Do women have to be naked to get into the Louvre?

The Rise of Female Museum Directors.

Last week Laurence des Cars, the current President of the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie, was appointed as the next President of the Musée du Louvre.

She will be the first female director in the 228-year history of the Louvre. With such momentous news, we thought we’d take a look at the leadership in other institutions.

In a 2020 Forbes report, just 7.4% of CEO’s of the top 500 companies were female. It seems however, that at least in some creative sectors, women are charging forward. In a 2017 report from the Association of Art Museum Directors, 46.7% of Museums in the United States were run by women and according to the French Culture Ministry, about 67% of the country’s national museums are headed by women, an increase of 27% from 2019.

This trend seems to be somewhat of a slow, but necessary worldwide revolution, here is a handful of those women helping to make history:

Although there has been a marked shift in the 21st century, there are also examples of female trailblazers carving the way long ago. Grace Morley was the first director of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, a position which began in 1935 and that she held for 23 years, and Hilla von Rebay, an abstract artist, co-founder and first director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum serving from ‘39-‘52. Unfortunately, neither of these Museums have had a female director since, and it shows. Our data reports that female artists make up 19% of the collection at SFMOMA, and a mere 15% at the Guggenheim.

Though gender equality is slowly being achieved in these influential director positions, it is yet to trickle down to the artists. For all the museums mentioned, according to our collected data, there is only a 26% average of female artists collected or exhibited. Out of the group, the worst, and clearly well overdue for their first female President, was the Musée du Louvre, with an abysmal 10%, the best of the group was the Zeitz MOCAA with 39%. From worst to best, it’s still not enough, and this is only on the subject of equality observed within the constraints of simplified binary gender, there are mountains to be climbed to reach true and fair equality of representation of all minorities in the art world.

Every woman mentioned here has had a profoundly positive impact on their museums; by drastically increasing attendance, diversifying the program, acquiring important works, implementing more community outreach and encouraging new audiences, and that is something to be celebrated. Now let’s keep moving forward and work towards actual equality.

Let’s make history happen.

The Artfacts Team