Jack Lang was born in September 1939 in Mirecourt, France. He studied at the Institute for Political Studies in Paris (IEP) and became a Doctor of Law. In this field, he worked as a professor of law in Nancy and Paris. But Jack Lang has also occupied several positions in the field of theatre: he was the founder and director of the International University Theatre Festival in Nancy (1963–1972), director of the Chaillot Theatre in Paris (1972–1974) and director of the Piccolo Teatro in Milan (1996–1998). In 1990, together with Giorgio Strehler, the director of the Piccolo Teatro at the time, he founded the Union of European Theatres of which he is still a member of honour today.
Jack Lang pursued a career in politics. After holding the positions of mayor, deputy and general counsellor, he was appointed Minister of Culture in 1981 and occupied this position under different socialist governments. In terms of cultural politics, Jack Lang’s main objectives were both to weaken the traditional hierarchy between "major arts" and "minor arts", and to integrate activities that were considered as minor in the field of culture.
Jack Lang was awarded with numerous distinctions; he is "Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur" (Knight of the Legion of Honour) and "Commandeur des Palmes académiques" (Commandor of the Academic Palms). In 1998, he received the Wartburg Prize for his contribution to Europe’s political and cultural unification. In 2013, he became president of the Institut du Monde Arabe (Institute of the Arab World) in Paris.