Christophe Leribault Appointed Head of the Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris

5/9/12 - Appointment - Paris, Petit-Palais - Deputy director of the Département des Arts Graphiques du Musée du Louvre which he joined in 2006 and Director of the Musée Delacroix [1] since 2007. Christophe Leribault, 48, will take over on 1st November as head of the Petit Palais in Paris.

The new director will thus be returning to the capital’s museums quite naturally since he had successfully passed the competitive exam for curators for the City of Paris in 1988, before continuing on to the Ecole du Patrimoine. His first position from 1990 to 2006 was at the Musée Carnavalet.
Having pursued a double major at the Ecole du Louvre and at University, Christophe Leribault is aso a Doctor in Art History with a brilliant dissertation on Jean-François de Troy in 1999, later published by editions Arthéna where he has since become a valuable contributor. He curated (or co-curated) a considerable number of exhibitions on French 18th and 19th century painting and drawing. Among these, we would like to quote notably some of those reviewed here : Maesta di Roma, Delacroix et la photographie, L’Antiquité rêvée, Fantin-Latour, Manet, Baudelaire : L’Hommage à Delacroix... He has also authored a great number of articles and catalogue entries.

His work will be cut out for him at the Petit Palais where he will be replacing Gilles Chazal. Although the museum was modernized for its 2005 reopening (in fact with debatable changes which we had discussed here), the museographical choices are very controversial. There are not enough works on display, (almost) entire collections are invisible (the painted studies for Parisian decors, the sculpture holdings which are not enhanced...), the hang is much too bare and not always coherent, the two large galleries on the right and left of the entrance are not used for the collections, there are very few acquisitions, others (notably icons) are mediocre but notheless, in their case, displayed...
For more comments on the situation at this museum, we refer our readers to this article where we described the principal aspects of the reopening and which continues to apply today. True, thanks to the excellent conservation team there, several high quality exhibitions have been staged over the last few years [2] (especially little-known artists of the second half of the 19th century) but many were also of lesser quality and/or unrelated to the collections, even at times frankly scandalous. There is no doubt that Christophe Leribault’s arrival at the Petit Palais will give this institution a much needed boost refocusing it on its missions : offer the finest and largest presentation possible of the permanent collections, organize exhibitions worthy of a great Fine Arts museum and enrich its holdings with a coherent acquisitions policy (insofar as the budget allows as we know it is particularly low at this moment for Parisian museums [3]).

We would like to close this article by mentioning an event we have not yet discussed : the transformation of the museums of the City of Paris, starting on 1st January 2013, into a public establishment with an ENA graduate, Delphine Lévy as director. Though we know how this type of structure can be led awry, we will refrain here from passing any kind of judgement on this reorganization before seeing the results. All the municipal museums, by definition, depend on the city and their directors are thus obviously under the authority of a non-curator, either the elected official himself or else a government employee in charge of culture. The new status will not change these conditions.
Regrouping the museums of the City of Paris into one network might even produce some positive effects compared to the current situation (far from ideal), on condition that the directors preserve their prerogatives and that the future general director of the public establishment concentrates on the administrative angles, leaving the choice of scholarly and scientific decisions to the curators. This is the case for the appointment of Christophe Leribault, which we heartily commend here.

Version française

Didier Rykner, mercredi 29 août 2012


[1] We should remember that the Musée Delacroix is managed by the Louvre.

[2] Most recently Giuseppe de Nittis, Jean-Louis Forain, Fernand Pelez, José Maria Sert...

[3] We should point out however that some establishments like the Musée de la Vie Romantique or the Cognac-Jay manage to enact a real acquisitions policy.

imprimer Print this article

Previous article in News Items : Latest Acquisitions by the Musée de la Vie Romantique

Next article in News Items : Two Paintings Acquired Thanks to Acceptance in Lieu Assigned to the National Gallery in London