A conversation with the director of the Louvre

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Henri Loyrette, Director and President of the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Louvre Director Henri Loyrette is in town this weekend for the opening festivities of the “The Louvre and the Masterpiece” exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to talk with him.

When asked about bringing masterpieces from the Louvre museum to Minneapolis, Loyrette demurred:

You cannot say only it’s the Louvre coming to Minneapolis because so often Minneapolis came to the Louvre you were so generous in lending your works and we were so proud to have it in our exhibitions. It’s a kind of exchange which is important.

Loyrette singled out a few different works at the MIA which he wouldn’t mind having in his own collection, notably a portrait by Degas. He said the MIA has a collection with not just the “standards” but also some really nice surprises. It’s a collection the community should be proud of, he said.

As the head of arguably the most famous museum in the world, Loyrette holds a powerful place in the global arts and culture scene, and it’s a position he handles with enthusiasm. Just last Sunday Loyrette was the subject of a lengthy profile in the New York Times. In his 8 years at the Louvre (he previously served at the Musee D’Orsay for 18 years), Loyrette has gained a reputation for shaking things up a bit.

One of his major projects was to take on a three year collaboration with the High Museum in Atlanta. Here’s Loyrette’s explanation of the project, and what each of the museums got out of it:

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It was that collaboration with the High Museum that paved the way for “The Masterpiece and the Louvre” exhibition coming to Minneapolis. While Loyrette is seeking out partnership with American museums, it should be noted the Louvre holds hardly any American art, a fact Loyrette deplores:

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Some people might not know that the Louvre has a very particular place in France’s national museum structure, alongside the Musee D’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, and others. That’s why it’s collection will never include anything more recent than the mid-19th century:

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Finally, I asked Loyrette about the challenges facing his, and all museums – that is, to get people to linger longer over the artwork.

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Director Loyrette is in town through Sunday, during which time he’ll get to know the MIA’s collection, and pay a visit to the Guthrie Theater. The Guthrie was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, the same man behind the design for the new Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi.

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