Louvre-Lens, 2015
Location within France
Established 2012 (2012)
Location 99 Rue Paul Bert
62300 Lens, France
Coordinates 50°25′50″N 2°48′12″E / 50.43068889°N 2.803302778°E / 50.43068889; 2.803302778
Type Art museum, Design/Textile Museum, Historic site
Visitors 700,000 the first year
Director Xavier Dectot
Curator Xavier Dectot
Architect SANAA Kazuyo Sejima & Ryue Nishizawa, Tokyo
Public transit access Bus shuttle from gare de Lens
Website Louvre-Lens

The Louvre-Lens is an art museum located in Lens, Pas-de-Calais, Northern France, approximately 200 kilometers north of Paris.[1] It displays objects from the collections of the Musée du Louvre that are lent to the gallery on a medium- or long-term basis.

"The Louvre-Lens annex reflects the continuing decentralization of French cultural institutions",[2] though the Louvre claims the Lens museum is not a subordinate of the palace in Paris.[3]

Though the museum maintains close institutional links with The Louvre, it is primarily funded by the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region.[4]

A Louvre Abu Dhabi branch is planned to open in late 2016.[5]

Genesis and the Lens relation

In 2003, based on the universality of Le Louvre and on the criticism that French art and culture is immoderately privileged to the Parisian community,[6] the Ministry of Culture and the Louvre Directorate launched a call to the 22 Regions of France in effort to implant a Louvre satellite museum within their region. Only the Nord pas de Calais applied and proposed six cities: Lille, Lens, Valenciennes, Calais, Béthune and Boulogne-sur-Mer. In 2004, after much competition and deliberation, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, then French Prime Minister, officially announced Lens as the recipient city during a visit. It is the second experience of art decentralization in France after the contemporary arts Centre Pompidou-Metz museum in 2001. The project would be realized just over a kilometer away from the Stade Félix-Bollaert football stadium on the 9-9 bis trench,[7] a setting previously accommodating a tandem of abandoned coal mines unproductive since the 1960s, inundated by nature.

The decision to locate the museum on a Lens’ mining wasteland demonstrates an undertaking to rehabilitate and reverse the fortune of the depressed mining community,[4] which grieved through devastation from both World Wars, was subjected to Nazi occupation, and played victim to multiple mining catastrophes including the Courrières mine disaster, the worst such disaster in European history,[3] and a 1974 tragedy killing 42 workers. In the inaugurating of the construction zone, Minister of Culture Frédéric Mitterrand asked the attendance to observe a moment of silence for the 42 miners who lost their life in the 1974 accident. Lens saw its last mine close in 1986, a process causing the industrial city an unemployment rate well above the French national average. "France abandoned us when the coal stopped, and we became a ghost town," said Pas-de-Calais president Daniel Percheron.[8]

Officials took inspirations from the transformation of Spanish industrial municipality Bilbao,[9] which was contributed in part by the construction of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao satellite (dubbed the "Bilbao effect"[10]); though some caution the comparison based on population disparities between the two cities, lack of a distinguished culture, and the absence of a port.[10] Some Lens locals were critical, their feelings toward the museum were described as "patronizing",[8] other critics perceived the museum disconnected from the context of Lens' turbulent history and acclimatized people.[3]

After the city was appointed the Louvre subsidiary, the French government launched a worldwide design contest won in the end by Japanese architectural firm SANAA in 2005 in collaboration with New York firm Imrey Culbert, French landscape architect Catherine Mosbach, and museographer Studio Adrien Gardère among others. Architects Zaha Hadid and Steven Holl also submitted designs, exemplifying SANAA + IMREY CULBERT's difficult field of opponents.[2][11] Architect Tim Culbert lead the design competition and final presentation to members of the French Senate, against Zaha Hadid in the final running, securing the commission in September 2005. The Eiffage firm was chosen to construct the Lens-based Louvre branch, ultimately costing 150 million Euro (£121.6 million).[6] Tim Culbert and Celia Imrey are founders of IMREY CULBERT a firm based in New York. The Louvre-Lens Museum, SANAA + IMREY CULBERT's first building in France was awarded the Silver T-Square Prize for Architecture (Prix d'architecture de l'Equerre d'Argent) for 2013, given annually by the Le Moniteur Group since 1986. The prize is divided equally between the architect and the building owner.

Project acknowledgements

Gallery Design: Imrey Culbert, Gardere Landscape Design: Mosbach Paysagistes
MEP and Structural Engineers: Betom Ingénierie
Energy and Comfort Concept: Transplan
Environmental Design Engineers: Hubert Penicaud
Structure Concept Consultant: Sasaki & Partners
Structural and Facade Engineering: Bollinger & Grohmann
Artificial and Natural Daylighting: Arup
Photographs: Julien Lanoo
Area: 28,000 sqm
Cost: €150m

The French government hopes the location near the border will be a drawcard for Southern English, Belgian, and German tourists.[6] What's more, the Louvre-Lens is nearby numerous World War memorials, primarily the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in Vimy[13] approximately 15 minutes from the Louvre-Lens.[14]

Kazuyo Sejima (pictured) and partner Ryue Nishizawa are Pritzker Prize winners (2010) and founders of SANAA, a Japanese architectural firm.



A chain of six low-lying wide-spanning volumes atop 20 plus hectares of land,[15] the Louvre-Lens’ anatomy consists of a public space central square volume called the “Hall” connecting two lengthy rectangular exhibition volumes joined at opposing corners: the “Expositions Temporaires” and the opaque “Galerie du Temps” (English: "Gallery of Time"). Linked at the distant top left corner of the Expositions Temporaires is the rectangular “Scene” volume (houses the foyer and introductory gallery); affixed to opposing corners of the Gallerie du Temp, the museum's master showcase,[16][17] are two more rectangular volumes, one, with a face to the Hall, is an “Atelier”, and one at its far opposing corner called the “Pavillon de Verre” (English: “Glass Pavilion”). At more than 300m in length, the Louvre-Lens is able to keep an unchanging roofline across its entire figure.[18]

The original design text and presentation in 2005 included the following text (and oral presentation to the Senate by Tim Culbert), remains relevant to describe the built work 7 years later: "The design for the new satellite of the Louvre consists of gently curving pavilions that dovetail with the landscape – a 62-hectare former mining site – creating a “museum-park”. The roofs of the galleries are entirely glazed and slightly diffused, ideal natural daylighting under the grey skies of Lens. The ethereal quality of the façade – a single height of brushed aluminum alternating with clear glass – and the slight curvature of the pavilions will create blurred reflections of the surrounding landscape. This out-off-focus impression speaks to the new mission of Louvre-Lens: to question reality and perception, to teach how to look at art anew. Gallery volumes are gently linked at their corners, allowing for a transversal experience of the rotating exhibits. The design reinforces the curatorial blueprint, effectively repealing the classic art departments that have defined – and confined – the collection in the Louvre Palace over the last two centuries." TC

Designed as a series of wings that spread-out from a 4,000 square meter central hall, the project acknowledges and undoes the hierarchical typology of the Paris museum itself, with difficult to reach multi-floor "wings" around the people-mover hall designed by I.M. Pei. At the Louvre-Lens, the gallery wings and public spaces are all on one level and spread out asymmetrically from the entirely glazed entrance hall, creating a tension in its relationship with the landscape, while not entirely dismantling the concept of centrality and cartesian symbolism of the "original" Louvre.

The satellite museum will include a visitor-guided storage and conservation area, located at the core of the cluster of buildings - directly below and accessible from the main hall building itself - to speak to its dual mission for the preservation and display of artifacts and artworks.

Designing in terms of expansive reaching arms is motif remarking the plan of parent museum Paris Louvre.[16] According to numerous online magazine articles, the architects intended to conjure boats on a river coming together to dock gently with each other.[12][19] Also found on the Louvre-Lens premise is the circular L'Atelier de Marc Meurin cafeteria and a place of admissions.[20]

Overview of Louvre-Lens' Anatomy


Exterior aesthetic

Dressed in oscillate portions of sleek full-height glass and reflective polished and anodized aluminum facades, much of the Louvre’s exterior reciprocates a metallically glazed portrayal of the surrounding scenery and changing climate that interplay along the structure’s utmost subtle curvature.[12]


The centering building is occupied by the Hall with 4 entrances (North, East, South and West). In the Hall, the visitors can find a shop store, a Ressource Center allowing the visitors to extend their knowledges and connect to their personal space to share their experiences, a Picnic area, a cafeteria, a ticket booth as well as a multimedia guide rental. This is also by the hall that the visitors can access the exhibits rooms.[22]

Galerie du temps

The Grand Gallery or Gallery of Time (La Galerie du temps) is the main exhibit space of the museum. It's 120 m long and has an area of 3,000 m². The space is divided into two parts: the Gallery and an extra exhibit called the Glass Pavilion. These two spaces are dedicated to the permanent exhibition. Instead of being organized alphabetically, the art pieces are organized chronologically (Antiquity, Middle Ages, Modern Age). This is one of the characteristics of the museum.

Each Year, some art pieces return to The Louvre in Paris and are replaced by others.[23]

Temporary expositions

This exhibit is dedicated to the temporary exhibitions which last 3 months and are not accessed for free. It's 90 m long and has an area of 1800 m². The first exhibition was about the Renaissance and The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and the second one is dedicated to Rubens.[24]

Reserves and backstage

The Museum, in order to show that a museum is a living place, is also equipped with a fully digital space dedicating to explain what the visitors can't usually see: The Backstage. In there, enclosed to the reserves, the visitors can watch employees testimonies about how a piece is processed before being shown to the public as well as the unknown stories about some masterpieces of the museums by using touch screens. On the other side of the window, the visitors can admire the masterpieces stored in the Reserves as well as the ones which are actually restaured by the staff.[25]

Inauguration, opening and visitors

On Dec 4, 2012, eight years after Jean-Pierre Raffarin chose Lens as the location for the new museum, President François Hollande, alongside first lady Valérie Trierweiler, the Minister of Culture Aurélie Filippetti, the director of Le Louvre Henri Loyrette, the mayor of Lens Guy Delcourt, previous prime ministers Lionel Jospin and Pierre Mauroy officially inaugurated the Louvre-Lens.[26]

The following weekend, the Museum welcomed its first visitors; three weeks after the opening, the Museum welcomed its 100,000th visitor.[27] On May 2013, during Long Night of Museums 2013, 500,000 visitors viewed the masterpieces displayed in the Louvre-Lens Museum.[28]

While 700,000 visitors were optimistically expected for the first year (when admission was free), in the end that year's tally was approximately 900,000.[29]

Unfortunately, on Feb 7 2013, a woman vandalized a major masterpiece of the Museum, Liberty Guiding the People, writing "AE911" on it with a black marker, possibly a reference to a group calling itself "Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth".[30] The painting has been fully restored.

See also




  1. "Google Maps (Louvre Palace to Louvre Lens)". detail-online.com. Archived from the original on 14 January 2013.
  2. 1 2 "Integrative Transparency: Louvre-Lens by SANAA". Archived from the original on 14 January 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  3. 1 2 3 Jonathan Price (16 May 2013). "Louvre lands on a coal mine". MuseumZero.
  4. 1 2 Doland, Angela (13 December 2009). "A propos du Louvre Lens - Louvre-Lens". The Washington Post.
  5. "Opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi pushed back to 2016". The National (Abu Dhabi). 4 October 2015. Retrieved 5 Nov 2015.
  6. 1 2 3 "Art through a Lens: Louvre opens museum branch in run-down French mining town". Daily Mail. London. 6 December 2012.
  7. "Google Map of Stade Ballaert-Delelis".
  8. 1 2 Thomas Adamson (4 December 2012). "Louvre comes to poor French city, raising eyebrows". Associated Press.
  9. Witold Rybczynski (September 2002). "The Bilbao Effect". The Atlantic.
  10. 1 2 Kriston Capps (14 December 2012). "With the Louvre-Lens, a Curtain Call for the Bilbao Effect". City Lab, The Atlantic.
  11. Deane Madsen (12 December 2012). "The Louvre-Lens Opens Today". Architect Magazine.
  12. 1 2 3 Karissa Rosenfield (29 December 2012). "Louvre Lens / SANAA". archdaily.com.
  13. "Canadian National Vimy Memorial". Veterans Affairs Canada.
  14. "Lens, France to Canadian National Vimy Memorial". Google maps.
  15. "Musée Louvre-Lens". Travel.michelin.com. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  16. 1 2 Eva Bjerring (16 May 2013). "Musée Louvre-Lens - SANAA". Arcspace.com.
  17. "Gallery of Time". Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  18. Ellis Woodman (12 December 2012). "Louvre Lens by Sanaa".
  19. "Louvre Lens by SANAA and Imrey Culbert". Dezeen.com. 4 December 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  20. "Louvre-Lens blueprint". Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  21. "Diagram basis". Archived from the original on 3 November 2013.
  22. "Le Hall d'accueil - Louvre-Lens". Louvrelens.fr. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  23. "The Grand Galerie - Louvre-Lens". Louvrelens.fr. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  24. "Rubens et l'Europe - Louvre-Lens". Archived from the original on 8 Mar 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  25. "Behind the scenes at the museum - Museum backstage - Louvre-Lens". Louvrelens.fr. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  26. "Lens inaugure son musée du Louvre". France24. 4 December 2012.
  27. http://www.lemonde.fr/culture/article/2012/12/28/succes-pour-le-louvre-lens-trois-semaines-apres-son-inauguration_1811241_3246.html
  28. "Succès pour le Louvre-Lens, trois semaines après son inauguration". Lemonde.fr. 28 Dec 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  29. Agence France-Presse, E.M. "Le Louvre-Lens a un an : déjà 900 000 visiteurs". France 3 Nord-Pas-de-Calais. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  30. "Woman scrawls 9/11 graffiti over Delacroix masterpiece in Louvre-Lens". En.rfi.fr. 8 February 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  31. Iselin Claire. "Royal head, known as the "Head of Hammurabi"". Louvre.fr. Retrieved June 11, 2016.
  32. Baratte Sophie. "The Abduction of Deianira". Louvre.fr. Retrieved June 11, 2016.
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