Musée du Louvre-Lens

rue Paul Bert , Lens
Nord-Pas de Calais, France
Email: (for group booking only)
Phone: +33 (0) 321 186 321 (for group booking only)
closed on: Tuesdays, January 1, May 1, and December 25
Museum Type: Archaeology, Art
Musée du Louvre-Lens 1

Opened in 2012, the Musée du Louvre-Lens is a branch of the Musée du Louvre located in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France. The museum is housed in an iconic building designed by Japanese architectural practice SANAA (led by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa) in collaboration with American architects Imrey Culbert.

The building
The Louvre-Lens Museum is situated amid a 20-hectare park, designed by landscape architect Catherine Mosbach, on the site of a former mine.
With a gross floor area of about 260,000 square feet / 24,000 square meters, the museum’s building consists of five interconnected quasi-rectangular pavilions, each housing a specific function. the Entrance Hall accommodates a number of facilities for the visitors, including a cafe and a shop; the Galerie du Temps (Gallery of Time) is the 3000-square-meter main permanent exhibition gallery; the Pavillon de Verre (Glass Pavilion) is a 1,000-square-meter space for special thematic exhibitions of art; the museum also includes another 1,700-square-meter temporary exhibition gallery, and the Scene, a 271-seat auditorium, cinema, and theater.

The building has two stories, one of which is under the ground; yet, apart from educational rooms and a part of the museum’s resource center, most of the basement level is not open to the public and contains storage rooms, laboratories, and technical facilities.

Musée du Louvre-Lens SANAA plan

Louvre-Lens Museum, ground floor plan; from left to right: the Scene auditorium, the temporary exhibition pavilion, Entrance Hall, Gallery of Time, and Glass Pavilion; image courtesy of SANAA

The exterior of the building is characterized by gently curved facades made of satin aluminum and clear glass – sometimes reflecting the surrounding landscape like a mirror, sometimes blurring it – which enclose bright and airy spaces daylit by a semi-transparent roof. A sequence of louvers protects the artworks on show from direct sunlight, while the brushed aluminum cladding of the internal walls creates a dream-like, metaphysical ambiance.

The most impressive space of the museum is the Gallery of Time, a 120-meter-long undivided hall that accommodates the permanent exhibition of the Louvre Lens.
Another pretty iconic space, the entrance hall is a transparent foyer in which a number of facilities for the public – including the museum’s reception, a bookshop, a cafe, and a resource center – are housed inside curved glass enclosures which seem to “float” on the semi-gloss concrete floor like small islands in the mist.

Musée du Louvre-Lens SANAA 9

View of the building’s brushed aluminum cladding; photo Archigeek (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Musée du Louvre-Lens SANAA interior permanent exhibition

Musée du Louvre-Lens SANAA entrance hall

The Gallery of Time (top), and the Entrance Hall; photos Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

Permanent exhibition
The permanent exhibition of the Louvre-Lens Museum is divided into three chronological sections – Antiquity, Middle Ages, and Modern Age – each displaying pieces from the immense collection of the Louvre Museum. Once a year, most of the artworks in the permanent exhibition are replaced with different ones, so as to provide a periodically-changing display.
Currently, the permanent exhibition features about 200 works of fine and applied arts from 3,500 BC to the late-19th century, including masterpieces by Pisanello, Hans Memling, Perugino, Tintoretto, El Greco, and Rembrandt van Rijn, to name a few.

The program of events and activities of the Louvre-Lens Museum includes temporary exhibitions, guided tours, special events, and educational programs.

The museum also contains a documentation center, learning spaces, a shop, a restaurant, and a cafe; a picnic area is located in the park. The Musée du Louvre-Lens is fully accessible to physically-impaired people; wheelchairs are available for free at the entrance desk.

Musée du Louvre-Lens SANAA 8

The Medieval sculpture section of the permanent exhibition; photo Jean-Pierre Dalbéra.

Roman marble sculpture Musée du Louvre-Lens

A Roman sculpture of Mithras killing a bull (Tauroctony), marble, 100-200 BC; photo Jean-Pierre Dalbéra.

Perugino St Sebastian Musée du Louvre-Lens

Perugino, Saint Sebastian, 1490-1500, oil on board; currently on view at the Louvre-Lens; photo Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

Musée du Louvre-Lens SANAA 7

Interactive digital information points in the Resource Center; photo Jean-Pierre Dalbéra.

Cover image: Musée du Louvre-Lens, exterior view; photo Harry_nl (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

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