Taking upon itself to bring high culture to northern Lens, Louvre has opened a satellite museum in the former mining town. The new museum is set to host masterpieces by Delacroix and Raphael for its first year of existence. Leonardo Da Vinci’s newly restored “The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne” will also leave its Paris home for the first time in two centuries for a three-month stay at the Lens site.
Just one hour by train from Paris, the Louvre-Lens’ director Xavier Dectot hopes to attract 700,000 visitors for its first year, and half a million per year after that, compared to nine million annual visitors for the Louvre itself. “We are banking on a lot of visitors who have never set foot in a museum,” said Louvre’s director Henri Loyrette.
“We recognise that it is not easy. When we started with the project the words Louvre and Lens just didn’t fit together — a great Parisian institution and a town ravaged by war and industrial crisis.”
The museum’s five sober buildings were intended by the Japanese agency Sanaa to blend into the former industrial site, with the rail tracks that once linked up its pits turned into access roads for instance. From within its giant glass cube entrance hall, visitors can glimpse the giant slag heaps at Loos-en-Gohelle, the largest in Europe, and the Bollaert stadium, home to the local football team, Racing Club de Lens.
The main gallery will be free to access for the first year, while a second space will host temporary paying exhibitions, the first of them focused on the Renaissance, from Italy to Flanders.