This week the Louvre Museum inaugurates an annex in the northern city of Lens in the region of the Nord Pas de Calais. In this former coal mining town, the Louvre built a complex comprised of four rectangular buildings designed by the award winning Japanese architectural firm SANAA . Made of polished aluminum and glass the light filled space will welcome some 300 of the Louvre’s masterpieces in a rotating fashion. Da Vinci’s "Saint Anne", Delacroix’ "Liberty Guiding the People" and Ingres’ portrait of "Louis Francois Bertin" have already made the trek north and will be exhibited there for one year. There will be also a semi-permanent collection showcased in the Gallerie des Temps (Time Gallery) in which artworks from different periods of history going back to prehistory through the 19th century will be exhibited in a chronological fashion and across cultures –Egyptian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Islam, and Western European. Artworks in the Gallerie des Temps will be rotated every 5 years.
Lens is about 2 hours by car and 1h 30 minute by TGV and is close to the Belgium border. This represents a new opportunity for the region which suffered for decades from economic decline and the ravages of WWI and WWII. The Louvre expects a half million visitors a year. This will hopefully lead visitors to explore this region of northern France. Other highlights of the Nord Pas de Calais include the art cities of Lille and Arras and the pretty beach resort Le Touquet.