Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Louvre-Lens museum

I recently visited Louvre-Lens, a museum affiliated to the Louvre in Paris. It opened in December 2012 in Lens (North of France). Here are my impressions from this first visit.

A lot of work is still going outside on landscaping the site around the museum. Once the grass and planting will be done, the surrounding garden will complement the building.

The architect used organic forms for some of the paths, in contrast with the pure lines of the steal and glass building.

The building is modern and luminous inside. The semi-permanent collection is displayed in the Time Gallery (Galerie du Temps) which is a 120 metres long gallery, for a surface of 3,000 square metres, with a white ceiling and anodised aluminium walls. The whole gallery is luminous and spacious. A few free standing walls, where some of the works are hung, break the space without closing it too much.

Because the gallery is wide and the works are spaced out, I did not get the feeling that the place was overcrowded, even if a few hundred visitors were in the gallery at the time.

A timeline is inscribed on the right side wall of the gallery and the artworks are set-up in chronological order, from 3,500 BC to modern time, grouped in three main periods: antiquities (70 works), Middle-Age (90 works) and modern times (90 works). It is interesting to see works from the same period from Greece and Persia. At the Louvre in Paris, these objects would be in different sections.

Louvre-Lens does not own the exhibited collection, but rather displays some of the masterpieces picked from the collection of nearly 35,000 objects owned by the Louvre in Paris.

The plan, for the moment, is to have the semi-permanent exhibition in place for 5 years, with a partial renewal of 20% of the works every year. This is a good way to keep the exhibit fresh and keep visitors returning to the museum.

Another interesting feature of the museum: you can see the storage area on the ground floor.

Some works on display

Vase in the shape of a humpbacked bull – Lustrous red ware. Region of Marlik (currently in Iran), 1400 – 1100 BC

Woman wearing a woollen garment (kaunakes) – Green chlorite, limestone – Oxus civilisation, Central Asia (currently Afghanistan) – 2300-1700 BC.

Fragment of the decoration of the palace of Persian king Darius I: archer from the royal guard – Glazed siliceous bricks – Suse (actual Iran), around 500 BC

Fragment of mural: women beside a fawn. Fresco. Pompeii, Italy, around 30 – 50 AC

Marble column decorated with pamper from the ancient church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Daurade – Toulouse, France, around 500 AC.

Triptych: Scenes from the Life of the Virgin – Elephant ivory, traces of polychromy – Paris, France, around 1315-1335.

Panel of wall covering with a floral decoration from the mausoleum of the Ottoman sultan Selim II – Istanbul, Turkey, around 1577.

Panel of wall covering with a floral decoration (Detail)

Panel of wall covering with a floral decoration (Detail)

Window screen (jali) with geometric design. India, around 1605-1627

In the next post, I will go through some of the paintings on display.

What I liked at the Louvre-Lens:

  • The building is spacious and well designed. I look forward to see it with the gardens completed.
  • I like the idea of getting some of the collections outside of Paris. The North region has already some strong art museums (like the Musée Matisse or the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lille), but this creates a new cultural pole.
  • The limited selection of objects on display (relatively to the Louvre in Paris) is actually a good thing. I would just have missed some of the pieces on exhibit, in particular the older objects because they would be lost within hundreds of other objects. At Louvre-Lens, you can savour each work.
  • This museum makes a great family day out. It’s just the right size so that children won’t be bored to death by the end of it.
  • It's free (for the main gallery)

What I did not like that much:

  • Not much to complain about. However, as part of an exhibition on the subject of time, the museum was displaying two composite portraits by Acimboldo. Unfortunately, they were displayed in a glass cabinet and the glass was taking the reflected light from outside. I had to watch them from the side to avoid the glare and was not able to enjoy them.
  • The website is still partly under construction. I am sure it will get better over time.

Practical information

Musée du Louvre-Lens
99 Rue Paul Bert, 62300 Lens, France
Website of Louvre-Lens museum

Access to the main gallery is free
Temporary exhibition: charge applies

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