Emma Lavigne is President of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, since July 2019. She becomes the first woman to take the helm of the institution in its seventeen-year history. She came to the arts center from the Centre Pompidou-Metz, where she served as director since 2014. Lavigne succeed Jean de Loisy who departed in December to head the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris’s academy of fine arts.
Lavigne was the curator of the 2017 Biennale de Lyon.
She is an art historian, who graduated in History and History of art and architecture at the Sorbonne and the École du Louvre. After a spell working at the International Council of Museums (ICOM) she became curator at the Paris Cité de la Musique in 2000.
There, she set up a cross-disciplinary programme and curated many exhibitions devoted to the connections between music, sound and contemporary art, including Electric Body, which investigated the...role of the body in music, and Espace Odyssée, which explored the notion of space in contemporary music using a scenography by artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster.
She also presented monographic projects devoted to artists on the music and art scene, such as Chen Zhen, Christina Kubisch, Saâdane Afif and Christian Marclay. The much admired exhibition Marclay-Replay was taken up by galleries and museums in Australia, Spain and Canada. And while at this institute devoted to contemporary music, she also organised exhibitions about the pop-rock scene—something that had never been done before in France. Jimi Hendrix Backstage, Pink Floyd Interstellar, and John Lennon Unfinished Music provided a new take on important figures in pop music.
On the strength of these experiments and the programmes she devised to accompany them, including concerts by Kraftwerk and Sonic Youth, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts invited her to design the 2008 exhibition Warhol Live and, in 2009, the exhibition Imagine Peace with Yoko Ono. I am a Cliché, an exhibition on the heritage of punk aesthetics, at the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie, Arles, France, and, subsequently, Brazil in 2010/2011 was another example of her innovative approach to history.
In 2008, she moved to the Centre Pompidou as curator for contemporary art. There she continued to specialise in the relationship between visual arts, music, dance and performance. She was one of the curators of the exhibition of works by female artists Elles@centrepompidou, and organised its tour in Brazil. While working on the collection and acquiring such emblematic pieces as The Clock by Christian Marclay (awarded the Golden Lion at the 2011 Venice Biennale), she also organised several exhibitions, including Danser sa vie (with Christine Macel), an event which investigated the links between dance and the visual arts and resonated well with the many other events in the programme.
She was curator of the much admired Pierre Huyghe retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, an exhibition which introduced live animals and insects into the museum. It toured to the Ludwig Museum, Cologne, and then, in November 2014, to LACMA, Los Angeles. She also curated the Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster prospective retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, in September 2015 then, in April 2016, at the K20 Düsseldorf.
Since taking up her appointment as director of the Centre Pompidou-Metz, Emma Lavigne has curated, amongst other exhibitions, Warhol Underground and Kimsooja – To Breathe. She was curator of the French pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale with Céleste Boursier-Mougenot's project Révolutions, which offered a subtle reflection on systems for controlling humans and natural entities, and on ideas of hybridisation and cohabitation. For spring 2017, she is preparing an exhibition entitled Printemps cosmique (Cosmic Spring). The theme is that of a subversive, chaotic, and "non-natural" garden.