How the director of the Grand Palais invented the museum of the future

Les Echos Newspaper

Appointed last year as head of the Grand Palais to bring a fresh wind of transversality to the building, Chris Dercon, the world-renowned museum manager, is not letting the pandemic demobilise him. On the strength of his experiences at the PS1, the Haus der Kunst and the Tate Modern, he is thinking about the museum of the “after”. And he is determined to triumph over French bureaucratic red tape.

“The art of decompartmentalization”.

A former art critic and gallery owner, Dercon was artistic director at Moma PS1, New York’s avant-garde exhibition space, then at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, the Haus der Kunst in Munich and finally at the Tate Modern in London. He has made Europe his life project. In Parisian circles, his opinions are sometimes greeted like an oracle. Dercon knew few failures, but the one he experienced in Berlin was violently painful: his mission as director of the Volksbühne ended under booing, after three years of a long and tiring dialogue with the theatre’s very anti-capitalist teams and the social-democratic town hall.

Is there a Dercon style?” It’s someone who is not afraid to question the model”, says Sam Stourdze. In the academic world of art, he obviously enjoys playing the dog in a game of bowling. His working method is based on two pillars: an avant-garde vision and the mixing of the arts. When you think you’ve found a rare pearl,” explains Simon Baker, “you realise that he already knows this artist! ». His unusual career has allowed him to meet artists from all walks of life. Connected with fashion, photography and dance, he is constantly making connections. “He has the art of decompartmentalization and decentring,” adds Sam Stourdze. At the risk of exasperating the “cultural” when he mixes pop culture and elite arts.

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