Discover Benelux, Issue 40, April 2017

Page 36

Discover Benelux  |  Best Museums  |  France

Gallery of Time. Photo © K. Sejima + R. Nishizawa / SANAA, Imrey Culbert, Catherine Mosbach Paysagiste, Studio. Adrien Gardère. Photo: Emmanuel Watteau

The Louvre, reinvented in Lens TEXT: ANNA VILLELEGER

Situated just an hour and a half’s drive from Brussels, the magnificent LouvreLens is a museum like no other. Since opening in 2012 at the heart of France’s former mining region, this annex of the world-famous Musée du Louvre offers a completely new visitor experience. “Louvre-Lens is much more than just the Louvre in a different place,” begins director Marie Lavandier. “It is the Louvre, done in a completely different way.” Built on the site of a former mining yard, approximately 200 kilometres north of Paris, Louvre-Lens displays objects from the Musée du Louvre’s collections. An absolute highlight is the Gallery of Time, described by Lavandier as “a kind of museum UFO”. This 3,000-squaremetre gallery presents more than 200 masterpieces, and is a world away from the compartmentalised halls of most museums. 36  |  Issue 40  |  April 2017

From Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium BC, to mid-19th-century Europe, visitors can wander freely through different time periods, as well as admiring masterpieces by artists ranging from Sandro Botticelli to Joshua Reynolds. Part of the collection is renewed every year, and in 2017 visitors can discover 54 new masterpieces with a focus on Islamic art.

Meditation Particularly original at Louvre-Lens is a policy to provoke contemplation in visitors, whether they are complete novices or history buffs. The museum has a team of 15 ‘médiateurs’ who devise various workshops and animate the visitor experience. This involves everything from family games to impromptu ten-minute presentations of works, not to mention sensory visits for babies (nine months plus). Another example of innovation at LouvreLens is that its reserves and restoration

workshop are on display and accessible for visitors. “This is an extremely rare, unprecedented approach,” enthuses Lavandier. “Louvre-Lens is resolutely open and transparent. This is reflected in the building’s luminescent, glass architecture.”

Mirrors Temporary exhibitions at Louvre-Lens vary from those focussing on particular artists to those covering much broader themes. On display until 18 September is Mirrors, which showcases works from antiquity to the present day and presents work by artists including Rubens, Marcel Gromaire, François Morellet and Markus Raetz. “At first sight, the mirror seems to be a banal object. Yet, it can turn out to be quite fascinating, even complex. This exhibition is interested in the notion of reflection and considers the mirror in turn as a material, an instrument and a motif for artists,” explains Lavandier.