The world’s most recognizable name in art history and culture branches out, opening the Louvre-Lens museum in the northern French city of Lens.
The Louvre is far and away the most visited art museum in the world. Each year the famed former palace in the heart of Paris sees nearly 9 million visitors, attracted by such great works as the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. Since 1793, anyone who wanted to see this collection spanning thousands of years and hundreds of countries, had to book a trip to Paris. There was no other way around it. But now, all of that changes; next week the Louvre opens its first satellite museum: the Louvre-Lens.
The Louvre-Lens is situated in the town of Lens, in France’s Nord-Pas de Calais region. Lens rests a little more than 100 miles north of Paris, in the heart of a former coal-mining region suffering from 16 percent unemployment. The museum itself stands on the site of a former coal mine. “It is hoped that the opening of this satellite,” says Where Paris magazine editor Sandra Iskander, “will revitalize a region of France that has been suffering from industrial decline.”
Designed by Japanese architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, the Louvre-Lens is a breathtaking modern work, four rectangles made of glass and polished metal structures. The museum will house a rotating collection of 205 works presented in temporary, cross-disciplinary exhibitions. Iskander reports the museum’s collections will be “on loan from the Louvre [and] are exhibited chronologically from the birth of writing, 3500 B.C., to the Industrial Revolution.” Visiting the Louvre-Lens is not limited to gazing at the displays; guests can even visit the storerooms and observe the behind-the-scenes life of artworks in the museum.
Nord-Pas de Calais regional council head Daniel Percheron says the Louvre-Lens is only the first stage in a revitalization effort in Lens, which will also see many of the city’s 1930s and 1950s buildings converted into hotels, restaurants and shops. The satellite museum and this continued revitalization effort hope to bring needed jobs and culture to the region, building up the economy and helping restore a sense of normalcy to the area.
If Percheron is correct, it won’t only be the Louvre branch location which brings travelers to Lens, but until that revitalization happens, at least Lens will siphon off some of the excitement that Paris’ Louvre has already created. It’s not a small siphon either; the museum said it expects almost 700,000 visitors just in its first year.
Musée de Louvre-Lens (Louvre-Lens museum)
Location: Lens, France
· 1.5 hours from Brussels by car
· 2 hours from Paris by car
· 1 hour 10 minutes from Paris by high-speed TGV train