When in December 2012, the Louvre museum opened a satellite in Lens, a mine workers town, 90 mns North of Paris, the International community raved about the SANAA flat silver building. In the snow and with grey skies, the effect was fabulous and mysterious. Inside, the Grande Galerie -which shows over 120 meters, works ranging from the Egyptians to 19 th century French painters such as Ingres- gives a wonderful vision of history of Art. It is as easy to visit as an upscale supermarket and children have fun with their parents.
I went back this summer to see « D’Or et d’Ivoire », an exhibition devoted to medieval sculpture from Italy and France. And I was less mesmerized than two years ago. The garden around the building is still not grown, showing a sort of « abandon » that contrasts with the slick architecture. A typically French attitude.
Inside though, the magic is intact. The hallway with its diffrerent glass bubbles, a library, a bookstore, a pic nic area (what a great idea !) and a cafeteria. Everything is translucid. The different cashier, security guards and all personnel in general, are charming and relaxed, like only non Parisians can be. And the glittering aluminum in the galleries is soothing.
Only ten per cent of the permanent collection coming from the reserves of the Louvre, change every year in December, but two temporary exhibitions caught my interest. One is « Metamorphosis » a small show inspired by Ovid in the Glass Pavilion, a round space devoted to pieces from local museums. Lens being located near Arras, Roubaix, Valenciennes, Lille, Douai, and many more… it can fish all sorts of treasures in their Beaux Arts museums and this little space is always very interesting to see. A marble sculpture of « Narcisse » by Ernest Hiolle caught my eye as well as a 1925 Sèvres vase representing « Perseus delivering Andromède » by Marcel Debut. As well as Camille Claudel’s statue of « Sakountala ».
On the other side of the museum, the exhibition « D’Or et d’Ivoire » is devoted to the years 1250-1320 in Pisa, Florence, Sienna and Paris. They are religious sculptures of course, made at the time of the Sainte Chapelle’s Gothique Rayonnant. Parisians were copying Italian artists and Agostino di Giovanni crossed with Guillaume de Nourriche. There are beautiful sculptures, but also stained-glass windows and silver reliquaries or illuminated parchments. Driving back to Paris in 90 minutes, I dreamt about this lost world of international talent. From September 23 to October 16, the public is invited to see the restoration of a Boulle desk. A new initiative which should
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