Guillaume Désanges to Lead Palais de Tokyo
Independent curator and critic Guillaume Désanges has been named the next president of the Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Known for his innovative and atypical programming, Désanges replaces Emma Lavigne. Lavigne—who arrived to the storied noncollecting contemporary art museum in 2019 from the Centre Pompidou Metz, where she was director—helmed the Palais for just two years before departing to serve as chief executive of the Pinault Collection. The Paris-based organization oversees the art collection of French billionaire François Pinault.
Désanges arrives to the job with a varied pedigree, solid avant-garde credentials, and zero experience in running an institution of the Palais de Tokyo’s size. The fifty-one-year-old studied business before going on to found curatorial agency Work Method. He has for the past nine years overseen fashion label Hermès’s Brussels gallery, La Verrière, and has guest-curated a number of exhibitions at venues including CAPC Bordeaux, Le Plateau-Frac Ile-de-France Art Center, and the Palais de Tokyo, where he co-organized an exhibition of the work of Neïl Beloufa in 2018. His hiring reflects a growing trend among institutions in seeking staff whose backgrounds do not reflect a traditional art-history education and career trajectory but whose previous and diverse experience may be brought to bear to revitalize art institutions and gain them new audiences.
Indeed, as French daily Libération points out, Désanges’s business acumen coupled with his taste for organizing cutting-edge exhibitions may provide just the boost the Palais de Tokyo needs as it, like other arts institutions, continues to grapple with the problems generated by the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. Désanges has said that he considers the museum a “living body” and that he plans to establish a sustainable “permaculture.” His plans include partnering with both local and international art institutions and schools, among other organizations, and presenting a major exhibition or event outside the museum’s confines every two years.