Louvre-Lens opens

December 4 2012

Video: AFP

The Louvre has opened its satellite museum in Lens, a former mining town in Northern France. In The Guardian, Jonathan Jones questions the move:

The great Paris art museum is getting international praise for opening a new Louvre in Lens, a former mining town in northern France. But the Louvre is taking a huge risk by sending masterpieces such as Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People to the new Louvre-Lens. It is breaking up a collection that is one of the wonders of the world. For every visitor who makes the trip to Lens, there will be people frantically scouring the Louvre in Paris looking for the vanished Delacroix that is usually one of its highlights.

I think it's political correctness gone mad. There's no reason to undermine the strength of a great museum such as the Louvre in the name of regional equality. There are only a few museums like the Louvre in the world, and they have their own egalitarianism in the universal overview of human culture that they provide. It would be better for the Louvre to find ways to bring diverse communities into its Paris home using the multicultural approach pioneered by the British Museum in London.

Hard to disagree. But this is what happens when you have too much political control over the arts. The closest analogies we have here in the UK (where ministers are kept well away from museums) are Tate's branches in Liverpool and St Ives, and the NPG's in Bodelwyddan Castle and Benningborough Hall. In both cases the institutions have enough surplus works to create strong galleries with a local emphasis and good quality works, but without raiding the core displays in London. However, as Didier Rykner has shown with his series of distressing photos of empty plinths and gallery spaces, that doesn't seem to be the case with the Louvre.

Update - a reader writes:

Was interested to read your piece on the new Louvre Lens. I happened to be in Arras a few months ago, where there they have just installed the best bits of the Versailles carriage collection in an old nunnery (I have always been obsessed with 18th century coaches). I thought it was great. Let's not worry about whether the French misuse their cultural patrimony, let's just celebrate the fact that it's now even more accessible to us Brits. Arras and Lens are just a short drive from the chunnel exit, which is itself a very reasonable drive from London / the SE. It makes for a great weekend away.

More of a Eurostar-straight-to-Paris kind of person meself.

Notice to "Internet Explorer" Users

You are seeing this notice because you are using Internet Explorer 6.0 (or older version). IE6 is now a deprecated browser which this website no longer supports. To view the Art History News website, you can easily do so by downloading one of the following, freely available browsers:

Once you have upgraded your browser, you can return to this page using the new application, whereupon this notice will have been replaced by the full website and its content.