event professionals vent their anger. But the Elysee and the Ministry of Culture agree with his arguments. If Paris wants to take advantage of London’s decline since Brexit, he insists, if it wants to establish itself as the bastion of soft power, a fortiori before the Olympics, it must forge an alliance with the best, including Swiss (Art Basel was born in Basel, before to spread to Miami and Hong Kong).

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