February 28, 2024

Laurent Le Bon, President of the Musée Picasso in Paris, will become President of the Center Pompidou in July – a modern art institution known for its inside-out architecture and one of France’s most popular tourist attractions.

The French Ministry of Culture confirmed the appointment of Le Bon in a press release on Friday. He will replace Serge Lasvignes, who has been president since 2015.

Le Bon, 52, faces a difficult tenure. The Paris museum is slated to close from 2023 to 2027 for renovation work due to its outdated heating and cooling system, the often broken escalators, and the asbestos in the structure that needs to be removed. The museum will send works from its 120,000-strong collection to museums across France while it is closed.

That month, the Center Pompidou also announced plans to open an outpost in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 2024, and to expand its satellite museums in Metz, France. Malaga, Spain; Brussels; and Shanghai.

Le Bon is a well-known figure in the French art world. As a graduate of the Louvre School, he made a name for himself as a provocative curator right from the start of his career, according to the French daily Le Monde.

His exhibitions sometimes showed a mischievous sense of humor. In 2000, Le Bon curated a major Parisian garden gnome exhibition featuring 2,000 of the creatures, from ancient Egyptian forerunners to works by Jeff Koons. “They are benevolent spirits who bring sunshine,” he told the International Herald Tribune in an interview about the show.

In the same year he joined the Center Pompidou as a curator and in 2005 staged “Dada”, a groundbreaking exhibition that traced the ongoing influence of the art movement. It contained iconic works of art such as Marcel Duchamp’s famous urinal “Fountain”.

Le Bon oversaw the opening of the Pompidou outpost in Metz in 2010, his first, then left, to take over the Musée Picasso in 2014, at a time when this institution was struggling with an overcrowded renovation and quarreling with its neighbors over noise.

Le Bon did not respond to a request for comment on his appointment, but Lasvignes, the current president of the Pompidou, welcomed the decision in a press release. “His attachment to the originality of this institution is a good sign,” said Lasvignes.