The French Ministry of Culture on Thursday announced that it has selected Claire Bernardi as the next director of the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris. Bernardi, since 2012 a curator at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, takes the reins from Cécile Debray, who this past October was named head of the Picasso-Paris Museum. In her new role, Bernardi will work closely with Musee d’Orsay chief Christopher Leribault, who himself is new to his position, having recently replaced Laurence des Cars, who last spring was named the first woman to lead the Louvre.
The Musée de l’Orangerie, which occupies the Tuileries gardens, houses a spectacular collection of ninenteenth- and twentieth-century masterpieces, representing the time period in which Bernardi specializes. Prior to joining the Musée d’Orsay, she oversaw modern-art collections at the Centre National des Arts Plastiques. Notable among the exhibitions she has curated are “Gauguin the Alchemist” (2017–18) at the Grand Palais, and “Picasso, Blue and Rose” (2018) at the Musée d’Orsay. With Simonetta Fraquelli, of Philadelphia’s Barnes Foundation, she cocurated the Orangerie’s current exhibition of the work of Chaïm Soutine and Willem de Kooning.
French minister of culture Roselyne Bachelot in a statement noted that Bernardi will be charged with establishing a program “aimed at offering contemporary reinterpretations of the museum’s collections, whether ‘Water Lilies’ by Claude Monet or works by artists from the Walter-Guillaume collection.” She will also face the challenge of building a local audience, considered of utmost importance given the havoc the Covid-19 crisis has wrought regarding visitor numbers. Before the pandemic, a large proportion of the museum’s attendees were from outside France; of these, a number arrived from Asia, where Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies,” held in the collection of the Orangerie, is especially beloved.