Second Louvre to be built in Northern France

23rd July 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 22 (AFP) - A second Louvre museum is to be built in northern France in order to display some of the gallery's vast collection of unseen treasures and to improve access to the nation's cultural heritage in one of its most run-down regions.

PARIS, July 22 (AFP) - A second Louvre museum is to be built in northern France in order to display some of the gallery's vast collection of unseen treasures and to improve access to the nation's cultural heritage in one of its most run-down regions.

Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres has visited six candidate towns not far from the Belgian border, all anxious to attract the EUR 105 million (USD 129 million) in investment and the hundreds of thousands of annual visitors that the museum is expected to bring.

Though the minister has not set a date for a decision, the winner should be announced in the coming weeks so that work can begin within the next year for a planned opening in spring 2009.

The nominees for the project are the depressed post-industrial centres of Valenciennes and Lens, the ports of Calais and Boulogne-sur-Mer and the historic towns of Amiens and Arras.

First mooted at the start of the year by Donnedieu de Vabres' predecessor Jean-Jacques Aillagon, Louvre II - also known as the Antenne, or Outpost, of the Louvre - is expected to house between 500 and 600 works on loan from Paris, which would be replaced every two or three years.

"What could be more natural than for the Louvre to extend the scope of its influence and give other towns the benefit of its collections at a time when the notion of decentralisation is being written into the constitution?" the museum said in a statement.

"The Louvre Outpost will without any doubt be one of the most elegant and daring responses to this policy," it said.

The winning town will see the construction of a 16,000-square-metre (172,000-square-foot) space inside a building of contemporary architecture that should be "both startling and attractive," according to the Louvre.

The money will come from regional, departmental and European culture budgets. In submissions to the minister, some candidates seemed more concerned to publicise their social and economic difficulties than to show what they could offer.

"Valenciennes has seen three conflicts: two world wars and then the 40,000 job losses that came with the closure of the mines and steelworks. We have a sort of social legitimacy to claim the Louvre Outpost," said mayor Dominique Riquet.

"In Lens we always go to the cultural and historical sites of our neighbours. But our neighbours never come here because there is nothing to sell ... The Louvre Outpost is a ray of hope in a land of courage and misfortune," said Guy Delcourt of Lens.

In Calais the town hall put forward the deputy mayor Gisele Cocquerelle who admitted there were financial difficulties as the town was already engaged in other cultural projects.

The project is viewed with suspicion by part of the arts establishment, where some have described it as a gimmick.

"The real aim of the Louvre outpost is not to respond to an expressed need. It is an ideological operation. We are about to spend millions of euros with no other purpose in mind than to say we are decentralising," according to an editorial on the arts website La Tribune de l'Art, run by curators and specialists.

The editorial said the idea that the Louvre contained inexhaustible amounts of masterpieces in its vaults was a myth, as it has tripled its exhibition area in recent years and most of the works that remain "are of secondary importance or in a poor state."

The website also pointed out that the towns of Arras and Amiens already have arts museums, while Lille - which is Europe's cultural capital this year - has several and lies only a short drive from all the candidate towns.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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