The winning model: Louvre Lens celebrates its second birthday



With the opening to the public of a comprehensive exhibition dedicated to animals in Ancient Egypt (more than 430 pieces will be gathered together to question this fundamental aspect of the Pharaonic civilization), next week the Louvre Lens will celebrate its second birthday. Designed in 2005 by SANAA and Imery Culbert in collaboration with group of specialized firms – which includes the museographer Studio Adrien Gardère and the landscape architect Catherine Mosbach – this extraordinary museum has already become more than a successful cultural experiment which, in its first year of life, was able to attract 900.000 visitors, 30% over the expectation.


Despite the cracks between concrete-made plaques that cover the surrounding of the museum buildings are not yet perfectly filled with grass, thus giving to the area a pale “under construction” feeling, last Sunday morning, during our second visit to the site, the charming “Galerie du Temps” was full of enthusiastic visitors proving that “decentralize” culture is indeed a possible model to follow. At the moment the long term success achieved so far by the Guggenheim in Bilbao is no longer just a dream for the citizens of this area.


As also proved by La città degli Uffizi, the program of thematic exhibitions promoted by the Galleria degli Uffizi to support small towns out of the tourists’ path, and as the Louvre Abu Dhabi will soon confirm, the brand of certain prestigious institution is indeed an extremely precious source for the relaunch of small towns which, especially in Southern Europe, have been violently struck by the economical crisis.


It could also be the way to follow so to return certain artworks to their original settings, especially in Italy, where the logic of the “Pinacoteca” has miserably failed leaving the main part of the 4,500 Italian museums almost abandoned, totally disconnected from the international cultural scene and, after the crisis, completely dependent on the interests of local politicians.


If the Louvre Lens had been conceived like an Italian local Pinacoteca, its architecture would not have been enough to achieve such a performance and the money invested in it would have already been deemed as a loss by the taxpayers. On the contrary, to have an establishment like the Louvre in Lens, and not just a beautiful museum, means, in this case, bringing the experience as well as the benefits of a world wide class museum to a former depressed coal mining area out of any significant cultural institution.


Moreover, the Louvre Lens is one of the rare public places where ancient artworks can be admired in a contemporary architecture setting. Even if some art milestones such as the Portrait of Baldassarre Castiglione by Raphael or “La Liberté guidant le peuple” by Delacroix have been returned to Paris, the experience of having in the same room artworks ranging from the very early stages of history until the end of the XVIII century is certainly unique. And that is another key element that makes the Louvre Lens so important in the international art scene of today.



November 24, 2014