Chris Dercon.

Chris Dercon, Former Head of Berlin’s Volksbühne, to Lead Paris’s Grand Palais

The newly appointed French minister of culture, Franck Riester, has named Chris Dercon as president of the Réunion des Musées Nationaux–Grand Palais (RMN–GP), the government cultural body that oversees the Grand Palais in Paris and the Musée Luxembourg. Established in 2011, when the Grand Palais and France’s Association of National Museums merged, RMN–GP presents about forty cultural events each year, acquires works for the state’s arts institutions, and publishes exhibition catalogues, museum guides, and other texts. Dercon will begin his five-year tenure at the organization in January 2019.

Dercon most recently served as director of the Volksbühne Theater in Berlin. During his controversial stint at the institution, he faced numerous challenges, including protests over his appointment and his programming. Members of the Berlin art world took issue with Dercon’s lack of experience in theater and criticized his vision for the venue, which, under longtime director Frank Castorf’s leadership, had become known for staging experimental productions. Prior to joining the Volksbühne, Dercon led Tate Modern in London. He is also a former director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and the Witte de With in Rotterdam.

As head of RMN–GP, Dercon will be charged with steering the Grand Palais through a major renovation. The $500 million overhaul of the nineteenth-century exhibition venue—which hosts La Biennale Paris, Paris Photo, FIAC, and fashion shows by industry giants such as Chanel and Hermès, among other events—will be led by the Franco Italian architects LAN (Local Architecture Network) and will take approximately four years to complete. It will close its doors in November 2020 and won’t fully reopen until May 2024.

Chris Dercon will take up his duties in a context of transformation of the institution, in a changing museum sector and with the implementation of the master plan for restoration, upgrading, and development of the Grand Palais,” the French Culture Ministry said in a statement. “With his experience at the head of prestigious international institutions, with his vision of art and the role of cultural institutions in the twenty-first century, Chris Dercon will give the new Grand Palais a unique place in France and around the world, and further expand the public of this great institution.” Dercon will succeed Sylvie Hubac, who resigned in June to run the government administrative body Conseil d’Etat.