Macron Appoints a Dynamo of the Publishing World as France’s New Culture Minister

French dealers greeted the appointment with optimism.

Françoise Nyssen. Photo by Jacques Demarthon/AFP via Getty Images.
Françoise Nyssen. Photo by Jacques Demarthon/AFP via Getty Images.

France’s newly elected president Emmanuel Macron unveiled his governing cabinet today, which included the appointment of Françoise Nyssen, a publisher, as culture minister.

Belgian-born Nyssen is the CEO of Éditions Actes Sud based in the southern city of Arles, which has published the work of Nobel Laureates Imre Kertész and Svetlana Alexievitch, as well as Prix Goncourt winners Laurent Gaudé, Jérôme Ferrari, and Mathias Ernard.

While she has never held public office, the trained urban planner served in the Architecture Department of the Belgium Ministry of the Built Environment for four years before joining the publishing world in 1980 as partner and CEO of Cooperative d’Editions du Paradou. In 1987, Nyssen became partner and president of Actes Sud, the publishing house founded by her father Hybert Nyssen. Under her guidance, she transformed the company into one of the most prestigious and successful French language publishers in the world, realizing a turnover of $85 million in 2015, according to Huffington Post.

In 2008, Nyssen was made Commander of the French Order of Arts and Letters, and was awarded the rank of “Officier” of the Order of the Legion of Honor in 2013 for her contributions to French literature, Le Figaro reported.

On Wednesday, figures in the French art world reacted optimistically to Nyssen’s appointment.

French gallerist Almine Rech told artnet News, “I think her nomination is a good thing because she has been the brilliant president of Actes Sud for many years, which was founded by her father and is one of the best publishing companies in France. They have published a collection of great books in relation to art, painting, cinema, and photography. Obviously the new minister knows her subject extremely well.”

Meanwhile, Parisian dealer Kamel Mennour described her as a “very interesting woman.” He pointed out that she has hand-on experience working with the art world. “She organized and worked on a Lee Ufan exhibition in Arles three years ago with us,” he said. Nyssen “loves the artists in general,” and is a “very involved woman,” according to the dealer.

France’s new culture minister will have her work cut out for her. With dwindling museum attendances and lower tourism figures, coupled with increased security costs, Nyssen faces several challenges in revitalizing France’s historic and incredibly rich cultural scene.

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