Catherine Pégard, Who Brought Anish Kapoor to Versailles, Will Helm the Palace for 3 More Years

The French press has dubbed her the 'Queen of Versailles.'

Catherine Pégard, President, Palace of Versailles
Photo: © Thierry Bouët

Catherine Pégard, the president of the Palace of Versailles, has been elected for a subsequent three-year tenure, a government spokesperson announced on Wednesday, September 28.

Pégard, a former political journalist and advisor to ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, was first appointed at the helm of the prestigious institution in 2011, where she succeeded Jean-Jacques Aillagon. It was under Aillagon that Versailles launched its contemporary art interventions into the 18th century palace and its gardens, taking off in 2008 with a spectacular Jeff Koons show, mired in controversy.

The controversy and criticism surrounding the summer mega-exhibitions has never fully subsided, also after Pégard took the reins, as French conservatives often find fault in artists’ contemporary interpretations of the pomp and circumstance of Louis XIV’s court.

Anish Kapoor's Dirty Corner after it was vandalized. Courtesy of Anish Kapoor.

Anish Kapoor’s Dirty Corner after it was vandalized. Courtesy of Anish Kapoor.

The most scandalous intervention to date was undoubtedly Anish Kapoor’s creation for the gardens, featuring the steel sculpture Dirty Corner, which was vandalized several times over the summer of 2015.

The work became a lightening rod for controversy, which the artist believed was politically-motivated.

Speaking about Versailles’ handling of the controversy to the South China Morning Post recently, Kapoor alleges that he largely funded the efforts to remove the first round of graffiti. “Versailles was pathetic,” he added.

But the scandal didn’t tarnish Pégard’s tenure. In a statement on the extension of her position, the French Minister of Culture, Audrey Azoulay, said “the new mandate will provide the opportunity to better anchor the institution’s social responsibility.”

Pégard managed to raise more than €70 million in sponsorships during her five years at Versailles, which is 60 percent independently financed. Under her leadership, more than 6,000 additional square meters were opened to the public, including the fully restored Trianon-sous-Bois, and the Latona fountain. A visitor center was also opened in the Dufour Pavilion.

The gardens, museum, and palace at Versailles received 7.4 million visitors in 2015. Since the beginning of the year, however, attendance is down 14 percent, a decline attributed to fear of terrorist attacks.

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