Obscure Civil Servant Serge Lasvignes Gets Centre Pompidou’s Top Job

Sometimes it's not what you know, but who you know.

Serge Lasvignes Photo via: La Depeche
Serge Lasvignes Photo via: La Depeche

France has nominated Serge Lasvignes, currently serving as the government’s general secretary, to succeed the Centre Pompidou’s president Alain Seban, who reached the end of his mandate on April 2.

The move has taken the French art world by surprise: Lasvignes has no experience running a museum, nor any cultural organization. According to Le Point, this former literature teacher is a fan of Romantic writer François-René de Chateaubriand, but not of modern and contemporary art. And yet he’s to be put in charge of one of the most important public collections of its kind in Europe—one that attracts a staggering 3.5 million visitors per year.

What’s more, respected cultural figures including Olivier Poivre d’Arvor, the director of French public radio channel France Culture, and Éric de Chassey, the director of the Villa Médicis in Rome, had both angled for a nomination. And Seban himself was keen to stay for another three-year mandate.

“It’s the least relevant nomination for the Centre Pompidou since its creation,” said an anonymous commentator described by Les Echos as an art professional. Another said the nomination only showed how little politicians understood what’s at stake in this key post. But these considerations don’t seem to have much weight in France’s political spheres. The French press appears to agree that Lasvignes was nominated so that his post could be given to Marc Guillaume, currently general secretary for the Constitutional Council.

Yet, as the New York Times pointed out, Seban himself didn’t have much cultural experience before getting the job either. This didn’t prevent him from leading a successful mandate (see Centre Pompidou To Open Design and Architecture Gallery), which saw a dramatic increase in visitor numbers, and an unrelenting expansion strategy. A new Pompidou outpost opened in Metz in 2010, and more are underway (see The Centre Pompidou Pops Up in Málaga, Centre Pompidou Mulls Another Satellite Museum, Centre Pompidou and Museo Jumex Partnership Rumored).

Lasvignes’ nomination is to be ratifed by the Council of Ministers in Paris on March 4. He will occupy the post for five years.


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