The Louvre is possibly the most famous museum in the world, and is certainly the most visited, attracting more than 8 million visitors per year.
The Palace opened its doors as a museum on August 10, 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings. Today, the Musée du Louvre contains more than 380,000 objects and displays 35,000 works of art in eight curatorial departments with more than 60,600 square metres dedicated to the permanent collection.
Now, the Louvre’s first satellite has opened in Lens after more than seven years of design and construction. At first glance, at least, the new, modern representation differs greatly from the original version in France’s capital.
A star-studded international design team, including Pritzker Prize winners Sanaa from Tokyo, New York-based architects Imrey Culbert and Paris-based landscape architects Mosbach Paysagistes, is responsible for the new museum.
“Our design is reminiscent of the Louvre in Paris with its outstretched wings,” said Celia Imrey, principal of Imrey Culbert. “It was conceived to integrate the building into the park on a single accessible storey.”
That park takes the form of a 153-acre landscaped, abandoned mine field near the city of Lille in Northern France on which the 300,000 square feet of new construction, which features 75,000 square feet of galleries and visitable storage areas for hundreds of treasures, is situated.
“We conceived this new Louvre to be everything the Palais Louvre is not, and sought to create transparency both literally and figuratively,” Imrey said.
The two easternmost pavilions are the principal exhibition halls. The centre pavilion, a square glass structure designed as a variation on the pyramid of the Paris Louvre, will serve as the main reception area and a public space for the local population and will house a multimedia library, museum store and cafeteria.
An Introductory Gallery, accessible via a large staircase, allows visitors to peer down onto the museum’s reserves and the studios where artworks are prepared for display. The fourth pavilion will house temporary exhibitions, and the final will house a 300-seat auditorium.
“Inside the museum, we designed the main gallery wings to have natural daylight only from above,” Imrey said. “There are no windows. Between Sanaa in Japan, Imrey Culbert in New York and Paris, ARUP in London, and structural engineers Bollinger and Grohman in Frankfurt, the roof alone is a truly international accomplishment.”
Following in the footsteps of Paris’s Pompidou Centre modern art museum, which opened a satellite in eastern Metz in 2010, the Louvre says its chief goal is to win over the local population.
“Two things would spell failure in my eyes,” Louvre director Henri Loyrette told AFP. “The first would be if the population don’t take ownership of the museum. The second would be if the Louvre’s existing visitors don’t go.”
The building cost €150 million. The hope is that around half a million people will visit the museum on average per year, with 700,000 anticipated in year one.