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France Names Jean-Luc Martinez as New Chief of Louvre

Jean-Luc Martinez has been named head of the Louvre. He is currently head of Greek, Estruscan and Roman antiquities at the Paris-based museum. Source: Louvre via Bloomberg.
Jean-Luc Martinez has been named head of the Louvre. He is currently head of Greek, Estruscan and Roman antiquities at the Paris-based museum. Source: Louvre via Bloomberg.

The Louvre, the world’s most visited museum, got a new chief today as France appointed Jean-Luc Martinez to replace Henri Loyrette, in the post since 2001.

Martinez, who starts April 15, runs the museum’s Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities department -- one of eight Louvre departments which together display a total of some 35,000 works. The announcement was made by the French Culture Ministry.

Martinez takes over at a critical time: as the Louvre prepares to open its first international offshoot in Abu Dhabi, a project that is bringing it and French partner museums a total of 1 billion euros ($1.28 billion) over 30 years. Martinez also faces the challenge of upgrading an overcrowded institution at a time when state cultural spending is shrinking.

“He is someone from a modest background who rose through the ranks,” Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse.

Also shortlisted for the position, according to the French media, was Sylvie Ramond, who heads the Musee des Beaux Arts in Lyon. Reports that she was the minister’s favorite on gender grounds led Filippetti late last month to say: “I never said that it would necessarily be a woman. It’s absurd to present things in that way.”

In his 12 years on the job, Loyrette modernized the museum and substantially boosted the museum’s money-raising capacity.

Islamic Art

In 2011, the Louvre generated 94 million euros in revenue, almost as much as the 116 million euros it received in subsidy. Loyrette also opened a series of new wings, including an Islamic Art wing opened last September that was co-financed by billionaire Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal of Saudi Arabia.

Martinez, 49, joined the Louvre in 1997 shortly after a three-year stint in Greece where he took part in archeological digs in Delos and Delphi and helping renovate Delphi’s archeological museum. He is fluent in English, Spanish and Greek, and also speaks Italian.

At the Louvre, he oversaw the decade-long renovation of the Greek antiquities gallery, where the Venus de Milo is showcased.

Most recently, he curated the main gallery of the Louvre’s new branch in Lens, northern France, a former coal-mining town. Louvre Lens, opened in December, is the museum’s very first offshoot outside Paris.

Loyrette, 60, announced in December that he would not seek to renew his fourth term as Louvre president once that term expired in April 2013. No reason was given.

Muse highlights include Hephzibah Anderson on books, Jeremy Gerard on theater and Stephanie Green’s Scene in D.C.

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