Paris’s Musée du Louvre is known for housing some of the greatest artworks, including Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ painting, and Alexandros of Antioch’s ‘Venus de Milo’ statue. These two are the most photographed works of art by people who take the Louvre Museum private tours. The museum has a branch in the Lens commune. Recently, Louvre-Lens became one of the most-visited French museums in a province.
The museum houses artworks, and it also holds workshops for kids and other family-friendly educational programs. The biggest draw for Louvre-Lens is the fact that it bears the name of the Musée du Louvre, which is arguably the world’s best museum.
The History of Louvre-Lens
The branch of the Musée du Louvre sits on a former French coal extraction area called Pas-de-Calais Mining Basin. The French art gallery was once home to a sector so significant that it employed a large number of individuals. Coal mining’s reduction across Europe presented big social concerns for every town and region affected by that decline. During the First Industrial Resolution, big cities and towns grew around European coal mines; the arrival of people serving the sector transformed entire regions.
The French people have succeeded at reinventing their yesteryear coal mining places somewhat better compared to the British. A concerted and continued effort has been there in France to revive the areas where the use of mines have stopped. This is best exemplified in Pas-de-Calais, plus especially on the spacious site of the Musee du Louvre division. Up to the 1960’s, that 20-hectare property was a charcoal-making place.
So why construct the first Louvre Museum in a province in Lens? Louvre-Lens has around 40,000 individuals, but it lies on the outskirts of Paris, which is Europe’s most densely populated city. Paris is just an hour’s distance away from Lens, France, by train; Brussels, Ghent and Antwerp are within reach; and, Amsterdam lies just beyond. There are millions who could go to work, visit the museum branch as per their convenience and comfortably make it home by bedtime. This has resulted in a visitor count of over one million per year, which makes the big art gallery the third most accessed provincial museum here.
It was not an easy task to construct a museum in a place where charcoal was made. The property was not at all flat, and the French had to modify the building’s architecture accordingly to cause it to blend in. This must have been an onerous task because the old coal pithead is still visible in the museum grounds. The glass walls enclosing the vast exhibition space may appear straight, but these are not. These long walls have a slightly continuous up and down shape, so they blend in with the uneven terrain, plus show the landscape more naturally.
Inside, the attempt to harmonize with nature is still there, and that too, without any decline in intensity. Ventilation channels stretch across the museum halls to keep a 23°C temperature, and the aluminum walls reflect the light hazily, eliminating echoes in spacious, rectangular rooms.
Five spaces make up the big museum. The Temps Gallery to the eastern side is home to the permanent artwork collection, and rotating exhibitions are to the west of the property. There is a large building used for public performances near the west side. Between these spaces, there is a café and bookshop, and downstairs, the storage spaces and spiral staircase.
L’Atelier de Marc Meurin is a pretty good restaurant, with a short yet well-curated menu and wine. The understated beauty and simplicity of their food complements the sleek art gallery and perfectly echoes the humble origins of it.
Exhibitions at Louvre-Lens
Every year, the museum hosts two global exhibitions, which shed light on a period, civilization, artist or themes which cut across the history of art. These expositions start and end at a specified date, unlike the permanent artwork collection which you can see anytime.
In the starting year, 2013, the museum welcomed one million visitors, but since then, there has been a steady and gradual increase in its footfall. Last year, the number of individuals who went to Louvre-Lens was 530,000, up by 10% from 2018.
This success is partly because of the exposition dedicated to author Homer that was held from March to July, 2019. He is the author of poems namely the Odyssey and the Iliad. The exhibition lured 112,000 passionate and curious individuals. When it comes to attendance, it was the most popular show after the one dedicated to Peter Paul Rubens and another to the French Renaissance.
That said, an exhibition’s success alone does not explain people’s enthusiasm for Louvre-Lens. There has been a growth in every activity of the French museum.