France: ‘Astounding’ Louvre branch to open in Lens – Telegraph
Until right now, you went to Lens in northern France for second-division football and slag heaps and other fine mining memories. You might also have used it as a base from which to see Great War battlefields. What you didn’t get much of was world-class culture. As you wouldn’t in Wigan, so you didn’t in Lens. The depressed former coal town apparently had problems beyond the reach of Raphael.
Which is precisely why, in a splendid burst of reverse thinking, the place is about to open an art gallery of astounding breadth and brio, containing works from across the history of human creativity. In the year’s major French cultural initiative, the Louvre has broken out of Paris to establish its first provincial base on a disused colliery site hemmed in by miners’ housing estates.
President François Hollande inaugurates the Louvre-Lens next Tuesday. It opens properly to the public on December 12. It is no mean branch office. The €150 million (£121m) building is of deceptive simplicity, a succession of four connected rectangles, and a square, all in aluminium and lots of glass. It has been kept long and low – a single storey – to avoid crushing locals with worthiness. The Japanese architects want the neighbours to come in, not stay stuck outside, awestruck. It could be a big leisure centre – which, in a sense, it is.