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Visiting France

Locals hope new Louvre in northern France will reverse economic decline

media Entrance to Galerie du Temps at the Louvre-Lens . Siegfried Forster / RFI

A satellite branch of France’s Louvre Museum opened in the northern former mining town of Lens on Tuesday, amid hopes that it will give a boost to an area which has seen a steep economic decline.

French President François Hollande on Tuesday officially inaugurated the five glass and polished aluminium buildings, designed by Japanese architectural firm Sanaa.

The museum will host masterpieces by Delacroix and Raphaël and over the first five years it will showcase 200 works, spanning from antiquity to 1850.

From within the giant glass cube entrance hall, tourists can see the huge slag heaps at nearby Loos-en-Gohelle, the largest in Europe.

In Lens itself, the mines closed 20 years ago and with unemployment now at 16 per cent, the regional authorities provided 60 per cent of the finance for the 150 million euro Louvre-Lens project, keen to encourage economic renewal.

“We know that a museum does not bring spring, but it is a sign at least of the end of winter”, said regional council chief Daniel Percheron.

Danouta, who came to the town 37 years ago, hopes the new museum will improve things in the town. "Of course I will visit the [new] Louvre. I've never been able to go to the Paris one. I hope the image of this area will change. Everyone has a bad idea of us, all they talk about is poverty, but actually we manage to get along."

"I'm expecting a lot from the Louvre, it was becoming a bit dead around here. Too much unemployment", said one of the caretakers at the town sports stadium.

But Emile, who runs a café near the stadium, says that many local businesses have been forced to close because of rising rents near the new museum.

Only one hour from Paris by train, the Louvre-Lens hopes to attract 700,000 visitors in the first year and around 500,000 per year after that.

The Louvre itself, situated in the heart of Paris, attracts an annual nine million visitors, making it one of the world’s top tourist attractions.


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